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Emmy Predictions 2019: Best Drama Series

"Game of Thrones" has a commanding lead after the nominations — is there any room for an upset? [Updated July 18]

Game of Thrones "The Bells"

“The Bells”

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. 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

Much was made about the TV Academy rebuking critics of “Game of Thrones” final season, given its record-breaking haul of 32 nominations — more than any other show this year, and more than any other show in any single year. While it’s technically possible the 24,000 Emmy voters largely disagreed with the many disparagements lobbed at Season 8, it seems more likely they simply didn’t have better options. Just look at “The Handmaid’s Tale”: Despite being out-of-the-running in the major categories (along with other dominant dramas like “The Crown,” “Stranger Things,” and “Westworld”), the Hulu drama still snagged more nominations than any drama not named “GoT.” Voters were desperate to reward quality programming, but if with no widely seen and widely beloved second option on the table, “Game of Thrones” cleaned up.

That’s not to say the other nominees aren’t deserving. They simply have bigger hills to climb. While “Killing Eve,” “Better Call Saul,” and “This Is Us” do well in the ratings for their respective networks, none have “Game of Thrones” numbers. “Better Call Saul” has a strong, passionate fandom, but they weren’t even sizable enough to get the much-deserving Rhea Seehorn into the acting race in a down year. “This Is Us” gets big numbers for broadcast, and even though there were new nominees in other categories (like Mandy Moore and Phylicia Rashad), the passion seems contained to the actors’ branch. (Seven of its nine nominations were in acting categories.)

“Killing Eve” could mount a campaign based on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s burgeoning popularity, but she wasn’t as involved in Season 2 as Season 1 and voters could prefer to honor her for the well-received “Fleabag.” Plus, the BBC America drama also faced more criticism in its most recent season, so while some may still think it’s better than “Game of Thrones,” they may respect the historical achievement of the HBO behemoth.

“Game of Thrones” dominance also doesn’t bode well for fellow HBO nominee, “Succession,” which only snagged five nominations overall — a solid start for the freshman season, but not really enough to compete with its sister series. The same can be said for “Bodyguard,” which somehow squeaked into the Best Drama Series race despite landing only one more nomination (and not, surprisingly, for Richard Madden). Where things get a little more interesting are with “Ozark” and “Pose.” Jason Bateman’s Netflix drama snagged four more nominations for Season 2 than Season 1, and the streaming giant has the resources to mount a sizable Phase Two campaign. We don’t know how many people have watched, but it seems like a sizable amount — maybe they could chip away at “Game of Thrones,” even though “Ozark” doesn’t exactly have widespread critical support.

Some thought “Pose” could be a challenger, given Ryan Murphy’s backing (and long-held appeal within the Academy), but will it still be able to sway enough voters with only six nominations? It got some support in the technical categories, so perhaps with a few upsets at the Creative Arts ceremony… no, it’s still unlikely to topple the king. Odds seem insurmountable for “Game of Thrones” opponents, with the best bet being a critical boost for “Better Call Saul” — maybe bolstered by campaign stops from old “Breaking Bad” cast members? — or an Academy-encompassing swoon for Phoebe Waller-Bridge. The Hot Priest would vote for her, and shouldn’t we all follow our leader’s guide?

Power Ranking the Nominees:

  1. “Game of Thrones”
  2. “Better Call Saul”
  3. “Killing Eve”
  4. “Ozark”
  5. “This Is Us”
  6. “Pose”
  7. “Succession”
  8. “Bodyguard”

Will Win: “Game of Thrones”
Could Win: “Killing Eve”
Should Win: “Better Call Saul”

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