‘The Leftovers’ last season could break through at Emmys like ‘Star Trek: TNG’ and ‘Friday Night Lights’

After two seasons “The Leftovers” hasn’t been recognized at the Emmys, but could it be in a position for a last-minute windfall? Its third and final season is airing now on HBO and concludes this Sunday, June 4. But if the TV academy hasn’t liked it before, why would they respond now? Well, sometimes voters like to give a parting gift to a departing series, as they did with “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Friday Night Lights,” both of which earned their first and only nominations for Best Drama Series for their final seasons.

The Emmys aren’t always sentimental. Some actors and shows never win, and some are never even nominated. But every once in a while the TV academy will give a long-awaited hug. “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Sopranaos” and “Breaking Bad” all won top honors for their final seasons, and of course “Mad Men” star Jon Hamm finally prevailed as Best Drama Actor in 2015 on his eighth and final attempt. However, all of those programs had won before, so voters were just reaffirming old favorites.

But “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Friday Night Lights” were never nominated for Best Drama until the very end. Granted, “Star Trek” had already won 17 Creative Arts Emmys from 1988 to 1993 before it finally entered the top race in 1994, but that was the only time the show was ever nominated for an award at the main telecast. It never contended for writing, directing or acting.

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Director/producer Mimi Leder: ‘The Leftovers’ was ‘a life changing experience’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]

“Friday Night Lights” had a different experience. It wasn’t a favorite in Creative Arts categories. It received a smattering of nominations in its first three seasons (2007-2009), but it wasn’t nominated for acting and writing until season four (2010), and it finally earned a Drama Series bid in 2011 after it went off the air. It even won Best Drama Actor (Kyle Chandler) and Best Drama Writing (Jason Katims) for good measure.

But at least “FNL” had an Emmy track record. “The Leftovers” does not. But it’s nevertheless as well positioned this year as it could possibly hope to be. It enters the Emmy voting period as one of the most critically acclaimed dramas of the season. That’s not new; the critics have always been on its side. What is new is the fact that its fellow HBO series “Game of Thrones” is out of the running, leaving literally dozens of open slots for “The Leftovers” to try to fill. Many expect the sci-fi western “Westworld” to be the HBO fantasy series that grabs those available nominations, but “The Leftovers” has something “Westworld” doesn’t have: the “Game of Thrones” time slot.

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‘The Leftovers’ episode 7 video recap: Ann Dowd enters Emmy race for Best Drama Guest Actress [WATCH]

“Game of Thrones” always had the advantage of airing on Sunday nights in the late spring, leaving a strong last impression on Emmy voters heading into the summer nominations. But “Thrones” wasn’t ready in time for its usual spring return (it’ll be back in July). In its place HBO is airing the final seasons of “The Leftovers,” and having the final season of this challenging, biblical series occupy such prime real estate is a strong vote of confidence from the network.

Season one of “The Leftovers” aired in the summer of 2014, almost a year before it was eligible for Emmy nominations. Then season two aired in the fall of 2015, still about half a year out from the Emmy voting period. In both cases the show may have been out of sight, out of mind by the time academy members marked their ballots. Not so this time. And its acclaim and media buzz might make it hard to ignore, even if it doesn’t have the same blockbuster viewership numbers as “Thrones.”

What do you think? Could “The Leftovers” pull a last-season surprise? Or will it simply disappear without a trace after its sudden departure on June 4?

Scott Glenn (‘The Leftovers’): This script was ‘the greatest I have ever worked on’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO]

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