Emmys 2011: Analyzing the Best Drama Series Race — Including Our 6 Dream Nominees

This category might as well be called Outstanding cable Drama Series. Between the strong contenders on HBO (Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones), AMC (Mad Men, The Killing, The Walking Dead) and FX (Justified, Sons of Anarchy), the broadcast networks will be lucky if they get one show in the running. If they do, that show will likely be the best of the bunch, CBS’ The Good Wife.

More Emmy Races In Review: Supporting Comedy ActorSupporting Comedy Actress | Lead Comedy Actor | Lead Comedy Actress | Outstanding Comedy Series | Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

Review this slideshow of the major contenders — including TVLine’s Dream Nominees — then vote below for who you think are the six best. And check back Thursday for our preview of the Outstanding Lead Drama Actress race!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Bobby says:

    Love Shameless and Dexter, but hands down giving this vote to The Good Wife.

  2. Poppy says:

    Can I not just vote for Fringe 6 times?

  3. alr says:

    Sons of Anarchy doesn’t get near the love that it should. Katey Sagal was so fortunate to get her award last year but the show itself was overlooked as was her stellar castmates. Maggie Siff, Ron Perlman and Charlie Hunnam are, undeservingly, overlooked for nominations.

    • Colleen says:

      I couldn’t agree more—it is definitely one of the best shows on TV, and has an absolutely terrific cast. Charlie Hunnam was particularly great this year.

    • phil dams says:

      I agree that the other actors were wrongly overlooked but to say Katey Segal was fortunate to get the award is plain ridiculas, she had one of the hardest scenes a woman could get (when Emma was raped) and it was so amazing to watch, I really felt for her. That scene alone should’ve won Katey the award…..Sons Of Anarchy Rule..

    • liz says:

      brilliant series and deserving of awards, definitely!

  4. Cuddy says:

    The Good Wife

  5. DL says:

    In my dream world Southland and Parenthood would both score noms. Power to the dark horses!

  6. Cuddy says:

    Oh, and Fringe!

  7. Dick Whitman says:

    The Good Wife, Game of Thrones, Fringe, Friday Night Lights, Dexter & Mad Men.

  8. Jake says:

    I love The Good Wife – easily the best show on network TV right now. But really, it’s nowhere close to Boardwalk Empire and especially Game of Thrones in terms of overall quality. I think those two, along with perhaps Mad Men, are most deserving of the prize.

    Interesting that Camelot and The Borgias were left off. I think The Borgias probably deserves a place in the Top 6.

  9. Simon Jester says:

    My list: Mad Men, The Killing, Justified, Fringe, Game of Thrones, and Boardwalk Empire.

  10. Buffy Freak says:

    I don’t get all the Boardwalk Empire love…it’s a fins show but really overrated IMO. I can understand a nomination but not a win.

    • Dick Whitman says:

      I agree. I watched the first five episodes before giving up.

      I still don’t understand the hype.

    • Missy says:

      How can it be overrated if it’s in a cable TV where most people prefer to watch broadcast TV? Maybe the love comes from the fact that it is just made with more quality than most of the broadcast TV dramas nowadays…

    • Alex says:

      Agreed…very mediocre to me. I swear, if Jon Hamm loses out on the Emmy to Steve Buscemi…

      Hope Parenthood scores a nomination this year!

    • Amy says:

      I have to agree. I don’t think “Boardwalk Empire” is a BAD show, but it seems sort of self-important and overblown, and I never feel any urgency to watch the episodes on my DVR. I probably will drop it.

      • JB says:

        What Amy said.

        I couldn’t wait for this show to start, it looked amazing. But I quickly found it to be extremely boring. I know people could say the same about Mad Men,but there’s something in the writing/performances I can understand that I don’t get with Boardwalk.

        We watched about 4 episodes and then realized it was doing absolutely nothing for us.

        @Missy, it’s overrated because it has received such amazing hype by the critics, and beat out a lot of other quality shows in a couple key categories at the Golden Globes, when frankly it shouldn’t have.

