Thursday, September 14, 2017

Emmy Predictions 2017 - Which Program Will Likely Win for Drama Series?

The nominations are in for The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The final round of voting has occurred. So, it's time to speculate on who is likely to win in each major category. Next up for analysis is Drama Series.

The Nominees:
  • AMC's Better Call Saul
  • Netflix's The Crown
  • Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale
  • Netflix's House of Cards
  • Netflix's Stranger Things
  • NBC's This Is Us
  • HBO's Westworld

The race for Drama Series is much more intense this year that it has been in awhile. That's largely because Game of Thrones is absent from the list of nominations. That has brought new life into the drama field in so many great ways. It will be intriguing to see what happens next year when the epic fantasy series returns. But for right now, it leaves Drama Series as one of the most exciting races of the night. The category saw an influx of new shows that all had stellar first seasons. Some perennial favorites are still around to potentially win for the first time. And more importantly, there doesn't seem to be a favorite based on the early results from the Creative Arts Emmys. It could be a race between Stranger Things and Westworld since they each won five times. But This Is Us and The Handmaid's Tale picked up some key wins that could be indicative of upsets. It's a race with so many great contenders that it feels like any decision could ultimately be very rewarding to see in the end.

This feels like the year of The Handmaid's Tale. A vote for it to win here feels very just and political. It sends a powerful statement that the voters are rewarding a show that stands against a totalitarian system. It was a brutal first season. It was difficult to get through at times. And yet, it was one of the most satisfying shows as well. It may win because it won for production design despite being against more elaborate competition. Alexis Bledel winning as a guest actress probably means Elisabeth Moss will win while a victory in cinematography could hint at a win in directing. If the show picks up those trophies (and maybe even supporting actress and writing), then it seems like a lock to win here. Of course, a streaming series has never won for Best Drama. It would be such a noteworthy story if Hulu managed to do it before Netflix did. And yet, it's completely possible that that might happen because The Handmaid's Tale hit into the cultural zeitgeist in a way that feels important and necessary.

And yet, Stranger Things broke through in the popular zeitgeist as well. The first season of that show aired awhile ago. The second season won't even debut until Halloween. But it's still incredibly popular. It winning five awards shows that it's a favorite amongst Emmy voters. That makes it seem more likely it will win instead of the two other Netflix series even though House of Cards and The Crown feel like more prestige plays specifically directed to Emmy voters. Of course, these three Netflix shows could ultimately cancel each other out and lead to something else prevailing. That's possible. But Stranger Things seems more likely to stand out. A key sign may be it winning for casting. Usually, the casting categories tell us which shows are going to win in drama, comedy and limited series. Stranger Things won this year. That makes it seem like a frontrunner. And yet, that victory may not be as important as in years past. It could have won there because the casting of that show was more important than the others nominated because of the child stars required to make it work.

Meanwhile, This Is Us has been heralded as the return of broadcast television. It broke out in a huge way that seemed to revitalize that entire business model. It brought in the ratings and the prestige for NBC. It's the first show on a broadcast network to get nominated in this category since 2011. That's a big deal in an era where all the greatness seems to be on cable or streaming. The voters could feel the urgency to reward This Is Us now. It sends an important message as well. It could win in the same way that Modern Family won year after year despite seemingly better competition. It's a victory that keeps the focus on the broadcast networks - especially since they are the ones actually broadcasting the awards.

Or the voters could simply surprise us all and vote for the best show in this category which is clearly Better Call Saul. The third season of that show was incredible to watch. It was its best year yet. It took Breaking Bad a couple years until it won in this category. But it did eventually. Many people have been saying that Better Call Saul rivals the quality of the former drama. So, it could be a dark horse contender for this prize even though the buzz seems to be around the freshman series. And of course, one simply cannot discount Westworld or The Crown either. They are the types of shows that have won in this category before. Westworld is where HBO has placed all of its bets. It could simply replace Game of Thrones all over the ballot. It would show that HBO can still be dominating at these awards even with its biggest show taking the year off.

Should Win: Better Call Saul
Will Win: The Handmaid's Tale
Dark Horse: This Is Us