Why ‘Mad Men’ will beat ‘Boardwalk Empire’ for top Emmy

Mad Men” has been unbeatable for the past three years at the Emmys, taking down every drama series contender standing in its way. Its fourth season was as strong as ever and it looked set to join the exclusive club of four-time drama series champs: “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law” and “The West Wing.” Then along came “Boardwalk Empire.”

“Boardwalk” was backed by film legend Martin Scorsese, who directed the pilot. It also had “Sopranos” alum Terence Winter who created the series for HBO. It won the top prize from both the Golden Globes and SAG. And, at Saturday’s Creative Arts ceremony, “Boardwalk Empire” won an unprecedented seven Emmys while “Mad Men” claimed just one.

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However, “Mad Men” remains the clear favorite to win Best Drama Series on Sunday. Other than the hairstyling award – which it has won for four years running – “Mad Men” wasn’t favored to win any technical awards. But it is competitive in all four acting races as well as writing at the Primetime Emmys.

Jon Hamm and Elizabeth Moss have both submitted the same tour-de-force episode — “The Suitcase” — while featured players John Slattery and Christina Hendricks have also submitted strong episodes. And producers have paired six top-notch episodes that epitomize the cool elegance of the series. “Boardwalk Empire” is far less accessible and lacks energy. 

Unlike other awards shows, each Emmy category is decided by a different voting panel. The people who went for “Boardwalk Empire” at the creative awards are not voting for the Primetime awards where “Mad Men” is a proven favourite.

Doing well at the Creative Arts awards does not always translate into a strong performance at the Primetime Emmys. No series to win five or more Creative Arts Emmys has ever gone on to win the top award. For example, in 2002 “Six Feet Under” won five Creative Arts Emmys but lost Best Drama Series to two-time champ “West Wing” which also beat it for Best Drama Actress, Supporting Drama Actor and Supporting Drama Actress. 

And while Golden Globe and SAG wins are nice they carry little weight with Emmy voters. “Six Feet Under,” “The Shield,” “24,” “Nip/Tuck” and “Grey’s Anatomy” all won Best Drama Series at the Globes but were Emmy also-rans. “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Six Feet Under” also claimed the SAG ensemble prize.

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