        • Missy says:

          JB I understand where your comments are coming from… I would most definitely go for Mad Men in terms of writing/script and acting but Boardwalk Empire has one of the best acting ensemble and writing… I think, that aside from Mad Men, it has the the best production value-wise compared to other TV dramas… And a Scorsese-brand helped it a lot with the critics and at GGs and likely at the Emmys for the its Pilot… A nomination is possible but a win will be a toss with Mad Men…

          (sorry for the double post)

  11. Cate says:

    So Castle gets dissed in this category, yet again?

    • Alicia says:

      I know! And the fact that House was included is just laughable.
      As IF the show will be nominated (wasn’t even last year) and I highly doubt Hugh will be recognized either.

    • H50 Fan says:

      He forgot the new version of Hawaii Five-0 also. No surprise. He doesn’t seem to write a lot about it (or like it, IMHO).

    • Nev827 says:

      I agree completely. And how can Southland even be considered a contender for anything without also mentioning Castle? OK, you don’t wanna give it best drama series? Fine, but at least give Will Beall and/or Stana Katic a nomination.

    • Lilly says:

      We can still vote for Castle in “Other” :)

  12. Sourabh says:

    I voted six, then wanted 6 more votes.

  13. AJ says:

    Fringe, Friday Night Lights, The Good Wife

  14. L. says:

    1. Dexter
    2. The Good Wife
    3. House (though I’m disappointed with the directions they are following)

  15. emilia says:

    I would like to see House, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead and The killing get nominated

  16. Ingrid says:

    Boardwalk Empire, Mad Men

  17. Carol A says:

    I think White Collar #1.
    Fringe #2.
    Where is NCIS?

  18. B says:

    I went with a few. The Walking Dead, Dexter, The Good Wife and “Other”, The Mentalist.

  19. Steph says:

    I hope Shameless & Game of Thrones dominate this year… Those two shows have restored my faith in good television.

  20. Caitlin says:

    FNL, The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men and the Killing. Just a nomination for FNL would make me deleriously happy

  21. ggny says:

    really The Walking Dead? Sure it was a fun show but i thought the writing and acting kinda sucked

  22. F says:


  23. Mel says:

    Where are NCIS and Breaking Bad? Love some of these shows, like The Killing and Mad Men,etc., but just don’t feel the love for The Good Wife, and House has lost the magic for me. It seems you guys pick the same tired, boring shows every year (as do the Emmy’s). Fan favs like NCIS, get ignored, despite the strong writing, acting and ratings. Sad.

    • TigerNightmare says:

      Season 3 of Breaking Bad was eligible last year. Season 4 will be ineligible because it won’t air until July. Expect tons of nominations in 2012, though.

  24. Rock Golf says:

    So CSI, Gray’s, SVU, LO:LA aren’t even in the running? Heck, most of them had better seasons than House.

    • Light says:

      Grey’s was terrible this year.

      • elr says:

        It started out great and then kind of fizzled toward the end. I would have picked the first thirteen episodes of Grey’s Anatomy against everything else on the list.

      • melissa says:

        agreed. I’ve been watching since season 1 and I actually stopped watching about halfway through. Such a shame with the intense season finale last year. The show has become almost laughably bad

  25. miriam says:

    The Good Wife without any question, Fringe , True blodd,Boardwalk Empire, Mad men. Right there muy nominates

  26. sky8882 says:

    Can I just say your drama nominations are from the best shows that nobody is watching? Does anyone of those shows get 5-6 million viewers a week and I am not even going to comment on the demo. Critic favorites, apparently not viewer favorites.

    • sarah says:

      Actually, several of them do. But cable networks don’t rely on the demos and ridiculous viewership on first time viewing that networks do.

    • Aurore says:

      Clearly you can’t expect a show broadcast on HBO, AMC… to have as many viewers as a show on fox, ABC, CBS or NBC
      Doesn’t mean some aren’t better though. Have you seen any of them?
      Because a lot of them a really good. Better than anything I have seen on broadcast network for a long time.

  27. Aimee says:

    Fringe all the way.

