"GAME OF THRONES" would be an untraditional choice for the Emmys. (Helen Sloan / HBO )
What five fine dramas will have the opportunity to applaud"Mad Men" as it wins its fifth consecutive Emmy for best series? As always, the drama series category shapes up as a competitive bloodbath. Might the show with the most blood on its hands be left out this year? Read on as we rate the strong field in this single category.
1. "Mad Men" (AMC)
3. "Downton Abbey"(PBS)
4. "Boardwalk Empire"(HBO)
5."The Good Wife"(CBS)
In the hunt:"Game of Thrones" (HBO)
Bubbling under: "House" (Fox), "Smash" (NBC), "Boss" (Starz), "Damages" (DirecTV), "Justified" (FX), "The Walking Dead" (AMC), "Dexter" (Showtime), "Luther" (BBC America),"Luck" (HBO),"Awake" (NBC),"Southland" (TNT), "Magic City" (Starz),"Suits" (USA),"The Borgias" (Showtime),"Sons of Anarchy" (FX)
For your consideration: "The Walking Dead." Remember all the griping early in its second season about the leisurely pace and the lack of scenes featuring (A) zombies eating humans and/or (B) humans laying waste to zombies? We don't either, because once "The Walking Dead" returned from its mid-season break, it pursued a bold, single-minded focus (we're seriously worried about you, Rick) that culminated in a season finale that, if anything, had too much action. That said, it might have been the most enjoyable, whacked-out hour the series has yet delivered.
Analysis: Again, not to throw a wet blanket over various Emmy hopes and dreams, but "Mad Men" just turned in not only its best season but arguably one of the finest seasons any television show has ever produced. If Emmy voters gave "Mad Men" the Emmy for all four of its previous seasons, we think the odds of it losing this year are about the same as Pete Campbell suddenly developing a conscience.
The category must make room for the return of "Breaking Bad," which, you might remember, put together a pretty amazing season of its own. And then there's last year's miniseries winner, "Downton Abbey," a show that inspires the sort of daft devotion that all but guarantees it can slide over nicely and find a comfortable landing spot here.
That leaves four series — 2011 nominees "Boardwalk Empire," "The Good Wife" and "Game of Thrones," along with newcomer "Homeland" — vying for the remaining three spots. (To everyone else: Sorry. It's a deep bench. You need both crazy critical acclaim and serious viewer fervor to contend here.) And it's easy to make a convincing case why each series should (and will) win a nomination.
"Homeland" rated as the year's best new drama and has already won the Golden Globe and two awards from the Writers Guild of America. "Boardwalk Empire" didn't skip a beat in its second season, and two-time nominee "The Good Wife" enjoys a high profile in the acting categories (Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi all figure to receive nominations again) as well as solid ratings. And for all its impalements and sexual shenanigans, the intricately plotted "Game of Thrones" dazzled in both its ambition and execution.
But back to those impalements. Yes, it was nominated last year, but the polarizing "Thrones" falls outside traditional Emmy boundaries. (Though you really have to wonder if, in this golden era of television, voters haven't smudged the lines of those boundaries once and for all.) "Thrones" has people talking now, giving it a leg up on "Homeland," which ended its run in December. However it plays out, someone's going to be angry — and rightly so. Our gut tells us "Thrones" fans might be the ones taking up swords (no way would they lower themselves to pitchforks) when the nominations are announced.