What do below-the-line Emmy nominations tell us about Best Drama Series contenders?

The drama writing and directing categories are among the first that Emmy pundits look to when measuring TV academy support because the last 15 Best Drama Series all have been nominated for at least one of these two awards. This year three of the seven Best Drama Series nominees — “House of Cards”, “Orange is the New Black” and “Downton Abbey” — were snubbed in both categories. “Homeland” earned a directing nomination, while “Better Call Saul” and “Mad Men” got writing bids. “Game of Thrones” is the only nominee up for both; however, this does not mean that the race is over.

When “Mad Men” won Best Drama Series for the fourth time in 2011 it did so without a directing nomination. That was the only time that happened this century. Likewise, “24” was the only winner in that fime frame to do so without a writing nomination.

Homeland” is absent from Best Editing. This century, the only drama series to take the top prize without at least contending for cutting was “Mad Men” in 2008.

Better Call Saul” and “Homeland” were snubbed for their casting. Only three Drama Series champs —  “24” (2006), “The Sopranos” (2007) and “Breaking Bad” (2013) — prevailed without this nomination. By then, they were in their fifth seasons or later — long after those shows had formulated their casts. That “Mad Men” returns to the category for the first time in four years — and for its eighth season — speaks to its renewed competitiveness for the top prize.

But while “Mad Men” has more of the essential nominations than most of the other Best Drama contenders, it is missing a few categories. While each individual snub might be surmountable together they might not be, especially when “Game of Thrones” contends in 17 of the 18 categories in which it entered. In addition to Best Directing, “Mad Men” was snubbed in Cinematography (three of fifteen exceptions) and Sound Mixing (four).

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