Honestly, I know there are favorites and underdogs in this year’s Emmy drama series category, but I can’t recall a year where so many of the nominees seemed to have a legitimate chance to win.

Listed in order of experience:

Mad“Mad Men” (fifth season):
The four-time defending champion obviously has nothing to prove as far as its bonafides. It’s not as if last season didn’t have spectacular moments, either.

Breaking“Breaking Bad” (fourth season):
Safe to say that most would consider “Bad” the nominee most overdue for an Emmy series trophy. The recent fifth-season episodes aren’t eligible for consideration, but certainly reemphasized the point.

Boardwalk“Boardwalk Empire” (second season):
An upset candidate last year after drawing 18 total nominations and winning eight Emmys, “Boardwalk” might be the one 2012 nominee that doesn’t seem to have a compelling story for winning the big prize.

Thrones“Game of Thrones” (second season):
The belle of the Creative Arts Emmys, putting six trophies in its royal library, “Thrones” clearly has lots of broad support within the Academy. Creative Arts honors don’t automatically translate into series honors, as “Boardwalk” learned last year, but you can’t dismiss “Thrones” yet.

Downton“Downton Abbey” (second season/first in drama):
The only non-cable show in the running was absolutely beloved by its viewership — sophisticated yet easy on the senses. “Downton” earned respect for moving out of the miniseries category to play with the big fish, and offers a clear alternative to the dark cable competition.

Homeland“Homeland” (first season):
The only rookie might be asked to bide its time, but it made a huge impression and has no shortage of hardcore fans. It’s known for shocking cliffhangers, but it would be no shock if “Homeland” leapfrogged everyone.

At the end of the day, you just have to acknowledge that it’s a great group of shows. Maybe it really is an honor to be nominated.