Emmy's Most Dramatic Competition – Ever
Breaking Bad's back in the ring. Downton Abbey has ditched the minis/movies race. Homeland is a buzzy new threat. With all this competition, what will it take for Matthew Weiner's Mad Men to score a historic fifth win?
Mad Men (AMC) Has there ever been a better bet? Men's fifth season was full of twists (R.I.P., Lane), renewed character studies (Peggy's liberation from don) and higher ratings as its reign as the most prestigious drama on tv continues.
Breaking Bad (AMC) Vince Gilligan's series has netted three emmy wins for star Bryan Cranston and one win for co-star Aaron Paul, and tied for best episodic drama at the writers Guild of America awards with Homeland in February, where it also won best drama series.
Homeland (Showtime) Under 24 vet Alex Gansa and emmy winner Howard Gordon, Homeland won best drama at the critics choice Awards on June 18 and best new series at the WGA Awards.
The Good Wife (CBS) The only network drama to break through the competition since Lost, Robert and Michelle King's two-time nominee has netted wins for star Julianna Margulies and co-star Archie Panjabi and earns consistent acclaim among critical cable-leaning snobs.
Game of Thrones (HBO) Despite the hubbub over George w. Bush's likeness on an impaled prop head, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss' adaptation of the George R.R. Martin book is HBO's best contender, with 13 overall noms and a supporting actor win for Peter Dinklage in 2011.
Boardwalk Empire (HBO) Despite no wins for acting in 2011, Terence Winter's prohibition drama netted eight trophies, including for directing for exec producer Martin Scorsese, whom voters can't help but fawn over.
Downtown Abbey (PBS) Will voters willingly accept last year's minis/movies winner as an episodic? Six wins in 2011, including for best writing (Julian Fellowes), say that chances are good for PBS' first drama contender since 1977's Upstairs Downstairs.
Dexter (Showtime) With four straight nominations, Showtime's longest-running drama had a killer sixth season with memorable murderer Colin Hanks and showrunner Scott Buck's delicious finale that saw Dexter (Michael C. Hall) caught in a bloody compromising position.
Boss (Starz) Low ratings never hurt Mad Men, and they won't dampen Boss' chances. Kelsey Grammer is a lock for a best actor nomination (he has 14 career noms), and creator Farhad Safinia's fresh danger as a writer will appeal to voters.
The Walking Dead (AMC) Last year's winner for makeup effects has become a pop-culture phenom under new showrunner Glen Mazzara: the season-two finale drew 9 million viewers, the most ever in basic-cable history.
The Killing (AMC) After earning six noms last year, including one for lead actress Mireille Enos, the show had a truly satisfying season finale that revealed the identity of Rosie Larsen's murderer. EP Veena Sud deserves an emmy just for being able to keep the secret from leaking.
Luck (HBO) Don't count out the canceled horse-racing drama. creators David Milch (a four-time Emmy winner) and Michael Mann (two-time winner) have the pedigree that would secure ballot placement in any other year.
ON THE CUSP
Parenthood (NBC) The never-nominated family drama has a heart of gold and 2011 drama series winner Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights) on its side. It also earned -- against the odds -- a fourth season, showing that NBC hasn't given up hope for a bigger impact.
Damages (DirecTV) Friday Night Lights earned its only series nom after switching to DirectTV, so who knows? The former FX thriller (and two-time series nominee) could get a nod before it closes its case for good this fall.
Southland (TNT) John Wells' perennial underdog is finally getting traction in the race after four seasons spent on the bubble. with an emmy win for stunts last year, the gripping ensemble l.A.-cop serial exceeded its own gritty excellence in guest star Lucy Liu's dimensional arc.
Sons of Anarchy (FX) With zero Emmy attention save for one nom for original song in 2009, Kurt Sutter's biker drama is riding high after a badass fourth season wherein lead actor Charlie Hunnam (Jax) soulfully carries the dramatic load.
True Blood (HBO) The vamp-geek favorite from creator Alan Ball earned a series nom in 2010 and has maintained buzz despite off-the-rails storylines.
House (Fox) The medical-mystery serial earned four series noms (and six for star Hugh Laurie) before signing off this spring and leaving behind one of the most lucrative syndicated programs in TV -- and one of the most unlauded for EPs David Shore and Katie Jacobs.
White Collar (USA) From the network that broke basic-cable ground in its Emmy-bait comedy Monk is Jeff Eastin's glossy new york action drama, starring a very dreamy Matt Bomer (an Emmy guest star contender for Glee) as an ex-con helping the Man catch bad guys.
Scandal (ABC) Shonda Rhimes has earned two series noms and one writing nom for Grey's Anatomy. ABC is making a big push for her D.C.- set "fixer" thriller starring Kerry Washington, and voters could believe the hype.
Revenge (ABC) The most popular guilty pleasure since Desperate Housewives, which earned 15 noms its first year on the Emmy ballot, made early awards-season breakthroughs for creator Mike Kelley with a Globe nomination for star Madeleine Stowe.
Suits (USA) White Collar's cooler younger sibling about Manhattan lawyers from Aaron Korsh earned co-star Patrick Adams a surprise SAG nom.
Rescue Me (FX) Creators Denis Leary and Peter Tolan have one more chance for Emmy love for their 9/11-themed series, which has earned a total of seven noms and only one win, for guest star Michael J. Fox.
Men of a Certain Age (TNT) The canceled dramedy about mature bromance has earned only two noms so far for co-star Andre Braugher, but there is still time for Ray Romano and Mike Royce's underrated middle-age-male version of Sex and the City.