Dark horse ‘The Americans’ suddenly comes on strong in Emmy race

Considering how Emmy voters love to nominate the same TV shows again and again, there’s usually only room for one or two new contenders in races like, say, Best Drama Series. Early on this derby season, the darling rookie seemed to be “House of Cards” thanks to strong support from TV critics (76 score at Metacritic) and excitement over it being Netflix’s revolutionary threat to the longstanding reign of cable and broadcast fare at TV’s top award.

But then Cold War espionage thriller “The Americans” hit the derby track and proved to be a surprising dark horse. Underestimated at first despite equally strong reviews (77 at Metacritic), “The Americans” slowly crept up on rivals and then surged slightly ahead at the early TV kudos races.

When the nominations for the Television Critics Association were announced last week, “The Americans” topped every series on the air with a leading four nominations (Program of the Year, Best Drama Series, Best New Series and Best Drama Performance for Matthew Rhys).

This news came on the heels of the FX spy thriller receiving major bids at the third annual Critics’ Choice TV Awards, including Best Drama Series, Drama Actress Keri Russell, Drama Actor Rhys and Drama Supporting Actor Noah Emmerich.

While “The Americans” came up short at the CCTA gala, we won’t know who prevails at TCA until the winners are crowned August 3. Whatever happens at TCA, the buzz of having so many nominations across both critics’ awards has a huge influence on the series’ upcoming Emmy chances.

In the Emmy race for Best Drama Series, it may prove difficult for “The Americans” to take out returning Emmy favorites like “Homeland,” “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men,” all of which currently make up the top five nominees according to Gold Derby’s Experts, Editors and Users. Instead, what “The Americans” will need to do is make sure none of the other new series become viable candidates.

This means the biggest obstacles standing in the way of “The Americans” seeing Emmy gold are most likely Netflix powerhouse “House of Cards” (with 6/1 odds at Gold Derby) and Aaron Sorkin‘s “The Newsroom” (with 50/1 odds). Last year’s sixth Drama Series nominee “Boardwalk Empire” isn’t expected to make the cut again, which leaves only one spot open for new blood.

So far “The Americans” (with 25/1 odds) is out-performing these new series at the important precursor awards, having received four nominations at both kudos. To compare, at TCA, “House of Cards” received two nods and “The Newsroom” was skunked. And at CCTA, “House of Cards” lost its two acting bids (Drama Actor Kevin Spacey and Drama Supporting Actor Corey Stoll) while “The Newsroom” secured victory for its only nomination (Drama Guest Actress Jane Fonda).

However, the question begs: does prominence at the critics’ awards translate into likely success at the Emmys? Sometimes it seems to, yes. TCA voted “Homeland” Best New Program of the Year and the CCTA hailed it as Best Drama Series just months before it won the top Emmy. But winning Best Comedy Series at CCTA didn’t help “Community” last year. It wasn’t even nominated for the equivalent trophy at the Emmys.

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