This case for who's going to win this category perhaps should literally be brought in front of Judge Judy. The perennial Emmy candidate, nominated again this year, has never won the award, even back when the program competed numerous times in the special-class series category. The other two contenders this year are "Last Shot With Judge Gunn" (which won in 2012) and veteran judicial series "The People's Court."
FX added another gem to its brand with the period spy series, which gained cachet as the season progressed.
As much as the pre-Psycho concept, performances by Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore put Bates (and in turn, A&E) on the map.
Can such a high-profile HBO show be underrated? At any rate, it stood tall in its third season, even airing the same night as Showtime's defending Emmy champ "Homeland."
The publicity for the show's upcoming final eight episodes might galvanize voters to give it its first series Emmy.
Imagine a show that takes Lady Sybil's final "Downton Abbey" episode and tells stories like that each week. There you have the under-the-radar "Midwife."
Hey, if "Law & Order" could become an Emmy favorite, why can't the latest product of the Dick Wolf machine?
Co-created by Tom Fontana and Will Rokos, "Copper" was BBC America's first original scripted drama and was picked up for a second season.
Once a dynamic part of the FX slate, "Damages" ended its run in relative anonymity on DirecTV's Audience Network, but nevertheless found new viewers.
It's not entirely clear audiences knew what to make of the idea of Leonardo as a pseudo-action hero, but it had a splashy debut in season one.
The cabler's warhorse had a four-year streak of nominations end in 2012, but a comeback is viable.
Freed in season three from the shackles of channeling World War I, "Downton" refo- cused on domestic issues -- in a year that will be remembered for who (and how they) died.
Though procedurals struggle at the Emmys these days, the Eye is hoping Academy voters rate this Holmes-Watson incarnation a cut above.
On a network best known for its crime-centered skeins, sci-fi "Skies" stands out in its ambition.
Arguably offered the best premiere of any new show in 2012-13, though over the course of the season some felt the plotting was strained.
With White Walkers and dragons now a major threat to those who eye the Iron Throne, the third season of "Thrones" was marked by changes in power, odd bedfellows, unexpected heroes and the occasional shocking death of a main character.
The Julianna Marguiles starrer remains the best hope for a show from the four big broadcasters to earn an Emmy drama series nom.
Almost an afterthought when NBC brought it to the air in 2011, "Grimm" developed a loyal following to become a no-doubt renewal for 2013-14.
A largely well-regarded premiere nevertheless raised questions of whether it was too violent.
OK, maybe there's one more interesting story than "Homeland." "House of Cards" had its own layer of soap but stands an excellent chance of creating a drama series nominations breakthrough for digital.
There might be no more interesting story at this year's Emmys than whether the exceedingly drastic plot turns of "Homeland" undermine its chances at a repeat drama series win.
"Justified" spoils its fans, with the Margo Martindale-infused second season iconic in its audience's memory. But this year's season four was masterfully plotted and completely compelling.
Something of a more laconic "Justified," "Longmire" took advantage of its rural Western locale to offer a modern-day update of a Wild West procedural.
The drama has been more of a trip than ever in its sixth (and penultimate) season, but with its four-year run atop the Emmy drama pyramid ending, it'll be a challenge to climb back up.
Though it featured a season-long political arc that never resonated, "Nashville" made its soapiness work, boosted by strong perfs and a rich and diverse supply of music.
Not a little bit polarizing, "The Newsroom" could aggravate with some eyebrow-raising plotting while also hooking auds with the way it tackled the key issues of our time.
This season, Storybrooke might have broken free of Regina's curse, but residents remained trapped in their small town as fairytale folks were forced to deal with the repercussions of bringing magic into the real world.
The attention-getting work of Tatiana Maslany and the coyly dramatic universe it inhabits offers some hope that Orphan could find a home at the Emmys.
It took some time before the Academy jumped on the bandwagon of Jason Katims' previous show, "Friday Night Lights." Could "Parenthood" follow the same pattern?
