Awards Guide: Inside the 14 Most Nominated TV Shows (So Far)

8:00 AM 12/23/2015

by Tim Goodman, Daniel Fienberg, and Keith Uhlich

Entries from Amazon, Netflix and even Hulu are among the Globes, SAG and critics' picks as streamers become an awards force — but don't count out Cookie Lyon just yet.

It's (mostly) a brave new world for television awards. With the Modern Family reign a thing of the past and longtime darlings Breaking Bad and Mad Men signed off, the latest nominations for the Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, Writers Guild and Critics' Choice Awards are highlighting the new core group of comedy and drama series that have the most steam heading into 2016.
There are the obligatory cable darlings (Mr. Robot) and broadcast powerhouses (Empire), but it's streaming that has become an awards force to be reckoned with. Just a few years after their expansion into original content, Netflix, Amazon and even Hulu have series in serious contention — from new standby House of Cards to upstarts such as Aziz Ansari's Master of None and the Jason Reitman sleeper Casual. Streamers represent a good half of the shows to keep in mind during the upcoming kudos, all the way through the Emmys.

  • Drama: Better Call Saul


    Lewis Jacobs/AMC
    This Breaking Bad prequel was probably better than AMC or anyone else had a right to imagine (since such projects are fraught with peril). Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan gave Bob Odenkirk a way to deep-dive into Saul Goodman's character. While not out-of-the-gates great like Breaking Bad, it was very good and should be even better next season. — T.G.
  • Drama: Empire


    Chuck Hodes/FOX
    Facing high expectations at the start of season two, Lee Daniels' Fox smash managed to live up to the hype and remain above the guilty-pleasure fray. Despite plenty of wacky fur-lined high jinks and a host of high-profile guest appearances and cameos by such stars as Chris Rock, Pitbull, Alicia Keys and Al Sharpton, the show's cast and creative team managed to hold on to some of the little things that made Empire initially work — without becoming overwhelmed by how big it has gotten. — D.F. 
  • Drama: Game of Thrones


    The sprawling story in HBO's hit is a large part of what makes the brilliant series so special. But in its fifth season, that sprawl also was part of what made it so frustrating. A narrative this immense also can be limiting; you wonder as you watch how long it will take to move all the pieces forward, to tell the story without feeling like everyone is stuck in the boggy muck. — T.G.
  • Drama: House of Cards


    David Giesbrecht/Netflix
    Now in its third season, the Netflix political drama House of Cards has one of those problems that soap operas bump up against all the time: story fatigue. But as the Underwoods, now known as the president and first lady of the United States, begin to hit some roadblocks that they can't immediately get around, a little payback and a little failure for this deadly duo play well. — T.G.
  • Drama: The Leftovers


    Courtesy of HBO
    The second season of the HBO drama from Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (starring Justin Theroux, Regina King and Carrie Coon, among others) was even more enticing — and alienating — than the first. It remains a show that defies a warm and wide embrace; but if you give in to the mystery (and don't require too many answers), the rewards are many. — D.F.
  • Drama: Mr. Robot


    Virginia Sherwood/USA Network
    A vigilante hacker finds himself caught between a corporate rock and an anarchic hard place in this breakout USA hit series from creator and head writer Sam Esmail. The series is ridiculous in description but enthralling in execution thanks to brooding lead Rami Malek's natural charisma and his way with Esmail's frequent jeremiads against the powerful and moneyed. — K.U.
  • Drama: Narcos


    The world doesn't seem to lack for Pablo Escobar biopics, but Netflix's 10-part series separated itself from the pack with an impressive breadth and depth. With its loping, booklike narrative cadence, the series takes its time and builds on the strength of Wagner Moura's smart, low-key performance in the lead role. — T.G.
  • Comedy: Casual


    It's difficult to take a 30-minute comedy (dramedy?) and make it feel fresh when you're using time-tested themes of personal change, dating and coming-of-age. But that's exactly what Reitman and Hulu have pulled off with this funny, strongly realized, self-assured new show about a divorcee and her teenage daughter. — T.G.
  • Comedy: Master of None


    K.C. Bailey/Netflix
    The Netflix show was a surprisingly creative, funny and sweet breakout for Ansari as he busted out of the character-actor limitations of his past. Playing a would-be actor belatedly coming-of-age, Ansari offers a semiautobiographical portrait of a first-generation American trying to make it in the multicultural playground of 2015 New York. — T.G.
  • Comedy: Orange is the New Black


    Season three found the Netflix show's pistons firing beautifully. The Piper-Alex drama was balanced expertly with the other Litchfield prisoners' backstories, and the show never lingered too long on any one (or two) characters. The result was a brisk efficiency that made the episodes fly by. There were funny bits but also the kind of confident tonal shifts that creator Jenji Kohan pulls off so impressively. — T.G.
  • Comedy: Silicon Valley


    Frank Masi
    The Pied Piper gang discovers the pitfalls of being the next big thing on the HBO show's tight and terrific second season. The ever-sharper skewer is there in every single episode, going to town on fictional (and sometimes real) players in the tech industry. Part of the series' beauty is indeed that nothing is sacred, and the targets are vast. — T.G.
  • Comedy: Transparent


    Courtesy of Amazon Studios
    The great Amazon series' superb second season, which premiered in full Dec. 11, provided further evidence of creator Jill Soloway's ability as a writer and director to capture the nuances of a family in flux. Mort's bold transition into Maura is both a personal triumph and a catalyst for the rest of her fractious family, and each episode displays a volatile but always masterfully controlled mix of risk-taking humor, surprising subtlety and emotional truth. This is how the painful — and yes, sometimes beautiful — moments of real life are processed in the real world. — T.G.
  • Comedy: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt


    The gleefully absurd comedic fingerprints of Tina Fey and fellow 30 Rock writer Robert Carlock are all over this wonderful Netflix sitcom about a woman (played by the great Ellie Kemper) who is freed from an underground bunker in Indiana, having lived there for the past 15 years after being kidnapped by a religious fanatic and indoctrinated into his cult. — T.G.
  • Comedy: Veep


    Patrick Harbron/HBO
    Armando Iannucci and his writers and cast were in peak form for this fourth season, crafting some of the most delightful scenes and character interactions you likely saw from a comedy ensemble. The HBO show has begun to make it look easy — a true sign of greatness — as President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) occupies the White House and searing banter whips hilariously and viciously back and forth around her. — T.G.