‘The Walking Dead’ at SAG Awards: Could it shock us all by winning Best TV Drama Ensemble?

Could “The Walking Dead” be a sleeping giant at this year’s SAG Awards? True, it has never been nominated outside of the Best TV Stunt Ensemble category, where it has contended for the last four years in a row, but there’s a chance this year could be different. There are two open slots, but with a number of other high-profile shows fighting to film them, why would the Screen Actors Guild suddenly go with “The Walking Dead” after all this time? One word: populism.

Photo Gallery: Top 10 New TV Dramas of 2016

The SAG Awards are handed out by industry professionals just like the Emmys, but the more than 100,000 folks who make up the SAG-AFTRA union often skew towards popular fare more than their TV academy counterparts. They have awarded high-rated, water-cooler shows that the Emmys don’t take as seriously. Consider Best TV Drama Ensemble champs like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (2004) and “Grey’s Anatomy” (2006), or Best TV Comedy Ensemble winners like “Desperate Housewives” (2004-2005) and “Glee” (2009).

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“The Walking Dead” fits a similar mold: it’s a ratings smash hit with a large, diverse ensemble (see our season seven cast gallery above). And though it has never been nominated for the top prize, it now has a little more breathing room than it had before. Only three of last year’s five nominees are returning: defending champ “Downton Abbey” as well as “Game of Thrones” and “House of Cards.” “Mad Men” ended its run in 2015, so it’s out of the running, and “Homeland” didn’t air any new episodes in 2016, so it’s ineligible in this cycle.

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But there are two big hurdles for “The Walking Dead” to overcome. The first is that every single ensemble winner at the SAG Awards has at least been nominated for Best Comedy or Best Drama at the Emmys — “The Walking Dead” never has been. The second is that SAG voters already have a populist, water-cooler fantasy series they can vote for: “Game of Thrones.” “Thrones” has already been nominated four times at the SAG Awards without a victory, and after dominating the Emmys for the second year in a row this past September, the HBO fantasy series may be too big to fail.

What do you think? Are we underestimating “The Walking Dead” at the SAG Awards, or is it, well, dead?

Predict the SAG nominations now; change them till Dec. 14

Be sure to make your SAG Awards predictions. How do you think “The Walking Dead” will do with guild voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this show is faring in our SAG Awards odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on December 14 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the SAG Awards taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.

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