Perhaps it's no more than the presence of Michael Emerson, but "Person" just seems to have a bit more heft than some other CBS dramas.
The pace won't be for everyone, but there's something mesmerizing -- even beguilingly haunting -- about Ray McKinnon's lowkey effort.
If "Revolution" breaks through, one wonders if it should share its award with "The Voice," whose lead-in audience buoyed the high-concept drama during the key early weeks.
BBC America followed "Copper" with another period piece, a sort of "CSI" of a hundred years ago and one that intrigued.
Dismissed by some a year ago as fluff, "Scandal" took off in its second season and became one of the most tweeted-about shows on TV.
We'll forever wonder if "Shameless" might have been better off submitting as a comedy (on the dark side, of course). If "Nurse Jackie" can, why can't this?
We're rooting for this show to get a nomination in no small part to see what showrunner Kurt Sutter's reaction would be.
Some bashed TNT for canceling "Southland" in the spring, but the network is the sole reason why viewers who cherished it were able to enjoy four additional seasons.
Just because it was less ambitious than a "Game of Thrones" doesn't mean that "Vikings" wasn't a success. Reviews for the most part were supportive.
Hardcore fans are always analyzing "Walking Dead" plotlines to the nth degree, but the third season of the hugely popular cable drama provided plenty of riveting moments.
Walter (Bryan Cranston), Jesse (Aaron Paul) and helpful newbie Todd (Jesse Plemons) have pulled off one of their most incredible schemes yet -- only to realize that an innocent boy is a witness. As the aud imagines all kinds of scenarios, Todd pulls out his gun and shocks everyone.
"Sons of Anarchy"
Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) and other members of the gang watch as a half dozen members of a rival gang beat Opie (Ryan Hurst) to death. Sacrificing himself in order to save the group, Opie gives off a slight smile and sees his friend one last time, and by that time Teller isn't the only one with tears in his eyes.
There's never anything quite like what happens when Carrie (Claire Danes) and Brody (Damian Lewis) are face to face, but Carrie's emotionally delicate interrogation of Brody somehow manages to take their tango to another level.
"The Walking Dead"
After Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) dies during pregnancy, tween son Carl (Chandler Riggs) steps up to the gruesome added responsibility of putting a bullet in her head, to make sure she doesn't come back as a zombie.
Is there nothing Richard Harrow can't do? Richard (Jack Huston) is a one-man gang in not only taking down the forces of Gyp Rosetti, but rescuing young Tommy Darmody (Brady and Connor Noon) in the process.
The most poignant departure from Downton in season three wasn't that of Matthew (Dan Stevens), but rather the gutwrenching passing of Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) just after giving birth to her first child.
Elizabeth (Keri Russell) learns that her own Russian bosses have duped her and her life-partner in spydom Phillip (Matthew Rhys), and takes out her anger in startlingly ferocious fashion on Claudia (Margo Martindale).
Deadbeat dad Frank (William H. Macy) unwittingly becomes the world's most unlikely spokesperson for gay rights -- so long as he's amply compensated.
While giving Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) his due, the moment of the year in Justified might have been the brutal beating of Constable Bob (Patton Oswalt) -- who survives while defiantly cracking insults along the way.
With its gritty language and frank violence, Southland has always been fascinating and threatening. In this moment, two cops (Michael Cudlitz and guest Anthony Ruivivar) are kidnapped by meth addicts and tortured. The unstinting look at the cops' reaction pushed the genre into new frontiers.
"Game of Thrones"
In a show known for swordfights, backstabbing and fire-breathing dragons, a conversation in a bathtub between two adversaries seems the most poignant. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's Jaime Lannister lets his guard down to explain why he killed the former king and why he never told anyone the truth.
President Grant (Tony Goldwyn) chooses his mistress Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington) over his wife, Mellie (Bellamy Young), telling his chief of staff (Jeff Perry) he'd rather give up the office than lose his lover.