Emmys mystery: What did precursor awards reveal about Best Drama Series race?

In the twelve months before “Breaking Bad” won the Emmy for Best Drama Series last year, it picked up a slew of precursor awards, including top honors at the Golden Globes, both TV critics’ groups and all of the major guilds. No such sweep occurred this year, which leaves us with a three-horse race between “Mad Men”, “Game of Thrones” and “House of Cards.” However, be warned: the precursors subverted the trio at every turn.

TCA Award nominations: “Empire”, “Transparent”, Amy Schumer

House of Cards” was favored to win the top prize at the Golden Globes on January 7 and “Game of Thrones” was a nominee, but the award went to “The Affair.”

Emmy enthusiasts eager for a sign next looked to the Producers Guild of America on January 24, but their awards were no help because “Breaking Bad” was still eligible and defeated fellow nominees “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones.” 

The next day brought the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Gold Derby pegged Best Drama Ensemble as a dead heat between “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones” — each had 3/2 odds based on the combined predictions of our experts, editors and users. “Downton Abbey” won.

“House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones” contended at the Directors Guild of America Awards on February 7, but they were upset by Lesli Linka Glatter for “Homeland.” Wit 100/1 odds, she had been considered the least likely of the nominees to win.

The last of the major guilds to bestow prizes was the Writers Guild of America on February 14. “House of Cards” and “Game of Thrones” were nominated for Best Drama Series, but “True Detective” (ineligible at the upcoming Emmys) prevailed. “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” were up for Best Drama Episode, but the writers went with “The Good Wife”, which has not even been nominated at the Emmys for Best Drama Series since 2011 or Best Drama Writing since 2010.

Even the Satellite Awards the next day were swept by “The Knick.”

The Americans” won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Drama Series over “Game of Thrones” on May 31 and it is expected to win the same award from the Television Critics Assn. on August 8, while “Empire” is the frontrunner for Program of the Year. “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” are nominated in both categories.

So, if the precursors are any indication, this Emmy race is wide open:

“Mad Men” has received no trophies in the past twelve months; 

“House of Cards” is going into the Emmys with only a pair of Best Actor wins for Kevin Spacey at the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards; and 

“Game of Thrones” won Best Stunt Ensemble from the Screen Actors Guild, Best Period/Fantasy Series from both the Art Directors Guild and Costume Designers Guild, Best Sound Mixing from the Cinema Audio Society, Best Sound Effects from the Motion Picture Sound Editors and three awards at the Visual Effects Society.

Why did Critics’ Choice Television Awards snub past favorites like “Game of Thrones”?

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