Critics have been seduced by FX’s Cold War-era spy drama, heaping praise upon Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys’ sly performances as KGB agents posing as a married couple.
‘The Blacklist’ (NBC)
Hats off to James Spader for delivering NBC a hit show. “It deserves to make the top six list because it’s first-rate, hot out of the freshman season gate,” says Richard Licata, NBC’s executive vice president of communications. “It’s superbly acted by Spader, who’s giving the performance of the year and of his career.”
‘Boardwalk Empire’ (HBO)
Terence Winter’s Prohibition-era mob drama deserves recognition for its lush, elaborate sets and costumes — and a scene-stealing turn this season by Jeffrey Wright as a ruthless gangster with charisma to spare, but little patience for Nucky Thompson.
‘Breaking Bad’ (AMC)
A flawless finale should guarantee creator Vince Gilligan’s masterpiece, which won the Emmy last year, a nomination. “But every time we think it’s a foregone conclusion, the voters pull the rug out from under you,” says one insider. “You can never predict it. Yes, it deserves it. It went out in a grand way. But the academy’s tastes tend to be a little more conservative.”
‘Downton Abbey’ (PBS)
“It’s one of our best seasons yet,” says executive producer Gareth Neame of PBS’ hit, which grabbed record ratings. “At its heart, the show is a combination of something that’s very old with something that’s very new. And somehow it works.” Adds executive producer Julian Fellowes: “I think it’s very flattering for people to think we may be in the running in the fourth year, so I have a reasonably philosophical view. These things can’t go on forever, not only the series but being nominated.”
‘Game of Thrones’ (HBO)
Emmy voters may not be fans of genre, but “Game of Thrones” breaks the rules in every way. “There are shows every couple of years that raise the bar,” says Bert Salke, president of Fox 21. “‘Game of Thrones’ is one of them.”
‘The Good Wife’ (CBS)
“I consider it the best drama on television,” says David Stapf, president of CBS Television Studios. “All you can do is make the best show you can, but the Kings (showrunners Michelle & Robert) make a phenomenal show and sustain it over 22 episodes. It’s a remarkable feat making an episode every eight days on a network TV budget, and making 22 of them. They’re brilliant storytellers, who hit on two different pivot points this season (splitting the firm and killing off Josh Charles’ character). They continue to defy expectations.” Points out an insider, “‘The Good Wife’ is the only broadcast contender.”
“Homeland” burst out of the gate with a win its first season, and still carries the hallmark of an important show. “‘Homeland’ always generates controversy,” says Showtime President David Nevins, pointing out that viewership was up by 25% last season. “It was a pivotal season anchored by three amazing performances in Claire (Danes), Mandy (Patinkin) and Damian (Lewis). If Bryan Cranston can get nominated in his swan song, so can Damian Lewis.”
‘House of Cards’ (Netflix)
Never bet against Netflix. “House of Cards” racked up the binge-watchers. And Emmy voters will want to show that they’re hip enough to embrace streaming.
‘Mad Men’ (AMC)
Emmy has always gone “Mad” for Matt Weiner’s men (and women), nominating it every season, and crowning it four times.
‘Masters of Sex’ (Showtime)
“‘Masters’ is a seductive show,” says Nevins. “It’s dramatic and has real wit. It has period lushness that has been a positive for shows in the past. It’s got Lizzy Caplan, who is a real surprise in her role, and Michael Sheen, who has been a very honored actor. That show is going to be a player.”
‘Ray Donovan’ (Showtime)
Says Nevins, “It has a good combination of heavy drama, but it’s really fun to watch. Plus, you’ve got two really powerhouse performances in Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight.”
‘True Detective’ (HBO)
Movie stars doing TV is as sure a bet as you can make. “‘True Detective’ was incredibly compelling, incredibly well-done,” says Salke, a sentiment shared by the industry.