Emmys 2012: The Drama Series Race in Review, Including Our Dream Nominees

The temperature is rising, school is letting out and second-tier reality shows are clogging the airwaves – you know what this means, right? Emmy season is upon us! As the balloting process gets underway, culminating in the July 19 nomination announcement, TVLine will be taking a close look at all the contenders in the major races and highlighting our dream candidates — the six shows and performers in each category that we think voters should recognize when they fill out their ballots.

More Emmy Races In Review | Lead Drama Actor | Lead Drama Actress | Supporting Drama Actor | Supporting Drama Actress | Outstanding Comedy Series | Lead Comedy Actor | Lead Comedy Actress | Supporting Comedy Actor | Supporting Comedy Actress | Outstanding Reality-Competition Series | Outstanding Movie/Miniseries

First up: Outstanding Drama Series. Review the slideshow then vote below for who you think are the six best. And check back Thursday for our preview of the Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series 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. tahina says:

    American Horror Story!!!

  2. julia says:

    ok. ALL of the shows above are pretty awesome, but there are more shows out there, you know? other shows who also deserve a chance on getting nominations.
    the same shows have been nominated for the past 2-3 years. what about others? (Bones, Grey’s, Private Practice, Body of Proof, Fringe, Rizzoli and Isles, etc.)

    I’m starting to get sick of these award shows.

    PS: this is just my opinion, so please don’t hate.

    • tl:dr says:

      No hate, just some information – tvline is listing the shows that are likely to get noms, none of the shows in your parentheses have a shot in hell of getting nommed for anything but craft services…

      However, those shows do in fact have their chance they just aren’t getting nominated. Yes, the awards show, and Emmys in particular can be very stuck in their ways but it’s important to remember two things about them.

      First, the voters just don’t have the time to watch everything so much like the viewing public they at best sample other shows then stick with the one they like. The so called nominating committee nonsense still is just required to watch one or two episodes of any given show.

      Lastly, the Emmys are not important. Not to you as a viewer. You may think they are but really they’re just the industry promoting itself and picking some faves. Doesn’t mean your show isn’t awesome or worthwhile. As long as a show has its fans and keeps getting made the Emmys are just shiny parsley.

      • Clara says:

        Hm, the awards are important or interesting for the viewers: It could decide the fate of a low-rated show. Best Example is The Good wife, If the show weren`t a critical high-acclaimed and award winning drama then it would be cancelled. Mad Men is the same even for a cable drama it is low rated.
        There are direct correlations: Other example if LE had ever been nominated for an Emmy she wouldN`t have been in a bad contract renewal position,offered the money she wanted and accepted the contract. If House were still a critics darlings it would be still on the air aso.
        Awards and Critics are important and consequently interesting for the fans of bubble shows.

        I highly doubt that the voters do really watch the submitted material/episodes from the producers for the nomination. They look what the Top-critics say,name recognition (hello Kathy Bates) or which show-producers throw the best party and make their vote.

        For the finale voting, who will win the Emmy is another story.

    • chistosa says:

      I agree Julia. Where is Person of Interest?

  3. yes - refresh will destroy these results says:

    Current poll standings:

    1. Game of Thrones 11.25%
    2. Homeland 9.81%
    3. Mad Men 8.58%
    4. The Good Wife 8.14%
    5. Downton Abbey 7.4%
    6. Breaking Bad 7.39%
    7. Revenge ! 6.9 %
    8. Once Upon… 6.49%

    Vote accordingly!

  4. YowzaPowza says:

    You would choose The Walking Dead over Mad Men and Game of Thrones? Huh? The Walking Dead had the most inconsistent season I have seen in recent years of any drama. At best, that show is a good fun science fiction blast with too much over acting. Mad Men and Game of Thrones are two of the most consistent well written, well produced and well acted shows in the history of TV.

    • MJ says:

      I was going to post the exact same thing. And I do like The Walking Dead, but come on! It’s a fun show and it did had a couple of good episodes but it’s nowhere near Mad Men or Game of Thrones (or Boardwalk Empire and Justified IMO). I get their longshots nominees like Southland and Sons of Anarchy (because those are really good shows) but TWD, just no.

    • rubytu says:

      I agree. Mad Men, The Killing, Got, Southland, Luck — these are dramas!

  5. Ben says:

    The Good Wife deserves at least one Emmy again.
    (OMG, my favourite show is aired on CBS… This is the end of the world)

  6. fet says:

    Hey what about Castle? Last season was more drama than the previous seasons and Stana Katic’s PTSD acting was superb.

