Last chance, best chance? ‘The Americans’ could be latest show to win top Emmy for its final season

Of the seven Best Drama Series Emmy nominees, only one is competing for the final time: “The Americans.” The espionage drama, which wrapped its six-season run in May, is sitting in third place in our predictions behind frontrunners “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Game of Thrones.” If it manages to pull off the upset, it’d join a small club of shows that won the top prize for its final season.

Logic dictates that voters might want to give a departing series a farewell hug, but that’s a human, real-world response. Emmy voters are quite ruthless and not very sentimental; they hand out the nominations for last chance contenders, but the wins are harder to come by. That’s because they tend to latch onto a series early and keep rewarding it before moving on, so by the time the old favorite ends, they already have a new toy to play with. It’s hard, but not impossible to win back their love. It’s much more difficult, though, to go out on top for the first time.

SEE Will ‘The Americans’ follow its TCA Awards sweep with an Emmy upset like ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ did last year?

The only shows to have won Best Drama or Comedy Series for their last seasons are “Playhouse 90” (1960), “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1966), “Upstairs, Downstairs” (1977), “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1977), “Barney Miller” (1982), “Everybody Loves Raymond” (2005), “The Sopranos” (2007) and “Breaking Bad” (2014). You could also count “My World and Welcome to It,” which was canceled after one season, but won Best Comedy Series and Best Comedy Actor for William Windom in 1970; all of the other aforementioned series aired more than season. Of these, only “Barney Miller” had never won the top prize before its final season victory (“Upstairs, Downstairs” also won Best Limited Series in 1976), but it was on its seventh straight nomination.

“The Americans” has a much more spotty record at the Emmys. Though it’s garnered two guest wins for Margo Martindale, the critically adored show didn’t break into the series race until 2016, when stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys also nabbed nominations. Russell and Rhys were nominated last year, but the show was snubbed in a field that included five new shows.

SEE Matthew Rhys (‘The Americans’) Emmy upset in the making? Watch out, Sterling, the Russians are coming!

The best thing “The Americans” has going for it this year is the overwhelming raves for the final season and its near-flawless series finale, “START,” which is up for writing. The series also just picked up three Television Critics Association Awards, including Program of the Year. Yes, critics have always slobbered over “The Americans” and there’s minimal overlap between the voting bodies, but this is precisely the type of good press reinforcement it needs. Voters could get guilt-tripped into rewarding a series they have long overlooked.

Plus, unlike the previous swan song champions, “The Americans” is operating under the new popular, plurality vote system. In a field of seven, the winner only needs a little more than 14 percent of the vote. Maybe voters will be divided between the last two champs, “Handmaid’s” and “Game of Thrones,” which have never faced off at the Emmys before, and it could sneak in. No Russian collusion needed.

PREDICT the Emmy winners now; change them until September 17

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on September 17. Be sure to also predict winners for the Creative Arts ceremonies slated for September 8 and 9. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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