Not so fast, ‘Mad Men’: ‘Breaking Bad’ could cook up Emmy upset!

This year at the Emmys, there’s an exciting battle brewing between two AMC titans in the race for Best Drama Series. Will “Mad Men” break the Emmy record by winning five in a row? Or will voters decide it’s high time to reward new blood in the form of critically acclaimed “Breaking Bad“?

The highly-anticipated new season of “Mad Men” doesn’t even premiere until March 25, but it’s already the favorite to win Best Drama Series at the Emmys according to Gold Derby’s Editors. While this undefeated champ is way out in front with 11/10 odds, it’s still too early in the Emmy derby to declare it the winner, especially with strong competition like “Breaking Bad” (10/3 odds) hoping to cook up a win at the expense of Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and co.

The penultimate season of “Breaking Bad” achieved an impressive score of 96% at Metacritic, making it the highest-reviewed television series of 2011. To compare, the fourth season of “Mad Men” only reached a score of 92%, and yet that season went on to Emmy glory last year for the fourth consecutive time. If 92% was good enough for an Emmy in 2011, then surely 96% means great news this year for school-teacher-turned-meth-manufacturer-turned-cold-blooded-killer Walter White (Bryan Cranston), who famously closed out his season by saying, “I won,” after murderering his arch nemesis.

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We already know that Emmy has a soft spot for series led by violent, gritty protagonists — just look at former series champs “The Sopranos” (2004, 2007) and “24” (2006) — and in that respect, “Breaking Bad” seems like the perfect choice to be this year’s Best Drama recipient. But can anything stop the momentum of “Mad Men”? For the first time since 2008, that answer could be yes.

Last month, the cast and crew of “Breaking Bad” were honored at the TV Academy in North Hollywood, with many fans and Emmy voters in attendance. And at this year’s WGA Awards, “Breaking Bad” came out victorious with two trophies: Best Drama Series and Best Drama Episode for “Box Cutter.” (“Mad Men” was ineligible due to its scheduling.)

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Unlike its previous four seasons, this time around “Mad Men” faces a few curious disadvantages. First and foremost, a Drama Series has never won five times at the Emmys. “The West Wing,” “L.A. Law” and “Hill Street Blues” all gave it their best shot, but none of these four-peaters reached the magic number of five wins that “Frasier” managed to achieve over on the Comedy Series front.

Also going against “Mad Men’s” chances is its annoying scheduling. Due to lengthy contract negotiations, the show has been off the air since October 2010. Also, for the first time the series will not be airing during the summertime when Emmy voters are marking their ballots, so it’s fair to wonder whether the old “out of sight, out of mind” factor will be in play here.

“Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad” aren’t the only Drama Series in the hunt for an Emmy this year. Also looking for their first series trophies are Miniseries-turned-Drama-Series “Downton Abbey” (15/2 odds), the sophomore season of “Boardwalk Empire” (12/1 odds), defending Golden Globe champ “Homeland” (16/1 odds), HBO epic “Game of Thrones” (50/1 odds) and the only real contender from network television, “The Good Wife” (100/1 odds).

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