    • Kira says:

      I agree. That episode alone should win an Emmy, and what sucks is that all these cable shows are recognized, yet they don’t have the limitations that a network does (HBO vs. ABC). Castle has been amazingly written and superbly acted. Great, great stuff.

    • Shaun says:

      Cable tends to do better,since they don’t have frivolous episodes.

  7. maf23 says:

    Mad Men all the way. What an amazing writing and the cast is fabulous! They’ve been winning all this years because the show it’s truly great and this season so far has been as well.

  8. ingmarhappy says:

    Personally I don’t really get the hype around Mad Men / Boardwalk Empire & Breaking Bad so I might be the odd duck out. If you ask me what shows WILL be nominated they differ a lot from the shows I would give a nod. Below the 6 shows that I think should be nominated. No attacking please ; it’s purely my opinion :

    The Good Wife ( Winner )
    Grey’s Anatomy
    The Closer

    But I’m sure it will be the following shows that actually receive nods :

    Mad Men
    Boardwalk Empire
    Breaking Bad
    Downton Abbey / The Good Wife
    Game of Thrones

    • tripoli says:

      Agree with you on Mad Men. I’ve seen every episode and still find it a complete bore. And Jon Hamm is pretty over hyped as well.

    • AJ says:

      There is no universe, this one or the alternate of the combination of the two or the one William Bell was creating, where Grey’s friggin Anatomy is better than Breaking Bad.

  9. susola says:

    Sorry, but I really believe fantasy shows (Game of Thrones, Once Upon A Time) should have their own category. They’re not really dramas at all.

  10. lilys87 says:

    Dexter was so bad this year… I hope some new shows will get their chance !

  11. Mark says:

    I’m really disappointed not to see White Collar on the list. Where they went with the characters this season was amazing and made them into real people. I can’t wait for season 4.

  12. Morgan says:

    I just hope when you do supporting actress drama that you include Maggie Siff and, given your comments here, you just might. I’d put that performance up against anyone, supporting or lead, for the entire year.

    • Justin says:

      “I’d put that performance up against anyone, supporting or lead, for the entire year.” Seriously? That’s a little too much, imo. I think she was great in the season finale, but other than that, I thought her performance was a bit over the top (smashing her own hand, c’mon). But then again, that is more of the writer’s fault because Season 4 of Sons was too soap-operaish compared to the wonderful season 1 and 2. If anyone deserves an award for season 4, it’s really Ron and Dayton Callie. They were absolutely terrific. Oh, and Katey and Charlie are consistently awesome. But those nominations will never happen so.

  13. Sherlock and HOUSE. HL should finally win an Emmy this year.

  14. Joan says:

    How the hell The Walking Dead is a dream nominee of yours and Game of Thrones isnt? Seriously?

  15. Mary says:

    Love Once Upon a Time, but why isn’t Person of Interest included?

  16. Chiara says:

    Castle!!!! With Killshot or Always or Cop & Robbers !?!?!?

    • Kira says:

      Right?! It’s a travesty. Stana Katic definitely deserves a win. I’d put her scenes up against anybody’s.

  17. guest says:

    Would be a dream for Revenge to get something. I’d love for Emily VanCamp or Gabriel Mann to get some Emmy love but Madeline will most likely get it, if anyone. Don’t get me wrong, she’s amazing but I think there are people on that show more deserving. She’s got a limited bag of tricks.

  18. chistosa says:

    Personally I would like to see Person of Interest on the list.

  19. you know says:


  20. Anne says:

    Sons of Anarchy! Awesome writing and amazing cast. If I could only watch one show on TV this would be it.

  21. Rolfe says:

    Smash was listed? What’s next? One Tree Hill?

  22. ali says:

    Why do people like OUAT so much? It seriously feels like it was written for ten year-olds with how predictable the story is and the insufferably corny dialogue. It’s cute if you’re, like, watching with your parents on a sunday night, but nothing about it is emmy-worthy lmao. Fringe should be on that list, for sure. As much as I enjoy Scandal, it does not have as much depth as Fringe. Also, Shameless is one of the best shows on TV, people need to give it more love!

