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Emmy Predictions 2019: Best Drama Series

Open slots mean fierce competition as hot new series and old favorites collide.

Game of Thrones Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke

Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke in “Game of Thrones”

Helen Sloane/HBO

Last Year’s Winner:Game of Thrones
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: “Game of Thrones” has won for its last three eligible seasons — during the 2015, 2016, and 2018 Emmy campaigns. In 2017, no season was eligible, and Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” won in its inaugural year. When the two squared off in 2018, HBO’s blockbuster fantasy series came out on top.
Fun Fact: It’s been 13 years since a broadcast series won the Emmy for Best Drama Series, but two of the big four networks remain way out in front for all-time wins: NBC has 21 trophies, including three of the four winningest dramas ever: “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” and “The West Wing” all won four times. (“Mad Men” is the only other series to win four Emmys for Best Drama Series.) CBS is in second place overall with 18 Emmys.
Notable Ineligible Series: “The Handmaid’s Tale” (premieres June 5), “Big Little Lies” (premieres in June), “Stranger Things” (premieres July 4), “The Crown” (expected in mid-to-late 2019), “Homeland” (fall 2019), and “The Americans” (ended)

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Drama Series (listed in alphabetical order). This article will be updated throughout the season, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz from the 2019 race, and read predictions in the rest of the categories, as well. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15. The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, September 22. Fox is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

The 2019 Emmy narrative seems preordained, at least in the drama categories: No matter what family finally sits upon the Iron Throne, HBO’s three-time Drama Series champion “Game of Thrones” will unveil its much-anticipated final season in April, land a boatful of nominations in July, and then be coronated as 2019’s Outstanding Drama Series in September. Not only is the hype supporting a year-long victory parade, but plenty of other would-be contenders have bowed out of the race — appearing to cede the throne to its inevitable king.

Five of the seven nominated series in 2018 are ineligible in 2019. “Game of Thrones” and “This Is Us” are the only two returning players, so that means there’s bound to be new blood come July. That’s good news for nominees from previous years like “Better Call Saul,” which has earned a nomination in this category for its first three seasons (before missing the window last year), and potentially “House of Cards.” The final season of Netflix’s drama wasn’t well-received, but every prior entry was nominated for Best Drama. Maybe it can snag one more.

Even if both get back in the mix, that leaves three slots to fill (likely four). Many thought “Killing Eve” would break into the Drama Series race in 2018, so as long as Season 2 keeps the quality high (there’s a new showrunner this season), then the BBC America drama should be able to capitalize on its ongoing momentum. (Sanda Oh got the Golden Globe and SAG Awards boost.) “Pose” also scored some much-needed end-of-year awards love, and the FX drama looks to take “The Americans'” slot, even though its first season debuted in June — a lifetime ago for voters.

“Homecoming” (Amazon) and “Sorry For Your Loss” (Facebook Watch) look to make half-hour dramas legitimate in the eyes of the Emmys (and if the one-two punch of Julia Roberts and Elizabeth Olsen can’t do that, no one can). “The Good Fight” is hoping to attract a few more fans after “The Twilight Zone” sends more people to CBS All Access (and those subscribers look to see what else is streaming). “The Deuce” aims to break David Simon’s Emmys curse — even though the hailed creator has won two trophies and scored eight nominations, his critically adored series often underperform at awards shows, while “Succession” angles to be HBO’s second nominee after “GoT.”

Similarly, “The Chi” and “Billions” hope to represent Showtime, despite being snubbed for earlier seasons. Kevin Costner’s Paramount Network hit “Yellowstone” will need to herd up as many voters as it has viewers if it wants to overcome some negative reviews, while well-received cancelled series like “Counterpart” (Starz) and “The First” (Hulu) have the opposite problem.

Then there’s the Netflix of it all. There’s no official word on whether or not “The Crown” will air in time for Emmys consideration, but given new star Olivia Colman’s statement that Season 3 was still going through reshoots in February, turning it around in time for May might be too great a challenge for this formally gorgeous series. Assuming “The OA” Season 2 and “The Umbrella Academy” prove too niche for the TV Academy (and “Orange Is the New Black” doesn’t mount a resurgence), that leaves one big contender: “Ozark.” Season 1 snagged five nominations, and even though Season 2 faced more criticism, it saw gains at the SAG and DGA Awards, while holding steady at the Golden Globes. This could be the year it breaks through, as the growing power of Netflix is put to the test.

Predicted Nominees:

  • “Better Call Saul”
  • “Game of Thrones”
  • “Homecoming”
  • “Killing Eve”
  • “Ozark”
  • “Succession”
  • “This Is Us”

Spoilers: “Pose,” “The Good Fight,” “Billions”

In a Perfect World: “The Deuce,” “The First”

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