Thursday, June 20th, 2013


something to consider

“one thing is for sure: Mad Men is the greatest TV drama of all time” – Rolling Stone

AMC something more

Cynopsis Media Presents: Primetime Emmy Awards Before the Ballot: Drama Category

By Kitty Bowe Hearty
Good morning. It’s Monday, June 24, 2013, and this is the fourth in a series predicting the nominees for this year’s primetime Emmy Awards, which will be announced on July 18. Today’s category: Drama.


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a masterpiece of direction, writing, pacing and storytelling” – Newsday

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Heading into this year’s Emmy predictions for best Drama Series, the question is whether the nominations (and winners) will prove as dramatic as last year, when the list of six included two new nominees and, for the first time, no major networks. 

In addition, AMC‘s Mad Men with 17 nominations won nothing (and failed to set a record for most consecutive wins for Best Drama Series), AMC’s Breaking Bad, consistently hailed as one of the best series on television, lost for the third time and newbie Homeland from Showtime, to the audible gasps of many, won three majors: Best Drama Series, Actor (Damian Lewis) and Actress (Claire Danes). The idea that working in television is a step down career-wise has clearly been dismissed, whether it’s behind of or in front of the camera.  “The truth is that the movie side has shrunk so much that television work is very attractive,” says Jay Paulson, who appeared in Mad Men as Adam Whitaker. “There’s no stigma to television anymore…it delivers real quality.” Sure does. Here’s how the race is shaping up in the Drama category.


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“the flat-out scariest, best, most unusual show” – New York Post

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Looking Like Locks

“Viewers hate reruns but the Emmys love them,” says Michael Giltz, referring to the Academy’s tendency to repeat the same group of nominees each year. Giltz, a contributor to Huffington Post who also writes about television for the NY Post, NY Daily News and Entertainment Weekly, considers any changes to a previous year’s nominations a seismic shift. And that said, last year’s nominees: Homeland, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire from HBO, Game of Thrones from HBO and PBS’s Downton Abbey all appear strong.  However, there are some caveats.

Homeland – last year’s winner – is considered by some to have suffered a sophomore slump (at least critically) in its follow up season although according to an industry insider, “for it not to be nominated is impossible.”

Breaking Bad will broadcast its final eight episodes this summer, setting it up for what many consider is a sure win in this category next year.  But at the same time, there is a sense that Walter White, played by multiple Emmy winner Bryan Cranston, has completely lost his moral compass and is now just a one-dimensional drug thug, depriving the show of the “‘m just a high school chemistry teacher with cancer trying to provide for my family” underbelly that has mitigated some of its straight-up violence.

*The plotline of Mad Men continues to become more and more unhinged. “I think Mad Men is done,” says Claire Connors, Special Features Editor for Shape Magazine. “Don is becoming sadistic and people just aren’t liking it as much.” However, a veteran television writer and producer, who considers it a sure nominee, says in the end that such critical thinking doesn’t matter. “Matthew Weiner loves to be nominated and loves to win but he has a vision for the show and he will stay true to that.”

Although Downton Abbey suffered critically this season, it remains a sure contender and given the number of really meaty plots – including the death of Lady Cora’s daughter – there’s buzz that this might be the year it wins the category (it won the best mini series/movie category in 2011). Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive for PBS, says that she “has high hopes and is fairly confident.”  It helps that the series is delivering ratings that PBS hasn’t seen in twenty years – the season three finale on February 17 delivered an 8.1 rating, beating all its primetime competition, including broadcast and cable. And let’s be honest…when is the last time the words “highest rated show” and ‘PBS” have appeared in the same sentence?

Boardwalk Empire continues its slow simmer to greatness, despite the fact that insiders say Steve Buscemi’s character has surrendered to being a one-dimensional gangster. The consistency of its ensemble work, the writing, and the overall look of the show, which has been hailed for its authenticity in both design and costumes, is generating talk in industry circles that it could win  making its nomination a shoe-in.  And never underestimate the power of the HBO publicity machine. HBO has ruled the primetime Emmys for the past 11 years. Why should that change now?

Game of Thrones remains a consistent and serious contender. But is this an instance where given its genre (as in “horror,” which historically has horrified Emmy voters) the nomination is itself the prize?  Also, could it switch out for the zombie masterpiece that is The Walking Dead AMC? It just might.


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“better than ever… more lyrical in telling its epic tale” – The Associated Press

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Contenders (where the fun starts and the nerves kick in).

