Currently, "Mad Men" is tied for top champ with "Hill Street Blues," "L.A. Law" and "The West Wing" but it has a curious edge -- it's never lost and it may be unbeatable on Sept 23. Five of the 13 Experts polled by Gold Derby predict that it'll prevail again: Mo Ryan (HuffPo TV), Debra Birnbaum (TV Guide Magazine ), John Kubicek (BuddyTV), Daniel Manu (TelevisionWithoutPity) and me.
Five other pundits pick "Breaking Bad": Maria Elena Fernandez (Newsweek Daily Beast), Elena Howe (L.A. Times), Rick Porter (Zap2It), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby) and Ken Tucker (Entertainment Weekly).
Backing "Homeland" are Maggie Furlong (HuffPo TV) and Jill Serjeant (Reuters).
Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine) stands alone forecasting an upset by "Downton Abbey."
When all of the pundits' views are combined, the nominees are ranked thus, according to Gold Derby's race track odds:
What makes this category so intriguing is that there are four serious contenders. That means a winner can emerge with a relatively small percentage of votes. Arguably, that boosts the hopes of "Mad Men" to set the new Emmy record because it's shown such consistent ballot support over four past years. But voter fatigue may be setting in at this point. Or maybe not. After all, "Frasier" won Best Comedy Series for its first five years on the air (1994-1998).
"Downton Abbey" and "Homeland" have the elitist appeal that Emmy voters usually demand. Like "Mad Men," those shows have a stylish look. "Homeland" strongly resembles another past champ in this category -- slick espionage thriller "24" -- but it doesn't have as much uppity appeal as "Downton Abbey." Personally, I believe that poses the most serious threat as spoiler. After all, "Downton" already proved to be a winner last year as Best Miniseries, then it got shuttled off to the drama category where it may be irresistible again to Emmy voters who are notorious snobs, especially for British fare.
But don't write off "Breaking Bad." Being a gritty drama about drug thugs, it has zero snob appeal in terms of plotting, characters and graphic look. However, when you ask the Hollywood Cool Cats (TV critics, industry chiefs and hipsters) to name their favorite drama series, "Breaking Bad" is the No. 1 Politically Correct Answer nowadays, so that gives the TV show a different kind of snob appeal.
Oh, yeah, "Breaking Bad" may even deserve to triumph. It recently won the award for Best Drama Series bestowed by the TV Critics Association.
The Emmy winner will be determined by three groups of approximately 250 to 300 members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences who work in the TV biz. The judges agree to view two sample episodes of each nominated program, then they rank the nominees one (top score) to six on their ballots, which they mail in to accountants at Ernst & Young along with a signed affidavit attesting that they viewed all requisite episodes. The contender with the lowest score wins. (Read more about the Emmy voting process.)
Producers of the programs nominated for Best Drama Series submit a total of six sample episodes that are divided into three pairings that are distributed randomly to the 750-900 voters. Here is how the episodes were paired.