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. Minea says:

    Dexter and House!

    • Justin says:

      House, really? This season of House sucked. Hugh Laurie made it “barely” watchable. Good call on Dexter, though.

  2. Ingmar says:

    Parenthood or The Good Wife should win. Point.

  3. Triple M says:

    My would be:

    2. FRINGE (great season 3)
    6. GOSSIP GIRL/ SUPERNATURAL (If they will consider shows from The CW)

    I also wonder if The CW will be having their campaign this year? Anyone? And I how I wish Breaking Bad is eligible this year…

  4. Mary says:


    House used to be good but the huddy soap opera along with too much screen time for Cuddy ruined it. I’m sure huddy md won’t get a nom

  5. Amy says:

    I’d love to see “Fringe” and “The Killing” get nods, though I’m not holding my breath.

  6. Jake L says:

    Especially since it has been cancelled, this will not happen, but LIGHTS OUT should be in there – it was brilliant television. JUSTIFIED will be a terrific nom for FX as well.

  7. JB says:

    I came to The Good Wife quite late. I finished up season one on dvd just as season 2 ended. I am now playing catch up via iTunes and tivo. This is one of those shows that I WISH I had listened to everyone and started watching right away. Hands down one of the best scripted/acted shows on television in the last few years.

    Good Wife, Mad Men, Parenthood, & Game of Thrones are the ones for me. The other two slots can go anywhere.

  8. Abe Froman says:

    Why is Breaking Bad not even listed? FAIL.

    • Lindz says:

      Because it’s not eligible for the Emmy’s this year… no episodes have aired in the eligibility period… FAIL!

  9. buborek says:

    The Good Wife, Fringe, Justified, The Borgias…

  10. sladewilson says:

    The Good Wife
    White Collar

    after that I went with two add-ins:
    The Chicago Code – so what it was cancelled. It was hands down better than half that list. The people at FOX are idiots…

    NCIS – just good consistent work.

    But I’m taking The Good Wife FTW… they just rocked it every single time….

  11. Jared says:


  12. Alexandre Leal says:

    good wife and fringe hands down!

  13. Martian Army says:

    Where is Criminal Minds on this list? That’s all I need to know. Criminal Minds has deserved to be nominated for something for 6 years now.
    NCIS also is worthy of some love. Why do Emmy voters hate procedurals so much? A lot of them are better than some people give them credit for.

    • Justin says:

      Totally agree with you on Criminal Minds. That’s the best proceduaral and one of the best shows on tv, and it constantly gets snubbed every year. FAIL!

    • Justin says:

      Definitely agree on Criminal Minds. It’s the best procedural on tv, and one of the best shows on tv, and constantly gets snubbed.

  14. Tiffany says:

    Doesn’t anyone watch Breaking Bad? Last year both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul won for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor in a drama series for a reason!!!!

    I must admit though, that this year the Drama series really upped its game. I was highly addicted to The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy, Parenthood, Dexter and Shameless! Shameless was one of the best new Dramas of the year…If you haven’t seen it yet, get on that!

    • Stephen Shepard says:

      No one is saying Breaking Bad because it’s ineligible this year since it didn’t air between September and May. Just a little fyi.

      • Tiffany says:

        Actually the eligibility period is from June 1, 2010 – May, 31 2011…nevertheless, you are right about Breaking Bad not being eligible…although they had 2 episodes air in June 2010.

  15. 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…

  16. Big Pinch says:

    Finally watched the final two episodes of Parenthood on Monday and if that show does not get at least a nomination it’s a travesty. The way that cast works together makes it seem like they are an actual family that’s known each other all their lives.

  17. Sharon says:

    Where’s Bones??? God I swear that show gets SO underrated, it’s better than half the shows on the list.

  18. AB says:

    So what are TV Line’s Top 6? I didn’t see it anywhere in the slide show.

  19. Stephen Shepard says:

    #1 – Fringe!

    #2 – Justified

    #3 – The Good Wife

    #4 – House

    #5 – Supernatural

  20. Justin says:

    My dream 6 nominees:
    1. Fringe
    2. Criminal Minds
    3. Dexter
    4. True Blood
    5. Burn Notice
    6. Leverage
    However, I love the lineup here. I also reall like The Walking Dead, Blue Bloods, White Collar (heck, most of the USA and TNT shows). Cable is getting a lot of love this year, and it should. I think most of the better dramas are there. But nothing beats Fringe, since, in my opinion, its the best show on television. It’s taken sci-fi to a whole new level.