House of Cards Critically acclaimed and, given Netflix‘s streaming delivery of the entire first season at once, probably prescient. The buzz is definitely there but, as Giltz points out, “It took the Emmys twenty years to nominate a cable show. Can they move that quickly into streaming technology?”  And it is possible to honor the show with an Acting Emmy for Kevin Spacey, whose dog-strangling performance repels and compels, simultaneously.

The Following The general feeling is that this Fox series hasn’t lived up to the level of the pilot, particularly in terms of the writing, In addition, it’s consistently dour – and its obsession with Edgar Allen Poe been criticized as ringing false. However, it does star the much-loved Kevin Bacon (husband of the much-loved Emmy winner Kyra Sedgwick) in his first television series.

The Americans This Fox entry is the sexiest show on television; if that isn’t enough, it manages to make the much maligned `80s seem (and look) cool. Mentioned to Cynopsis as a possibility by an executive from another show in the running, it is definitely in the nominee mix.  The parallel tensions in the marriage and the KGB vs. USA espionage games are beautifully calibrated by the writers.

Justified A perennial dark horse, even though none of the characters rides horses…dark or otherwise. As U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, Tim Olyphant continues to be great, delivering a performance that’s laconic without being leaden. Elmore Leonard is on record as saying that the series is one of the best adaptations of his work. Some say this Fox show it is perfectly poised to break through this year.

Rectify: “The quietest show on television” says Giltz.  Sundance Channel’s first original series is about everyone’s worst nightmare: being sent to prison while innocent of the crime…and then getting out after 19 years.  It co-mingles what on paper seems like an impossible pair of plotlines: the reality of life in a small Southern town and the very tricky theme of forgiveness.

The Walking Dead: The highest-rated basic cable show ever and arguably the best show on television in terms of audience numbers and loyalty as well as the show’s creativity.  “With season three, we hit the ground running,” says Glen Mazzara, showrunner for seasons two and three. “We re-developed all the characters and found out what the show was really about.” The fact that the show also has such an intense fan base makes it hard for Emmy voters to completely ignore. “Our viewers are deeply and emotionally connected to these characters,” adds Mazzara. “Watching the show is a mesmerizing experience and they are participants in that.”

Nashville This ABC offering is one of the few major network shows being talked about for this category.  Rounding out the very strong cast is the music itself, which holds its own as a fourth character. Series creator Callie Khouri has been praised for the writing and casting and the choice to film on location in Nashville.  “We try to keep it real,” she says, “and I think we are doing something that no one else is.”

The Good Wife Another major network possibility, this time from CBS.  But is this more a possibility for Juliana Margulies, whose name is still on everyone lips after four seasons? Says one insider, “it has prestige, but no heat.”

Scandal “The buzziest show on television,” says Giltz.  But do Academy voters consider it little more than an ABC primetime soap? Joanna Jordan, Founder and President of Central Talent Booking hopes it is a contender. “Scandal should be recognized both for its amazing ensemble cast and for the stand out performance of Kerry Washington.  She deserves the loyal audience that she has found.”

Newsroom.  If there’s anyone who knows how to write to win a bagful of Emmys, it’s Aaron Sorkin.  The question is whether that works for or against his new HBO series. Reasons why it’s good are typical Sorkin:  great cast, great writing, great dialogue.  The ensemble, which includes Sam Waterston, Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer, has been hailed for its quality.  As with so many things Sorkin, liking (or not liking) Newsroom is really about liking (or not liking) Sorkin’s highly specific style of television drama.

It’s old news that this is the new golden era of television drama and that the medium is providing opportunities – both creative and financial- across the spectrum for writers, directors and actors. “Television [now] allows us to go back to being storytellers, and not cartoonists,” says Khouri, who should know the difference, having written the Oscar-winning cartoon-less story of Thelma and Louise 22 years ago. And each year, the quality and caliber of contending Emmy nominees in writing and acting (more and more of whom are coming from the film industry) is significant, making for a crowded field. This competition is distilled in the best series category. “It’s incredibly competitive,” says Mazzara, “and there are only so many slots.”  Will there be drama when the nominations are announced on July 18th? For sure.  Will it be dramatic?  We’ll see.

Kitty Bowe Hearty

Roberta Caploe: Editorial Director
Denise O’Connor: Group Publisher, Cynopsis Media
Diane K Schwartz: Senior Vice President, Media Communications Group

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