  23. Allie says:

    let me dream:: The Good Wife, Private Practice and Revenge. But that will not happen…

    • Allie says:

      and Parenthood too obviously

    • D'dee says:

      A few of these are truly worthy, but some are NOT! Love Revenge, The Good Wife, Game Of Thrones.. just to name a few. But, what about Person Of Interest, Blue Bloods, Castle, White Collar, and yes, (many will not agree) Vampire Diaries? Plus, isn’t Downton Abbey (which is amazing) considered a miniseries? Either way, it’ll be a tough decision with so many fantastic options.

  24. Ally says:

    I don’t watch much in the way of cable dramas. IMO Parenthood should be considered. The writing and ensemble cast are great. There’s definitely a lot of talent on that show. I also am a big Revenge fan but must be the only one who finds Madeleine Stowe annoying. Still, Revenge is an awesome show–would love for Gabriel Mann to receive recognition for his well-played part or Emily Van Camp.

    • Ally says:

      I forgot to mention, Fringe and Sons of Anarchy are also great. I love Grey’s too, but this past year wasn’t as good.

      As a sidenote, I would love for their to be an awards show that DOESN’T include cable shows.

      • Ally says:

        Oops, also wanted to say that Glee (as a 1-hour show and with plenty of drama) shouldn’t be included in the comedy category. Sure its a “musical” but so is Smash and that’s considered a drama–what gives with that?

        I watch Smash but not sure it deserves to make the poll–quality everything not so much.

  25. cj says:

    i’m rooting for Homeland to unseat Mad Men! though i would be very impressed if Mad Men went 5 years in a row though.

  26. Josh says:

    This lists loses credibility but not including Game of Thrones as a dream nominee, thank you very much and be :p

  27. Vivi says:

    My 6 Nominees are (in alphabetical order)…
    1. “Breaking Bad”
    2. “Game of Thrones”
    3. “Homeland”
    4. “Revenge”
    5. “Scandal”
    6. “SouthLAnd”

  28. George says:

    Breaking Bad
    Mad Men
    Game Of Thrones
    Board Walk Empire

  29. Linderella says:

    The three best series on TV (besides Downton Abbey) are missing from the list: Parenthood (sorry, it is NOT a comedy), The Killing, and Awake. The list is just sad.

  30. sam says:

    I wish Revenge was in the mix just because it is so well written and is firing on all cylinders with each and every episode — no other show can make that claim that it keeps you glued to the tv screen the entire hour and makes your jaw drop sometimes multiple times and ends with making you want more.

  31. Steve says:

    WOW for all the TV I watch, I only watch 2 of t hose shows.

  32. Lia says:

    Parenthood, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Homeland, Mad Men

    of my picks, Breaking Bad, Gus with is half face is one of those iconic TV moments.

  33. Carmen says:

    Sons of Anarchy
    Breaking Bad
    Mad Men
    Game of Thrones

  34. eh? says:

    what the bleep? scandal? revenge? smash? what is this?….a slap in the face to those other good shows….and house is missing u.u

    • MARIAPOMPEO says:

      You lost me at Scandal, then I facepalmed at House.

      • greysfan says:

        Revenge is amazing television and Emily and Madeline do an amazing job and a better job than anyone on The Good Wife and i love that show. I would love to see them both get nods for best actress. Its a quality show that deserves recognition but it will never happen because of bias towards cable plain and simple. All they have to do is prove me wrong and then i may be a believer again.

        Kerry Washington is another great example of a brilliant actress doing great stuff on tv. Its time to knock those cable shows off their pedastools. I said it before and i will say it again, i am sick to death of broadcast shows missing out because of cable. Yes cable shows are better but it should be a split category between cable and broadcast and then 3 big awards at the end of the ceremony for best actress, actor and show OR better yet. One of the big networks give us a brand new awards show that does this.

  35. lily says:

    I hate that Justified can never be considered, it’s such a great show! i’m betting it’ll be the following 6 nominated:

    Breaking Bad
    Boardwalk Empire
    Downton Abbey
    Game of Thrones
    Mad Men

    Maybe the Good Wife could get in over Downton Abbey, i wouldn’t mind that- i think the last season of DA wasn’t as good as the first. but i’m betting the rest of those make it. and for the win, i think it will be either breaking bad, homeland or mad men.even though the last episode was excellent, i’m not sure that mad men necessarily deserves to win it 5 years in a row- this season wasn’t as stellar (imo) as their previous ones. either homeland or BB would be very deserving. i still haven’t seen boardwalk empire yet, but i’m assuming it makes a nomination again, just because last year it almost tied mad men with noms, right? it seems pretty acclaimed

  36. Jared says:

    I voted for:

    Boardwalk Empire
    Breaking Bad
    Game of Thrones
    Mad Men

    Likely Nominees:

    Boardwalk Empire
    Breaking Bad
    Game of Thrones
    The Good Wife
    Mad Men

    When you look at last years nominees, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, and The Good Wife are all pretty much locks to return. Slot Breaking Bad and Homeland into the slots vacated by Friday Night Lights (which ended) and Dexter (coming off its weakest season, it’s BY FAR the most vulnerable returning nominee). That’s the field.

