Are we fools to underestimate ‘Boardwalk Empire’ at the Emmys?

HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” about organized crime during the Prohibition era, was the hot new show when it debuted in the fall of 2010, carrying with it the prestige of director/executive producer Martin Scorsese, and it has been nominated for Best Drama Series the past two years, so why are so few of us predicting it to be nominated again this year?

None of our editors predict it will be nominated – myself included. And only one of our experts (Entertainment Weekly‘s Lynette Rice) predicts its return this year.

It ranks a distant 10th in our overall odds, but are we being foolish to count it out?

Critical admiration has waned for the series, which debuted with a MetaCritic score of 88, earned an 81 for season two, and 76 for season three. Compare that to the network’s “Game of Thrones,” which premiered during the same Emmy cycle but has been trending upward ever since: it scored 90 for its latest season, up from 88 last year and 79 for its debut.

“Thrones” also won Program of the Year at the TCA Awards in 2012 and Best Drama at this year’s Critics’ Choice TV Awards, while “Empire” has been mostly shut out of those events: it was nominated for Best Drama Supporting Actress (Kelly Macdonald) at Critics’ Choice in 2012, but nothing since then.

That lack of media attention may be a fatal blow to the series, which fights to stay alive amid a trio of buzzworthy new shows – “The Americans,” “House of Cards,” and “The Newsroom” – as well as CBS’s “The Good Wife,” which still has strong critical buzz after four seasons.

Considering that “Boardwalk” finished airing its new episodes back in December 2012 and won’t be back until this September, its lack of strong media support could mean the show was out of sight, out of mind for Emmy voters who recently finished filling out their ballots.

However, we’ve underestimated “Boardwalk” at awards shows before. It won eight Emmys in 2011, nearly tying the record for most drama wins in a single year (“The West Wing” holds the record with nine wins in 2000). And in 2012, when few expected the show to be a major factor, it surprised by winning Best Drama Directing against “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” and that year’s Best Drama winner “Homeland.”

In addition, the series has been consistently nominated for Best Drama and Best Drama Actor (Steve Buscemi) at the Golden Globes, and has won four SAG Awards, including two for Best TV Drama Ensemble. It won the PGA Award for Best Drama in 2012 and has been nominated for Best Drama by the WGA for three consecutive years. So even though critics seem to have lost interest, support from industry peer groups has been consistently strong, which could be good news when it comes to the Emmys, which are decided by the TV industry elite.

So are we underestimating the show, or is this year’s race simply too crowded for it to stand a chance? Tell us what you think by predicting the race below. 

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