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Emmy Predictions: Best Drama Series — All Wrapped Up, or a Three-Way Race?

"The Crown" has been in the driver's seat all year, but the nominations revealed a trio of contenders with winning routes to the finish line.

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) and the Child in THE MANDALORIAN, season two, exclusively on Disney+

“The Mandalorian”

Francois Duhamel /Lucasfilm Ltd.

Last Year’s Winner: “Succession”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: HBO drama series have won the top prize for three years running, but with “Succession” and “Game of Thrones” out of the picture, can the WarnerMedia awards giant find yet another successor?
Fun Fact: If the Streaming Revolution took place as Netflix rose to power, then we’re in the middle of the Streaming Resurgence now. Just look at the slow rise, plateau, and then rebound of streaming shows in the Best Drama Series race. After Netflix landed its first nomination in the category in 2013, Hulu joined the fray in 2017 to boost the total streaming nominees to four (out of seven). In 2018, it fell to three nominees, and 2019 dropped again to just two. But last year, with the arrival of Disney+ and Apple TV+, streaming nominees hit an all-time high of five nominees (out of eight). With five again in 2021, the question now becomes if that’s the new peak or the new standard.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Succession” (Season 3 was not eligible); “Stranger Things” (Season 4 was not eligible); “Better Call Saul” (Season 6 was not eligible); “Killing Eve” (Season 4 was not eligible); “Ozark” (Season 4 was not eligible)

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ Emmy predictions for Best Drama Series. This article will be updated throughout the season, along with all our predictions, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest news from the 2021 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys nominations was held from June 17 through June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out in September, at a date (or dates) to be announced. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

Last year at this time, we were discussing a three-way race between the expected winner, a series with a boatload of nominations, and “The Mandalorian.” Well, here we are again, caught in a similar conversation, even if everything else about the Best Drama Series competition has shifted.

Gone is the 2020 favorite (and eventual champion) “Succession”; so too goes “Ozark” and its sinking ship filled with 18 nominations (but only one win). “The Mandalorian” remains, and it’s still widely perceived as the second fiddle; likely to win at the Creative Arts ceremony, but fall short of the Series prize.

So what stands in its way? Not “This Is Us” or “The Boys.” Among the eight Best Drama Series nominees, NBC’s ongoing family drama and Amazon Prime Video’s breakout superhero satire have the fewest nominations overall, and without widespread support across Academy branches, it’s hard to win the trophy voted on by all members. “Pose” is in similar position, near the back of the pack; FX’s outgoing drama bested “The Boys” (with five nominations) and “This Is Us” (six nods) by only a few categories, and its nine nominations seem ill-matched to compete with three shows snagging 20 or more. (That being said, as the longest of long-shots, “Pose’s” final season could stir up enough passion to make a late run.)

Unlikely but not inconceivable contenders include “Lovecraft Country” and “Bridgerton.” The Netflix period drama from Shondaland managed 12 nominations in its debut season, across a wide swath of categories (including Production Design, Cinematography, Costumes, and Directing), but it only landed one acting nomination, for Regé-Jean Page. Given the competition, “Bridgerton” will need a formidable number of voters from that massive branch if it hopes to compete for Best Drama — a branch “Lovecraft Country” could lean on. With 18 nominations (including five acting nods and a slot in the Writing category), HBO’s supernatural drama could have carried serious upset potential for Emmy night’s final prize… except for its cancellation putting a damper on voters’ enthusiasm. Nomination voting closed before HBO announced its decision, and with revival odds looking slim, there’s less motivation for voters to show their support on the ballot.

That leaves “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “The Mandalorian,” and “The Crown,” all of which raked in nominations across the board, all of which have a good track record with the Academy, and all of which have the potential to take home the Emmy this year. “The Handmaid’s Tale” is the only one to win this category so far, and Hulu’s dystopian story continues to be an Emmy favorite; it has 75 nominations to date and 15 wins, including a Best Drama Series trophy in 2017. But since then, it hasn’t been able to snag the top prize, netting three wins for Seasons 2 and 3 alike. Season 4 could push it back to glory, but we have yet to see the same fervor that sparked Season 1’s win.

So why not “The Mandalorian?” Most would point to the same factors that kept the series out of the winner’s circle last year, even after an impressive showing at the Creative Arts Awards: It lacks support from actors, critics are ho-hum, and it’s missing the “it” factor of many Best Drama champions. “The Mandalorian” looks great, but are voters eager to give the Best Drama Series title to a show with storytelling amounting to a big-budget, live-action, Saturday morning cartoon?

Probably not, which is good news for “The Crown,” and great news for Netflix. Long predicted to control this year’s Emmy conversation, Peter Morgan’s beloved series seems to have timing on its side (with The Royal Family under ever-mounting cultural scrutiny and last year’s winner forced to skip this year’s Emmys due to production delays) and everyone in its corner. After three straight years with 13 nominations, “The Crown” shot up to 24 nominations in 2021, tied with “The Mandalorian” for the most overall — yet with plenty of support from actors, too. (There are nine acting nominees, including Claire Foy for what’s barely a cameo.) Even if “The Mandalorian” dominates the craft voters’ ballots, some will be swayed by the “The Crown” and actors are likely to heavily favor the Netflix entry. Other branches will, as well — and, largely by the hands of fate — Netflix should finally win its first Emmy for Best Drama Series.

Power Rankings:

  1. “The Crown” (Netflix)
  2. “The Mandalorian” (Disney+)
  3. “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
  4. “Bridgerton” (Netflix)
  5. “Pose” (FX)
  6. “Lovecraft Country” (HBO)
  7. “The Boys” (Amazon Prime Video)
  8. “This Is Us” (NBC)

Will Win: “The Crown”
Could Win: “The Mandalorian”
Should Win: “The Boys”

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