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Emmys: Is 'Mad Men' Unbeatable?

“Mad Men”

"Blue Bloods" and "The Good Wife" are among the six network drama contenders that deserve consideration, even if they lack Don Draper.

OK, we admit that the phrase "outstanding drama series" has infrequently mingled with the words "broadcast network" since AMC began its monopoly on the category in 2008. But Mad Men can't win forever and, to be fair, network shows -- 24, The West Wing, Lost -- did win half of the past decade's awards. Here are six network dramas that shouldn't be ruled out this year purely because they don't air on cable.

Blue Bloods (CBS)
Tom Selleck's police procedural forefronts the people doing the policing, not the minutiae of the overplayed cop formula. Bloods' workplace/domestic drama balance offers a satisfying ritual to viewers, whose average age, 60.6, overlaps with Emmy's voter demo. Boomers also love Selleck's chiseled, age-proof bankability, and the actor's dead-son story line inoculates the show against chronic procedural-itis. A top-notch ensemble breaks Bloods out of the genre ghetto, making its first year possibly golden.

Friday Night Lights (DirecTV/NBC)
As Coach Taylor would say, "Full hearts can't lose." This essentially translates to, "Don't skimp on the emotion." When The Closer's Kyra Sedgwick amazingly beat The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies last year, she said: "The episode I submitted had … a lot of tears. I think the tears might have helped, to be perfectly honest." Tears over Friday Night Lights' demise will help. Heck, on the DVD commentary for the last episode -- submitted for Emmy consideration -- showrunner Jason Katims damn near starts crying. In 2010, FNL leads Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton got noms, but this could be the year the show scores a dramatic last-minute touchdown.

Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
The McDream might soon be over -- star Patrick Dempsey recently told Italian Vogue he plans to check out of Seattle Grace next year -- but the show's Emmy dreams are not dead yet. After back-to-back noms in 2006 and 2007, the show got a colder shoulder from voters, who remarkably snubbed it in all major categories last year. Maybe this year, after an ambitious and well-received music episode in March, voters will wake up. Surviving this long has gotta be worth something.

Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
A catapult for guest acting Emmys -- 11 noms, five wins -- Law & Order: SVU has a lesser record for leads Mariska Hargitay (six noms, one win) and Christopher Meloni (one nom). And it's gotten zero love for the big drama prize. Hargitay's 2006 Emmy was the first earned by anybody in the Law & Order empire. This past season was unusually strong, with guests like Jeremy Irons and John Stamos. And Meloni will be gone next season, so Emmy has one last chance to forgive the franchise's stoicism and do justice to one of the most enduring -- and somehow still original -- police procedurals in history.

Parenthood (NBC)
Emmy simply must recognize the sheer excellence of TV's only drama -- also from Katims -- to feature a regular character with Asperger's syndrome, played by 13-year-old Max Burkholder, while also managing to focus on relationships within the superb ensemble. The cast is flawless, with Peter Krause far outdoing Steve Martin's role from the original Ron Howard film; Krause's onscreen wife, Monica Potter, emoting with pitch-perfect realism; and Mae Whitman pulling off TV's most believable teenager. The two-year-old Parenthood could benefit from voters having soft spots for upstarts with huge hearts.

The Good Wife (CBS)
With nine nominations last year -- including those for drama series, star Margulies and supporting actress Archie Panjabi, who won -- Wife is best poised to break Mad Men's streak, especially because people are still wincing over Margulies' startling loss to Sedgwick. It's a much more personal, soapy procedural than Blue Bloods and infinitely more emotional than Law & Order: SVU. Wife found its ensemble groove during its second season, and a second series nomination seems inevitable. As dark horses go, Wife is this year's best bet.

 

Danny Feld ABC