2011 Emmy Predictions for Drama: An Open Field for 'Boardwalk' and 'Thrones'
2011 Emmy Predictions for Drama: An Open Field for 'Boardwalk' and 'Thrones'
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
The Emmys often get a bad rap for nominating the same shows and actors over and over again, but this year, the Drama field is wide open. In the five major categories, 10 of the 30 nominees from last year aren't even eligible thanks to the end of Lost and extended hiatuses for Breaking Bad and Damages. To put that in perspective, the comedy side only has four nominees from last year who aren't eligible.

This means that new shows have a much better shot at entering the picture than ever before, which is good given the large number of excellent new dramas that are eligible. HBO has Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, both sure to make a big impact at the Emmys. AMC has The Walking Dead and The Killing. Showtime has Shameless and The Borgias. What do they all have in common besides being new? They're all on cable.

The last four years have seen a big trend as the number of major drama nominees on network shows has plummeted from 19 in 2007 to just 10 last year, the lowest number ever (that's if you don't include Friday Night Lights, which aired on DirecTV first and then NBC).  

Will that number drop even lower this year? I expect so, with The Good Wife getting the vast majority of network nominations. The sad truth is that cable dramas have always been better than network shows, there just weren't that many of them. But now that HBO, Showtime, AMC, FX, TNT and more are putting out original, scripted programming all the time, the disparity between cable dramas and network dramas is only getting bigger.

See My Emmy Predictions for the Comedy Categories>>
See My Emmy Predictions for the Reality Categories>>

Here are my rather bold predictions for this year's Emmy nominees in the Drama categories.

Boardwalk Empire
Friday Night Lights
Game of Thrones
The Good Wife
Mad Men

-For the first time in Emmy history, I think we'll only see one major network series nominated in this category (The Good Wife). Mad Men is a shoo-in after winning the last three years, and HBO will have a big comeback with newbies Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. They also have Big Love and True Blood which might get in, but no matter what, I think this will be the first time since 2005 that HBO gets two dramas nominated in the same year. I also have high hopes for Friday Night Lights, which has never been nominated here, but which might get some love for its final season.

Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
Kyle Chandler, Friday Night Lights
Jon Hamm, Mad Men
Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Hugh Laurie, House
William H. Macy, Shameless

-Without Bryan Cranston (who won for the past three years), someone else will finally get a chance to win for the first time. The real excitement is to see what newcomers join Hamm, Hall, Laurie and possibly Chandler. Buscemi is a shoo-in, and Macy is respected, but there are a number of other strong contenders like Timothy Olyphant for Justified, Sean Bean for Game of Thrones and Jeremy Irons for The Borgias.

Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
Elisabeth Moss, Mad Men
Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Kathy Bates, Harry's Law
Mireille Enos, The Killing
Melissa Leo, Treme

-This category is ready for some fresh blood, but who that will be is a bit of a toss-up. Despite a lot of hatred for the finale, The Killing's Mireille Enos should be welcome here, and I think an Oscar win will help Leo enter the race. Kathy Bates is one of those beloved actresses who could get nominated for anything, and despite pans from the critics, Harry's Law was a big hit and it has David E. Kelley behind it. Kelley's past dramas (Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice and Boston Legal) have picked up a total of 44 nominations and 18 wins in the major drama acting categories, including eight nominations and four wins for Lead Actress, so never underestimate a show he created.

Andre Braugher, Men of a Certain Age
Alan Cumming, The Good Wife
Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
Chris Noth, The Good Wife
John Slattery, Mad Men
Michael Shannon, Boardwalk Empire

-This is the most open category of the year, as Braugher and Slattery are the only potential returning nominees. That opens it up for the men of The Good Wife (Cumming was nominated last year for Guest Actor). It also means almost anyone could score a nomination, and these fields are where you get strange nominees. Perhaps name recognition will help a respected actor from a smaller show get in, like Len Cariou from Blue Bloods or Derek Jacobi from The Borgias (which would be tragic, since Jacobi only appeared in the first two episodes before getting killed off, yet he's still submitted here). However, I think HBO will benefit the most, with Dinklage's scene-stealing performance getting in. I also think a lot of love for Boardwalk Empire will help Shannon, who has the showiest role as the God-fearing Prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden.

Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
Christina Hendricks, Mad Men
Michelle Forbes, The Killing
Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire
Margo Martindale, Justified
Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife

-This is a strong field of ladies, and with the Good Wife's continued success, I think last year's surprise winner Archie Panjabi and Christine Baranski will be back. I also think Hendricks is a shoo-in as both Elisabeth Moss and January Jones submitted as Leads this year. Despite people turning against The Killing, Forbes' role as a grief-stricken mother remained Emmy-worthy and Macdonald is the breakout star of the breakout series of the year. That leaves Martindale, who has been mentioned by every single critic as delivering the performance of a lifetime, and it should help overcome the fact that Justified is an FX drama that seems slightly off the Emmy radar.

The 63 Annual Emmy Award nominations will be announced Thursday, July 14 at 8:35am ET/5:35am PT by Fringe's Joshua Jackson and Mike and Molly's Melissa McCarthy.

(Image courtesy of HBO)