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Emmy Contenders to Watch and Where to Stream Them: Drama Series

Many of TV's best drama series (and Emmy contenders) are just a few keystrokes away.

Succession Season 2 Jeremy Strong Sarah Snook

Jeremy Strong and Sarah Snook in “Succession”

Peter Kramer/HBO

Believe it or not, it wasn’t so long ago that people regularly bemoaned the rise of Peak TV and the fact that their harried lives left little opportunity to clear out their DVRs and catch up on all their favorite shows. But that was the Before Time. Now, thanks to what we can only assume is a monkey’s paw wish gone terribly wrong, people have nothing but time to dive deep into the best of what TV has to offer — making it the perfect opportunity to get ahead of what is sure to be a wild and wacky road to the 2020 Emmy Awards.

That’s why IndieWire is handcrafting streaming guidance to direct audiences to where they can find the shows sure to be on the Television Academy’s radar once Emmy season starts in earnest, starting with Outstanding Drama Series, where there be no more dragons and there’s every opportunity to inject new blood into a high-profile race.

HBO

Let’s start with a sure thing. By the time 2019 came to a close, it was clear that HBO had the most likely Emmy drama series successor to “Game of Thrones” already under its own roof in Jesse Armstrong’s “Succession.” If the high-stakes family drama started soft in the awards sphere garnering only five Emmy nominations for its first season, an important win for drama series writing, several guild wins since, and a ridiculously great second season leave the show in prime position to make the leap to awards greatness this year.

The best news of all is that even people who don’t currently subscribe to HBO or HBO Go can get caught up on the series, free of charge, thanks to a pandemic-spurred initiative by the premium cable network, which is making many of its most prestigious and beloved series free to stream.

Those looking to take advantage of HBO’s select streaming offer could also check out the second season of “Big Little Lies,” starring Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and many more of Hollywood’s elite actresses, which is a long-shot contender to be nominated for drama series, but anything with that much star power cannot be easily dismissed.

However, to see HBO’s other big drama series contenders will require a subscription to HBO Now or, come May, HBO Max, which is the only place viewers will be able to stream the third season of “Westworld” (still airing new episodes), as well as the first season of the Zendaya-led series “Euphoria.” Despite flagging ratings, “Westworld” has been nominated for Drama Series in each of its previous two seasons, making it likely to repeat, while “Euphoria” is most likely to miss out on a nomination, while nonetheless being a tantalizing and rebellious potential nominee for an organization that often opts for something significantly more staid.

HBO also has “The Outsider,” which, though it has its fans, seems an unthinkable pick in a year already crowded with, well, outsiders.

"The Crown"

Olivia Colman in “The Crown

Sophie Mutevelian/Netflix

Netflix

It’s not streaming, it’s Netflix, and while the premiere provider of streaming content has yet to nab wins in any of the major series categories at the Emmys, it’s only a matter of time before it breaks through in a big way.

The most likely way for Netflix to score a big win is with royal drama “The Crown,” which aged up the whole of its cast between Seasons 2 and 3, trading out Emmy-winner Claire Foy for Oscar-winner Olivia Colman in the role of Queen Elizabeth II, in addition to lots of other delicious casting changes, sure to wreak havoc in the acting categories at the Emmys.

Since “The Crown” has never missed a Drama Series nominations, its nod is virtually a sure thing. Joining it in “sure thing” status is fellow Netflix drama and Jason Bateman vehicle “Ozark,” which has only grown in estimation with the TV Academy. The fact that the show’s third season is thought to be a return to form only bolsters the shows chances at cementing a spot in the category.

Of course, the third season of “Stranger Things” can’t be overlooked as a nomination possibility, given the show’s track record, earning nods for its first two seasons, but widespread enthusiasm for the show appears to be flagging and an unusual FYC season that doesn’t keep the series top of mind will likely work against the show’s awards aspirations.

All of Netflix’s shows are, unsurprisingly, available to stream on Netflix.

Hulu

Streaming on Hulu is always a unique repository for original programming, next-day availability for broadcast shows, and now, FX on Hulu, where some FX shows live permanently, to the brain-wrinkling confusion of many a TV journalist.

But Hulu’s biggest drama series contender is homegrown in the third season of dystopian drama “The Handmaid’s Tale.” While buzz appears to have backed off, Hulu reported last year that the most recent season scored the biggest viewing numbers ever, suggesting that even if the show isn’t thriving within the industry, it’s definitely still working its magic amongst its fanbase.

The Handmaid's Tale -- "Household" - Episode 306 -- June accompanies the Waterfords to Washington D.C., where a powerful family offers a glimpse of the future of Gilead. June makes an important connection as she attempts to protect Nichole. June (Elisabeth Moss) and Serena (Yvonne Strahovski), shown. (Photo by: Sophie Giraud/Hulu)

“The Handmaid’s Tale”

Hulu

That said, for those wanting to familiarize themselves with contenders, Hulu is also where they can find another Emmy favorite in NBC’s “This Is Us.” Starring Mandy Moore and Sterling K. Brown, the family drama maintains a dedicated audience that’s deeply invested in each and every story machination, though it remains unclear if the Academy will remain as taken with the saccharine show as it ages.

Amazon

While Amazon has yet to breakthrough in Drama Series the way it has in Comedy Series, the streaming arm of the online shopping site remains hopeful for the future. With the Al Pacino-starring series “Hunters,” Amazon has its next best hope for a drama series contender, despite middling reviews upon the show’s launch.

Everything Else

AMC’s critically-acclaimed “Better Call Saul” is currently airing Season 5, which is available to stream for cable customers on AMC.com. Otherwise, the show is available to purchase episodically on Amazon.

The third season of BBC America’s “Killing Eve” moved up its premiere date, placing it fully in Emmy eligibility, and is available to stream on BBCAmerica.com.

The second season of FX’s “Pose” is currently available for purchase on Amazon.

Apple TV+ flagship series “The Morning Show,” starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, is available to stream on Apple TV+.

“The Mandalorian,” a “Star Wars” series, is available to stream on Disney+.

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