It would be almost ridiculous to argue that “Mad Men” was any less substantial or addictive in season two than it was when it launched in July 2007.
Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s about to go two-for-two in collecting Emmys. Voters haven’t awarded back-to-back statues for drama series since “The West Wing” took a pair in 2002-03, so it’s obvious the Acad doesn’t like any series to get too full of itself.
Critical darling and women-friendly “Big Love,” which is the rare HBO show never to have found much kudos love, finds itself in the race, while “Damages” — centered on five-time Oscar-nommed and last year’s drama-actress winner Glenn Close — satiates those who enjoy a good whodunit.
“Breaking Bad” was a revelation in season two, and a case could be made it was the top drama of the year. Bryan Cranston’s phenomenal portrayal of a terminally ill teacher who turns to selling drugs to secure his family’s future, and Aaron Paul’s supporting turn made the show must-see viewing.
“Dexter” has now been nommed two years in a row, and the series has a strong fanbase that could carry over to the Academy.
“House” and “Lost” are the broadcast contingent, with the latter having won in 2005. With its final season to begin in 2010, there’s the possibility voters may hold off to once again honor this extra-ordinary drama.
It’s now three years in a row for a “House” nom, and one day series producers Katie Jacobs and David Shore may reach the podium.
Emmy pedigree: None
Highlight: At the end of a long family road trip, Sarah breaks down and tells her dad about losing the baby. It brought the two close together after they’d been noncommunicative for a while.
Why it might win: HBO — whether it be minis, movies or series — receives lots of Emmy love, and the sole nom for “Big Love” means that’s where voters might think it has its best chance to win.
Maybe not: It took three seasons for the skein to get recognized, so a trip to the winner’s circle might be a long shot.
Emmy pedigree: None
Highlight: Walter and Jesse are being held hostage and try to kill drug lord Tuco to free themselves, but Tuco’s mute uncle rings a bell when he thinks his nephew is being duped.
Why it might win: It’s nearly impossible to find someone who watches this riveting drama and doesn’t think it’s exemplary.
Maybe not: The Academy proved its fondness for the show by awarding Bryan Cranston the Emmy last year. One could argue that’s enough recognition for the series.
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Highlight: Wes follows an unsuspecting Ellen out to the woods and plans on killing her but doesn’t pull the trigger.
Why it might win: The writers create a zigzagging storyline over 13 episodes that make viewers feel they can’t afford to miss an episode. That must-watch philosophy could pay off.
Maybe not: The second season didn’t feel as compelling as the first, which received plenty of critical applause. Not sure if the show remains in the cultural zeitgeist.
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Highlight: Dexter turns the tables on Miguel, kidnaps him and wraps him up in plastic. Just before he kills him, Dexter confesses to several murders, including that of Miguel’s brother.
Why it might win: As Showtime’s premiere drama series, “Dexter” could well garner support for the cabler’s overall programming slate.
Maybe not: While the show had plenty of buzz in its first two seasons, the chatter may have fallen off a bit for the most recent one.
Emmy pedigree: Three noms
Highlight: Feeling full of himself, House recollects about having made love to Cuddy by holding her lipstick in his hands. Soon, the lipstick turns into a bottle of Vicodin and House soon realizes that it was all a dream.
Why it might win: There’s little doubt that “House” remains one of broadcast’s best dramas, and it’s consistency over a five-year period is remarkable.
Maybe not: If the series hasn’t been honored to this point, it’s difficult to say why reluctant voters who previously have marked their ballots for others would change their minds now.
Emmy pedigree: One win plus one other nom
Highlight: In the season finale, Jack is determined to set off a nuclear bomb, and it’s up to Juliet, who’s nearly dead after having fallen down a hole, to set off the device when it doesn’t explode on its own.
Why it might win: “Lost” has moved far beyond the sci-fi fanbase, never failing to engage its audience with moments that bring together the island’s past and present with seamless ease.
Maybe not: A winner in its first year, one can see the Academy bookending this seminal series with a drama win when the end comes next season.
Emmy pedigree: One win
Highlight: Many to choose from, but a whopper came in one of the last moments of the year when Peggy tells Pete he is the father of her baby. He’s devastated by the news and isn’t sure how to react.
Why it might win: A winner its first time around, “Mad Men” was just as absorbing in season two, and the show’s uncompromising detail of the 1960s is small-screen perfection.
Maybe not: With so many terrific dramas on the air, it might be hard to justify another trophy for the folks at Sterling Cooper, even though it would be difficult to argue against it.