Is ‘Breaking Bad’ too dark to shine at Emmys?

Before “Homeland” cleaned up at Sunday’s Emmy ceremony, a lot of the talk here at Gold Derby centered on “Mad Men”, “Downton Abbey” and “Breaking Bad” when it came to the category of Best Drama Series.

Whenever “Breaking Bad” came up, the recurring sentiment from many here was that the content of the show would be too dark and unappealing to Emmy voters.

I must dispute this. While “Breaking Bad” is a dark show with characters and situations that are nicely described as less than savory, this type of material is no stranger to being rewarded by Emmy voters in the series categories.

This was proven in 2004 when “The Sopranos” finally claimed the trophy for Best Drama Series after four failed attempts. While the greatness of that show was never in question, many thought that the content of the show would be hard for Emmy voters to swallow as well as the concept of a show centered on a modern family in organized crime. While the show was regularly rewarded in the acting and writing categories, it would lose the top honor to safer options “The Practice” and “The West Wing”.

While the show’s fifth season was fantastic, that win in 2004 was clouded by the fact that the show was way overdue for the honor. From what I recall, the dissatisfaction from the press and viewers over “The West Wing” taking the honor for a fourth consecutive year was a real wakeup call to the Emmy voters. Similar feelings also factored into the show other win for Best Drama Series in 2007 for its final season.

The similar almost universal praise for “Breaking Bad” from both its fans and critics could prove to be a factor in the next two years at the Emmys.

But “The Sopranos” is not the only show with dark characters and situations to walk away with this top honor. In 2006, “24” waltzed away with five Emmys including the trophy for Best Drama Series. The show would always feature Kiefer Sutherland’s character Jack Bauer trying to save the day, but in the process doing things that made viewers cringe. The fact that this show was able to take this honor in liberal Hollywood should make all the arguments against “Breaking Bad” null and void.

Then there is this year’s champ “Homeland”. The show’s lead character is a U.S. Marine who was been co-opted by Al Qaeda and (in Damian Lewis’s winning tape) attempts to take out the Vice President and several other high profile positions by blowing himself up in an underground bunker. This dark material took the top prize last night for its first season.

The material is on the same level as “Breaking Bad” in terms of how dark it is and how unorthodox it is to be rewarded by Emmy voters. The fact remains that these shows have been able to win over enough members of the TV Academy.

So next year, let’s keep the arguments to the merits of the season at hand with “Breaking Bad” and not whether its material is beyond the reach of the Emmy voters.

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