Emmys Watch: What will be the Drama Series nominees?

Taking into account the nominees in this category from last year’s Emmys as well as at last month’s Golden Globes, a total of eight different series contended for top dramatic honors: “Breaking Bad,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Dexter,” “The Good Wife,” “Lost,” “Mad Men,” “True Blood,” and “The Walking Dead.”

Two of those shows are not eligible for the Emmys this time around: “Lost” because it ended last season and “Breaking Bad” because of its extended hiatus. That narrows the list to a half dozen series.

And since six is the number of nominees in the category, will this year’s Emmy slate be nothing more than simply an amalgam of past awards show contenders?

There’s certainly a case to be made for recent Globe champ “Boardwalk Empire” making the cut. And “Mad Men” has already won thrice at the Emmys, so there’s no way it’ll be snubbed for its stellar fourth season. “Dexter” and “The Good Wife” are also shoo-ins for nominations, though it will be tough for either of them to win.

“True Blood” and “The Walking Dead” could possibly earn bids, but they’re far from sure bets because of the bias against sci-fi/fantasty shows. “True Blood” got lucky with last year’s nomination, but even that show’s most ardent fans will admit that its recent season wasn’t the strongest.

“The Walking Dead” only aired six episodes during the eligibility period, making it a tough sell for Emmy voters. (Read my memo to the producers of “The Walking Dead” on this issue.) The number of sci-fi/fantasy shows to contend for Best Drama Series are few. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was never recognized despite cries of outrage from TV critics, and “The X-Files” only got nominated after winning the same award at the fresher, hipper Golden Globes.

So, if HBO’s vampire drama and AMC’s zombie romp don’t make the cut, what other two shows might find themselves invited to the red carpet this year?

As the Emmys clearly don’t have a taste for crime procedurals, that leaves out most of TV’s top-rated dramas, including “NCIS,” “CSI,” “Criminal Minds,” “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” “Castle” and “Bones.” Previous nominee “House” could return to the list, but once a show falls off Emmy’s radar (as it did last year), it’s very tough to return.

“Fringe” hasn’t yet made the cut. However, when “The X-Files” finally broke through, it went on to be nominated a total of four times in the 1990s. “Sons of Anarchy” has a passionate fan base, but other than last month’s shocking Golden Globe win for Katey Sagal, the gritty biker series from FX hasn’t contended for any other top awards.

Two long-running shows should cross their fingers and hope for a miracle: “The Closer” and “Friday Night Lights.” While reigning Emmy champ Kyra Sedgwick is a lock for another nod for “The Closer,” the show itself is a longshot simply because it’s never been nominated for any major category outside of the SAG awards. With “Friday Night Lights” so beloved in the industry, a nomination make for a nice parting gift as it signs off after five seasons.

Or perhaps those last two Emmy slots will be filled with new shows. Multiple Emmy-winning writer/producer David E. Kelley recently returned to television with “Harry’s Law” on NBC and while ratings have been good, the reviews haven’t been that strong. Conversely, FX had a critically-praised show on their hands last fall with “Terriers,” but the ratings were dismal and it was cancelled.

The new FX boxing drama “Lights Out”  is another possible contender, as is Showtime’s “Shameless,” a remake of a popular U.K. series, and perhaps HBO’s highly-anticipated fantasy series “Game of Thrones.”

The ultimate dark horse in the race is “Blue Bloods” (CBS), starring Tom Selleck. The show is popular among critics and viewers alike, and a recent timeslot change from Friday to Wednesday will only help its profile get bigger.

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