  21. geraldine says:

    Good wife & House & Dexter

  22. Rob R says:

    “White Collar”? Really? For the Emmy??

  23. Katie says:

    Love “Shameless” and “The Walking Dead” in that order. “White Collar” is one of my favorites but I can’t see it as an award-winning show. It’s too by-the-book. Mad Men and FNL deserve nominations.

  24. jcila says:

    i think is goin to be this way :

    – The Good Wife (winner) excelent season
    – Mad Men
    – Boardwalk Empire
    – The Walking Dead
    – Game Of Thrones
    – Fringe or Justified (hoping for fringe)

  25. Laurel says:

    Breaking Bad
    Game of Thrones
    Sons of Anarchy
    Mad Men
    Walking Dead

    Cable had such a STRONG showing this year.
    On basic TV Parenthood and FNL are the best.
    The Drama Catagory is going to be a b*tch come nomination time this year, there were so many great shows on !

  26. TC says:

    For years TV critics devoted hundreds of column inches to complaining about “The Wire” never getting any love from mainstream award shows. Now you don’t even put “Treme” on the list?

    Treme is the best show on TV right now.

  27. Meg says:

    It seems like a bunch of the commenters need to watch Fringe. seriously. Try it!

  28. elr says:

    My top shows are Fringe, Mad Men, The Good Wife (any of these three ftw they all had excellent seasons and I can’t pick between them), The Killing, Walking Dead.

  29. Davey says:

    Doctor Who is better than several of these shows.

  30. Amber says:

    In order of who I would want to win:

    1. Friday Night Lights
    2. Justified
    3. Mad Men
    4. Dexter
    5. Southland
    6. Walking Dead

    I definitely think Mad Men had its best season to date, but I believe FNL has never really gotten the love it deserves as it is a near perfect show full of so much heart. Its final season went out on such a beautiful note. The FNL finale and Steve Carell’s goodbye Office episode were the only shows to make me cry this year as I really didn’t want to see those endings happen. And Justified comes in second just because it rocks. I love Elmore Leonard (or Elmore Leonard inspired) stories, and I’m in love with Timothy Olyphant in that cowboy hat.

    I’m guessing Boardwalk Empire will get nominated, but I’ve never seen the show, so I can’t support it. And I’m kind of confused over why everyone likes The Good Wife so much. I just started watching it this week and I’m about a 1/3 of the way through the first season, and so far I think it’s just okay. I like it well enough, but I really don’t think it’s emmy worthy great, especially with some of these other shows that are so good that are up for nominations. What am I missing?? It seems kind of procedural and predictable to me.

    I also just started watching Sons of Anarchy, and while I liked it enough to watch all 3 seasons in just one week, it’s such a dark show, I can’t root for it. (And this is coming from someone who worshiped that dark Western HBO show Deadwood. It totally beats Deadwood in darkness, which I didn’t think was possible to do). I have lots of moral issues with some of the things those characters do (i.e., Katey Sagal putting a gun to a baby’s head and threatening to kill it to get information she wanted out of a nun). I’m not sure I’ll watch season 4. The characters are so unlikable to me at this point. And that other Fx show, Rescue Me…I enjoy the show a great deal overall, but the last season was so over the top strange. I can’t support it.

    I had originally put Parenthood as my 6th choice, but after some thinking, I had to switch it out for Walking Dead. I like that show so much. Part of me thinks a 6-episode season doesn’t deserve a series Emmy nod, because that’s really more in mini-series territory, and I think it would be better to judge a fuller season of Walking Dead against the other contenders just to see if they can keep that awesomeness up, but like I said, I like that show SO much. It has to be my 6th choice.

    • Alli says:

      The Good Wife is definitely a slow burn. It isn’t very unpredictable episode by episode, but the overall story arc is anything but predictable. I don’t tune into The Good Wife looking for a shocking twist in the case, I am interested in Alicia’s growth. (If you are only 1/3 of the way through the first season you haven’t even met Alan Cumming’s character yet, and he is fantastic!) Additionally, the characters are nuanced, the actors employ subtle reactions to those around them that make things feel more real, and the writing is solid. It is easily one of the most intelligent programs on network television. Since I can’t afford cable, I can’t really speak to how it compares to cable dramas, but I can say with confidence that it is the only drama on the networks that is solid week after week.