  28. Fernanda Ciprianno says:

    Where’s Castle?
    what a flawless season!

  29. hannah says:

    I wish Southland would get more attention

    • karen says:

      Yes, yes, yes! It’s probably the 2nd most deserving for a nomination in my opinion. Fringe being the first ;)

  30. AJ says:

    Hard to pick just 6 but I’d pick Friday Night Lights, Fringe, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Mad Men and True Blood.
    But would not mind seeing Justified, Rubicon, The Killing, The Walking Dead, Dexter, Parenthood or Southland nominated. Boardwalk Empire might get most nominations and while it is very well done I don’t think it is deserving of all the awards notice-not for drama series anyway.

    • Corinne says:

      Glad someone mentioned Rubicon. I thought it was a compelling show, different from anything else out there. I also enjoyed it far more than The Walking Dead. Sad to see AMC didn’t green-light it for a second season. I’m also with you on the Boardwalk Empire hype. Steve Buscemi does a great job, especially considering how much of it is done in front of a green screen, but not the best story out there by far.

  31. Alex says:

    FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS all the way! And I’m so excited to see Justified, Parenthood and the incredible Fringe in these discussions.

  32. Fiona says:

    No love for The Mentalist? The season finale was fantastic and the show is consistently brilliant. It’s the only US show I religiously watch now.

  33. Kerwin says:


  34. kevin says:

    where i Terriers? Honestly the best show ever

  35. 4F says:

    The most recent season of Dexter sucked. The writing was super lazy. It was like the forgot they needed to resolve plotlines so just made things go away.

  36. MCO says:

    NO CSIs no Law&order, no Bones, no NCIS, no Castle, no The Mentalist No Hawai 50….I kind of see a pattern here…

    • Buffy Freak says:

      Yes..the pattern is that while some of these procedurals can be entertaining they are not award worthy. You don’t need to use any part of your brain watching these shows because it will all be explained to you with a whole lot of boring exposition.

      • MCO says:

        It may be true and I agree with you. However,The academy doesn’t. I mean, you don’t need to use your brain for House or White Collar. Plus, Law&Order and CSI where nomitated a few years ago. Their season may be less good this year, but the premise hasn’t change.
        I just thing, disregarding of their qualities or flaws, classic cop shows and procedurals aren’t love anymore.

        • Buffy Freak says:

          Law & Order and CSI were indeed nominated but back then they were new. L&O actually won one year. But these CSI & L&O spinoffs plus NCIS and Criminal Minds all have gotten stuck in such a predictable pattern. You know exactly what is going to happen on every episode. I watched an episode of Hawaii 5-0 for the first time the other night and it was as predictable as the sun coming up the next morning.

          • Becky says:

            I much prefer White Collar to any of these shows. I actually get involved and want the best for everyone and care. I’ve stopped or never watched any of these other shows before.

  37. Fen says:

    Am I the only person who doesn’t get the hype surrounding Mad Men? Ugh. My list: Friday Night Lights, Justified, The Killing, The Good Wife, True Blood, and Dexter (in no particular order). My hope for a winner? Has to go to Friday Night Lights (they deserve to finally get some love after so many seasons being neglected/overshadowed).

    On a side note…what does this list say about the downfall of Network TV? All they care about now is producing reality shows and pseudo-game shows. If a quality show comes along (i.e. Chicago Code, Lonestar, etc.) they pull the plug TOO quickly!

    • Amber says:

      I love your comments about FNL. It really should win this year. It probably won’t, but it SHOULD. And I also think network TV has gone downhill and they cancel really good shows way too quickly. I’m all about cable shows this year.

      But here’s the thing about Mad Men…it’s an acquired taste, I think. When I first started watching it, I was thinking to myself, “I don’t like this, I don’t think I’m going to stick with it. It’s boring.” Then after a few episodes more, “I don’t know what to think about this show at all. Do I like it? Do I hate it? Is it boring? Is it interesting? I can’t tell.” A few episodes more, “I like this show. It’s kind of fascinating.” Then by the time the second season started, my thoughts were, “THIS IS THE BEST SHOW THAT EVER FREAKING EXISTED.” It gets even more fascinating when you watch the DVD commentaries. You can’t really fully understand Matthew Weiner’s genius until you hear him talk about the show and his thought process in creating the episodes. It’s at that point you realize he’s a creative god.

