Are Emmy gurus underestimating ‘Downton Abbey’?

Don’t make the mistake of pooh-poohing the Emmy hopes of “Downton Abbey” in the race for Best Drama Series just because it failed to nab the prize last year.

Yes, that loss was surprising considering it entered the derby with 16 bids and many top pundits predicted that it would prevail. After all, it had won Best Miniseries in 2011 when it competed there and it seemed like a strong choice when it moved over to the drama series contest. As every Emmyologist knows, TV academy voters are notorious snobs. They like high class dramas like “Mad Men,” “The West Wing” and “The Practice.” Back in the 1970s when the aristocratic TV series that inspired the creation of “Downton Abbey” – “Upstairs, Downstairs” – moved back and forth between categories, it never lost, bagging Best Drama Series three times (1974, 1975, 1977) and Best Mini (or Limited) Series once (1976).

Sometimes there’s a strange delayed effect that occurs at the Emmys. Even though “NYPD Blue” led with the most noms after its debut season in 1994, it lost Best Drama Series to “Picket Fences.” One year later, it finally snagged the prize. Ditto “Northern Exposure,” which was widely considered to be the frontrunner when it competed for Best Drama Series its first time in 1991, but had to wait till 1992 for revenge.

This year “Downton Abbey” has a hefty batch of bids – 12 – which suggests that has strong support across all academy branches. It has nominations in all of the key categories normally needed to win: acting, writing, directing and the crafts.

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