  31. Saracen Riggins says:

    I voted only for Fringe, Friday Night Lights, and Parenthood. With a write-in for The Vampire Diaries. I know the CW will never be nominated for anything – but if any show from the network deserves it, it’s that one for sure. With at least an acting nod for Ian Somerhalder…

  32. Grace says:

    Shameless is a drama? Really? I think it’s funnier than Weeds or The Big C. Oh the grey area of dramedy…

    Also, I know it’s a pipe dream, but if ever there was a season for SMALLVILLE to be nominated, this one was seriously epic!

    Otherwise, FNL FTW!!!

  33. Belinda says:

    SouthLAnd would be my one and only dream nomination, that show needs and deserves some Emmy love.

  34. Lola says:

    Parenthood, cos it deserves any attention it can get.

  35. Helena says:

    poll reveals not many people can afford cable :)

  36. Teresa says:

    I can pick True Blood but I can´t pick Treme… really sad

  37. Danielle H. says:

    True Blood :D

    You know.. I’m kind of surprised that (even though it doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell) since you guys love it so much, that The Vampire Diaries wasn’t a dream nominee or something. I know that nothing from the CW will ever win an emmy, but the pacing and writing on that show is just superb. I know people will either love or hate that comment, but o well.

  38. Passing says:

    Fringe great drama in a scifi fantasy setting; that is just another setting, like the 60’s or the 19th century or the world of politics.

    Fringe, great writing especially the episodes written by the two women Schapker and Breen.

    Fantastic acting from especially Anna Torv and also John Noble, with good support from Lance, Jasika, …

    I saw the advertisement for another show on your site, I wish WarnerBrothers/Fox would do more for Fringe.

  39. Amy says:

    Friday Night Lights deserves an Emmy! But I would settle for a nomination along with a Good Wife win. Seriously, these shows are amazing. As a non cable subscriber, it is annoying that cable lords over these awards. I wish there were places for shows like Castle to be recognized.

  40. Candice says:

    The Good Wife and Justified deserve to be nominated.

  41. Monica says:

    Friday Night Lights
    The Good Wife
    Game of Thrones

  42. Linda says:

    The best show I have had the priviledge to watch is thankfully on this list and that is JUSTIFIED. I know the fan base is strong and very devoted and I wish we could talk more people into watching. It is a wonderful show and I truly hope this yera we get lots of Emmy noms.

  43. Carrieann says:

    Parenthood. The show simply does not receive the attention it deserves. It should definitely be on the dream ballot – so disappointed in tvline. :(

  44. JC says:

    Half of TVLine’s articles are about NCIS and Castle…. where are they on this list??

  45. Kristina says:

    Southland and Fringe are my top two. I would love to see Southland win it though. Excellent acting, writing and production value.

  46. Justin says:

    To not include Parenthood or Boardwalk Empire in your dream nominees is to discredit yourself. However, Mad Men’s fourth season was the singular best season of TV I’ve ever seen.

  47. Rachel says:

    I really hope Big Love gets a nomination – I LOVED how they ended it, tied everything up perfectly. Especially after a weak season, this last one really went back to their roots and I’m left with zero questions/issues. Just awesome.

  48. PaulH says:

    NCIS deserves consideration here; it’s the #1 scripted show on TV, and for good reason; it’s got great writing, directing and a top-notch cast (Mark Harmon, Cote dePablo and Pauley Perrette were submitted by CBS in their respective categories). Premium cable doesn’t have a corner on the market for quality dramas.

  49. Adrian says:

    I want to see Friday Night Lights and Southland. Two are extraordinary dramas that were both given up on by NBC but florushed after leaving. Friday Night Lights had a fantasic final season and totally deserfves a nomination if not a win and nominations for Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton again they should both win thou. Southland should as well there acting and wrting this season was amazing especially everything surrodning Nate’s death. I would also love to see Shawn Hatosy and Micheal Cudlitz for supporting actor both were amazing with the material they were given. Im just tired of the same things winning every year. It makes the emmys predictable and unwatchable. Also, if they actully were willing to reconize anything from the CW. They should reconize The Vampire Diarie that had a drama filled second season with many twists and turns. If not atleast reconize the amazing work Ian Somerhalder has done with the character of Damon he is the breakout star and has given the character so much depth and layer its a crime not to take notice of that. Maybbe even Sons of Anarchy would be awesome to get a nom.

  50. DanielF23 says:

    TERRIERS was the best drama of the 2010-11 TV season, so this list is irrelevant. Don’t forget to include the actors in the next lists, TVLine, as you really dropped the ball here.