      • Fen says:

        Your post made me chuckle a little…I have to say, I’ve been told the same thing by a friend. And, to be truthful, I’ve only just made it through season 1 (which I did find to be a bit boring). Maybe, when I have enough time to slog through season 2 I’ll feel better about it. I will gladly eat my words if I turn out to love it as much as you though!

    • Visan says:

      You are not the only one not getting the Mad Men hype! I watch Sons of Anarchy because the show has the guts to tackle tough subjects (racism, reproductive rights, sexual assault, etc.) head on! Plus, that SOA cast is spectacular! Katey Sagal is always fabulous. And Charlie Hunnam was heartbreaking last season!

      I enjoy Boardwalk Empire because it also deals with topics straightforward. Steve Buscemi can give a Master Class to some of these actors!

  38. JoJo says:

    My top four would be Justified, The Killing, Friday Night Lights and Parenthood. For the win I’d want FNL–to finally get the love it deserves! If not FNL–then Justified. I love The Good Wife too and never miss an episode but I don’t thin the unique factor and story lines match with the others. Although 2nd season was way better than the last half of the first season!
    I’m starting to think they should have two categories–cable and non-cable. We are lucky there are so many great shows on TV–15 years ago–we would not have so many to choose from.

    Especially from the acting perspective–I wish it was broken out–so many great actors!

    • MCO says:

      I second that. They should have two categories. Cable’s shows could do more things than network. It doesn’t seem right that you judge two things which don’t play by the same rules.

    • Buffy Freak says:

      I don’t necessarily agree with that. Yeah HBO and Showtime can show nudity and use curse words. But basic cable shows like Mad Men and The Killing can’t. Networks rely more heavily on ratings and therefore need to cater to the lowest common denominator. That’s why all those crap procedurals like CSI and Criminal Minds do so well…there is no thinking and little feeling required. Mad Men was offered to network TV first but they passed on it because they knew it wouldn’t get huge ratings.

      • MCO says:

        Nudity and cursing isn’t really important. Political and society issues are. Cable show could talk about it easily and freely. Network show can’t, or in a way that always says “that’s bad kiddos !”.
        House does that big time ! I mean, okay the lead is a bastard, but you have hundreds others characters to balance that. And in the end, House is punished in some way, or the patient is cured so “it for the best”.
        I don’t know if I make myself clear here
        That’s the curse to not talk a good english…

        • Buffy Freak says:

          It’s not that the networks can’t deal with those subjects…it’s that they won’t. I can’t think of a single storyline they’ve done on Mad Men or The Killing they couldn’t do on network TV…the violence on a show like Criminal Minds is 100 times worse than anything they’ve done on The Killing.

          • MCO says:

            Sure. But, on network tv, characters of Mad Men coul smoke all day long ?
            The question asked by Mad Men and others Cable show, how they deal with the subjects (and not the subjects themselves), couldn’t be done on network tv.
            This year, Castle was fron upon because on episode deal with domestic terrorism. If it was a cable show, nobody would have said nothing.

          • Buffy Freak says:

            Well you can blame the networks for submitting to ridiculous religious zealots. They won’t show people smoke but a show like Criminal Minds can show a woman being tortured, mutilated and murdered. Next season there will two new network shows that take place in the 60s…and I doubt they’ll show anyone smoke…God forbid!

          • MCO says:

            Anyways, all of that being said, and very interesting, I stand by what I said.. So they shouldn’t be in the same categories.
            They don’t have the same standards, the same viewership and the same reception. So, they shouldn’t be judge in the same categories.

          • Kirk says:

            I am surprised Fringe gets away with Walter’s drug use. The series even had episodes named “Brown Betty” and “LSD.” LSD was hilarious and creative, but it did involve Peter, Walter and Broyles tripping on acid. Plus, we were treated to Jorge Garcia (Lost’s Hurley) hitting a bong with Walter.