    Other than the shows discussed above, outside chances go to Boss (I think a Lead Actor nomination for Kelsey Grammer is far more likely than a series Nod), Downton Abbey (buzzy, but it’s second season was much less universally praised than the first), and Luck (probably too much bad press, but never bet against David Milch and Dustin Hoffman). The rest have a far steeper hill to climb.

    • Pamela says:

      That’s a pretty good summation and reasoning. Although, I think Luck will not be lucky, because of the circumstances surrounding its cancellation, despite the pedigree involved in the show. Maybe a bone will be thrown in acting categories towards Hoffman, as you suggest for Boss (though I put my five cents worth in for it as a Best Series simply because of its ambition).

      I am surprised at the low percentage turnout for Boardwalk Empire. Are people bored by it?
      And again surprised at the higher percentage for the very weak second season of Downton Abbey. Yes, it’s pretty period piece but that doesn’t necessarily equal quality.

  37. connerc says:

    I’m with those who wonder why Person of Interest is not on the list. Such a large list and a show that should be on the short list is not included?

  38. Superhero says:

    Breaking Bad
    Mad Men
    Game of Thrones
    Boardwalk Empire

    Those would be my picks. I really hope Downton Abbey doesn’t get a spot; it’s the exact type of thing they’d love to nominate, and it probably would’ve deserved it for its first season, but the second season was bad.

  39. JeniLee says:

    Mad Men wasnt on for like a year and a half….how did it not miss one year of Emmy contention?

    • TheBeach says:

      Those were my thoughts too. I love the show but I don’t see how it meets the time frame requirement.

    • Superhero says:

      Season 4 began right around when consideration began for the 2011 Emmys. Season 5 began right around when consideration was ending for the 2012 Emmys. It’s all about timing.

  40. Taryn says:

    One of my choices is House, because i absolutely loved the final season

  41. Lauren says:

    I just want Emmy Rossum to be nominated for Lead Actress for Shameless. She was amazing this season.
    And I want Game of Thrones to WIN Best Drama Series. Best show on tv by far.

  42. lily says:

    i personally think Justified is far more deserving of a slot here than Downton Abbey or The Good Wife. it’s so good, and those other two shows had lackluster seasons

  43. Kristen says:

    Its going to be either Breaking bad or Mad Men winning. Pulling for Breaking Bad. Season 4 was their best season to date and they have plenty of material to choose from.

  44. yankeesrj12 says:

    Parenthood really deserves some kind of love. It’s one of the best dramas on television!

  45. Elle says:

    Supernatural! What? It had to be said. :D

  46. Kara says:

    Usually MadMen would be at the top of my list, I love almost everything about this show. But I think the show has had an off season with the inconsistent characterization of Megan, everything about her Don has been so underwhelming.

    And after the nightmare of the last episode with what happened to Joan, and now with Peggy’s seeming departure, I have a hard time mustering any further interest. Never thought I’d say this, but depending on the season finale I may not be back for another season.

  47. seriously how is FRINGE not up on this list!!!!???? i have to vote it in as other???? really?!?!?!!?

  48. Joy says:

    Forgive me if I chuckle at “cable shows are just mindkess stuff”. guess you can put me among the mindless viewers. Lets see my list. The Good Wives. NCIS The Mentalist. Castle. Blue Blood. Bones. Goodness thank you cable TV for helping me relax and enjoy my evenings viewing. Now all I need is for GCB to return. haha

    • rubytu says:

      I like all kinds of shows too, excepting reality shows. They don’t have to meet the high standards of Downton Abbey, or Sherlock, or Game of Thrones to be loved by me. They should just be amusing, intelligent, witty, engaging, or [insert quality here] of high standard. Lovable, flawed characters help, too. Good writing and good casting are pretty much essential.

  49. Joy says:

    typo ‘ mindless’