What nominations are most needed to win Best Drama Emmy?

Although Ben Affleck just defied the general rule with “Argo,” it is usually true at the Oscars that a film cannot win Best Picture without corresponding nominations for directing, screenplay, and editing.  But what about the Emmys? Are some nominations more important than others? Is there a key to winning Best Drama Series?

Having the most nominations does not seem that important, considering that “Homeland” won Best Drama last year, despite having the fewest nominations of any show in the category. Only eight times in the last 15 years has the Drama Series winner matched the drama nominations leader (2000, 2004-2010), so any correlation there is weak.

Writing is a high-profile category that is almost essential. Only twice in the last 15 years has the Best Drama winner not been nominated for writing (“The Practice” in 1999, “24” in 2006). “Mad Men” was snubbed for the first time this year, while “Game of Thrones” has returned to the category after a year off.

Directing is another important award. “Mad Men” won without it two years ago, but it was the first drama in 12 years to do so. There have been only three instances in the last 15 years of a series winner that was not nominated for directing (“The Practice” in 1998 and 1999, “Mad Men” in 2011). “Game of Thrones” may have topped the nominations among dramas this year, but it is not up for directing.

In the last 15 years, only one drama has won series without a nomination for either writing or directing and it was way back in 1999 with “The Practice.” This may discount “Mad Men,” which was snubbed in both categories this year. It helps “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” and “Homeland,” which are all nominated for both.

Picture Editing and Sound Mixing are two below-the-line categories that are surprisingly telling. Editing is especially important, as only three times in the last 15 years has a Drama Series winner lacked an editing nomination: “The Practice” in 1998 and 1999, “Mad Men” in 2008. Only five winners in 15 years have lacked Sound Mixing bids: “The Practice” in 1998, “The West Wing” in 2002, and “Mad Men” in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Only one drama has won the top prize without either nomination: “The Practice” in 1998.  After winning last year, “Homeland” was snubbed in Editing this year, while “Game of Thrones” picked up its first Editing nomination after being snubbed for its first two seasons. “Downton Abbey” is the lone drama nominee missing from both Editing and Sound Mixing this year.

Casting is the last major indicator. Only three dramas in 15 years have won without it. “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” are not up for Casting this year, but it should be noted that shows in their fifth season or later are rarely nominated in the category. “24” in 2006 and “The Sopranos” in 2007 won the top prize without Casting nominations and were in at least their fifth and sixth seasons, respectively.  The other instance was “The Practice” 15 years ago in 1998 when comedies and dramas were combined into a single Best Casting category.

In the last 15 years, when one or more series have earned nominations for all of the above crafts – writing, directing, editing, sound mixing, and casting – one has won Best Drama seven out of eight times (“The Sopranos” losing to “The Practice” in 1999 is the sole exception). So even though it had the fewest nominations overall, perhaps we should not have discounted “Homeland” last year for this very reason, as it still managed support from all five of those key branches, as well as acting.

No drama achieved all five key nominations this year, but three shows picked up four: “Breaking Bad” (missing Casting), “Game of Thrones” (missing Directing), and “Homeland” (missing Editing). Two shows are represented in three out of the five: “Downton Abbey” (missing Editing and Sound Mixing) and “House of Cards” (missing Writing and Sound Mixing). “Mad Men” is at a disadvantage with only two of the five nominations: Picture Editing and Sound Mixing.

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