    • Amber says:

      I think network channels could put on really good TV shows if they wanted to. Just because nudity, cursing, and explicit sex scenes are outlawed doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice quality. Look at Aaron Sorkin’s work. He always followed the network rules and still managed to put out some brilliant shows, but he usually got canceled anyway (except for that White House show) because network execs are jerks. I’m glad his new show is going to be on cable though because they’ll give him a better chance to stay on the air. Network shows need to step it up. Being in the same class at the emmys as the cable shows might force them to do so.

      • Aimee says:

        Then problem is that quality shows like Fringe suffer from low ratings on network TV because the masses want easy-to-digest and easily wrapped up 1 hour stories. I get sick of worrying about this show’s renewal every year… it’s a shame!

      • MCO says:

        But they can’t ! Fringe is the perfect example. They do it, and, I think, will be nominated. THat’s good. They get surprisingly away with a lot of things. But I only can imagine how it could be even better on Cable TV, because they would be allowed to do much more ! And I don’t talk about cursing or nudity.
        However, each year, Fringe fears the cancellation. You can’t do something if you know for a fact that means cancelation. Blames viewership Networds executives or what you want, but It’s how it is right now. So, you can’t blame the writer to try to make the best without being cancelled.

  39. Sarah P. says:


  40. ERNINLOW says:

    It will be a crime if Friday Night Lights does not get nominated! That series finale was amazing. In fact, the whole fifth season was amazing!

  41. Eve says:

    Big Love
    The Killing
    Mad Men
    The Walking Dead
    Friday Night Lights

    all deserving!

  42. Tahoe Mike says:

    TREME. I don’t know why this fantastic show gets no love here.

    • Virginia says:

      I wholeheartedly agree! Treme is fantastic. But just like the Wire and Homicide:,love from the Emmy voters is very hard to come by for David Simon and company. IMO, David Simon is the best writer/creator working on television these days.

      • Amber says:

        I’ve never watched Treme before, but you guys are making me want to give it a try. I love the underdog shows. They’re usually the best on television.

  43. V says:

    My top 3 are:

    Sons of Anarchy

    I love all of these and they deserve more attention then they are getting.

  44. Steve says:

    Rubicon eligible? That and Justified were the two best shows on TV by a landslide. Thank goodness one is still on the air!

  45. Fringie6989 says:

    Fringe!!!!!!!!!! Not a doubt in my mind that they deserve to win at least one Emmy!!

  46. Steve says:

    Also Terriers and BBC’s Luther! That is all

  47. jules says:

    Based on this list? Fringe Fringe and more Fringe. In fact, based on any list, Fringe would still get my top vote. I wish more people watched it. It’s an awesome show. I understand why shows like NCIS, CSI’s don’t get nominated but based on that understanding, I don’t get why Blue Bloods is on this list. Because of the mustache? Don’t get me wrong, it’s an entertaining show and one I watch or DVR every week. But more Emmy worthy than NCIS? Nope.

    • jules says:

      Let me clarify: I, in no way, think that any of the CSI’s are worthy of an Emmy nomination. CSI Miami is a guilty pleasure for me but hardly one I think is worthy to be on this list. However, the original NCIS is an overall well-written and acted show and if Blue Bloods were to be on this list, I think that NCIS should be too. I’m also just getting into Criminal Minds – haven’t seen any of the most recent season but reruns from past seasons are fantastic.

  48. Brian Brewer says:

    The only thing that could keep me home on Friday nights now is FRINGE. I wish I could have counted my vote 4 times with the other two going to Game Of Thrones and Dexter. I do hope all three are nominated. Boardwalk Empire was a huge mess and I have never watched The Good Wife. I actually thought AMC had cancelled The Walking Dead because it seemed like the season never really finished after only 6 episodes so I am hoping to become more involved in that show after the next round of episodes start (hoping for at least 12 eps. this time).

  49. kdzl says:

    Fringe & The Good Wife. AMAZING shows.