Series Examination

'Mad Men,' 'Boardwalk Empire,' 'Modern Family' stand out in our nom-by-nom look at the Emmy show categories
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Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of who might actually win. Among the major series categories—examined below—the scripted contenders are pretty clear-cut. AMC’s Mad Men and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, with 19 and 18 overall nominations respectively, are expected to battle it out for the title of outstanding drama series. Modern Family, with 17 total nominations, is the clear favorite among comedies. But the outstanding reality-competition category, which saw Top Chef upset longtime lock Amazing Race last year, could as easily go to a previous winner as it could go to one of the other über-popular contenders.

Outstanding Drama Series

HBO’s Boardwalk Empire
Stats: 18 total nominations, including a best leading actor nod for Steve Buscemi, a best supporting actress nod for Kelly Macdonald, and a best director nod for Oscar-winner Martin Scorsese, one of the show’s originating executive producers.
Strengths:Boardwalk Empire has the advantage of being TV’s shiny new show, having also won the Golden Globe. It’s expected to give Mad Men—which Emmy voters may be growing a bit tired of—a serious run for its money. Weaknesses: The show’s nickname—Bored-walk Empire—says it all.

Showtime’s Dexter
Stats: Five total nominations, including Michael C. Hall’s fourth lead actor nomination. Julia Stiles also received a nod for her work guesting as Lumen Pierce.
Strengths: The show has been nominated four years in a row…
Weaknesses: …but has never won. Emmy’s motto should be: win early, win often.

DirecTV’s Friday Night Lights
Stats: Four total nominations, including repeat best actor nods for both Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. Series executive producer and head writer Jason Katims, who also created and executive produces NBC’s Parenthood, was nominated for writing.
Strengths: Its fans worship it like Texans worship football.
Weaknesses: Little overall viewership.

HBO’s Game of Thrones
Stats: 13 overall nominations, including a best supporting actor nod for Peter Dinklage, a writing nod for David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and a directing nod for Tim Van Patten.
Strengths: Everything you want in a TV series: action, adventure, great story, good writing, amazing casting. Weaknesses: Fantasy epic, which immediately strikes it from many viewers’ must-watch list.

CBS’ The Good Wife
Stats: Nine overall nominations, including Julianna Margulies’ second best actress nod for her role as Alicia Florrick. Four other Good Wife actors were nominated in supporting categories: Christine Baranski, Josh Charles, Alan Cummings and last year’s winner, Archie Panjabi.
Strengths: Many critics call The Good Wife the best show on television.
Weaknesses: Only nominated drama to air on a broadcast network, illustrating how Emmy voters view broadcast dramas.

AMC’s Mad Men
Stats: 19 overall nominations, the most of any series, including acting nods for Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks.
Strengths:Mad Men remains one of TV’s most gorgeous shows, with its historically accurate costumes and decors. Weaknesses: The show’s secretive characters and story lines are wearing a bit thin.

Outstanding Comedy Series

CBS’ The Big Bang Theory
Stats: Five overall nominations, including best actor nods for Jim Parsons and Johnny Galecki
Strengths: TV’s most viewed comedy, but…
Weaknesses: …that broad appeal works against it when it comes to Emmy voters.

Fox’s Glee
Stats: 12 overall nominations, including nods for Emmy host and last year’s best supporting actress, Jane Lynch. Chris Colfer also scored a repeat nod in this Modern Family-dominated supporting actor category.
Strengths: Glee’s song-anddance numbers and guestcasting stunts remain great fun to watch…
Weaknesses: …but the show’s story lines and characters are all over the place.

ABC’s Modern Family
Stats: 17 overall nominations, making Modern Family TV’s most nominated comedy. The show’s entire adult cast earned nominations in the supporting actor categories.
Strengths: Season two was arguably stronger than season one, making Modern Family the favorite by a long shot. Weaknesses: None.

NBC’s The Office
Stats: Four overall nominations, including a lead actor nod for the outgoing Steve Carell.
Strengths: The show might earn votes due to Carell’s departure…
Weaknesses: …but NBC’s long-running Thursday night anchor is largely seen as being in decline.

NBC’s Parks and Recreation
Stats: Three overall nominations, including one for star Amy Poehler.
Strengths: Contrary to The Office or 30 Rock, Parks and Rec is just hitting its stride, and its fans are fervent. Weaknesses: It doesn’t have nearly the support of Modern Family.

NBC’s 30 Rock
Stats: 13 noms, including repeat nods for former winners Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin and a supporting actress nod for Jane Krakowski.
Strengths: 30 Rock dominated for three years before Modern Family showed up; Emmy voters are likely to consider it duly rewarded.
Weaknesses: Like so many of us, 30 Rock’s weakness is its age.

Outstanding Reality Program

PBS’ Antiques Roadshow
Stats: One nomination
Strengths: Consistency
Weaknesses: It’s been on so long that no one realizes it’s still there. Plus, does anyone have anything worthwhile left in their attic?

Discovery’s Deadliest Catch
Stats: Four nominations
Strengths: Launched a new sort of reality storytelling, but…
Weaknesses: …this show was most exciting when it first premiered with its new and different premise. Now voters are used to it and have moved on to watching Swamp Loggers.

A&E’s Hoarders
Stats: One nomination Strengths: People are both fascinated…
Weaknesses: …and disgusted by this premise.

Bravo’s Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List
Stats:
One nomination
Strengths: Kathy Griffin Weaknesses: Kathy Griffin

Discovery’s MythBusters

Stats: One nomination Strengths: Loyal geek fan base…
Weaknesses: …and no one else.

CBS’ Undercover Boss
Stats: One nomination
Strengths: Strong, emotional storytelling wrapped in a reality package
Weaknesses: The premise gets tired pretty quickly.

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

CBS’ Amazing Race
Stats: Seven nominations
Strengths: Dominated this category until last year, when it was upset by Top Chef
Weaknesses: After 18 seasons and 77 countries visited, it may be getting a bit long in the tooth

Fox’s American Idol
Stats: 10 nominations, including one for host Ryan Seacrest
Strengths: Totally reinvented itself this year and actually improved its stellar ratings, an unheard of feat in television. With 10 nominations, Idol is in a good position to finally take home the Emmy.
Weaknesses: Viewers adore Idol; Emmy voters—historically— not so much.

ABC’s Dancing With the Stars
Stats: Seven nominations, including one for host Tom Bergeron
Strengths: The consistent format offers a reliable payoff each week…
Weaknesses: …but it can get boring for viewers who prefer innovation and surprises.

Lifetime’s Project Runway

Stats: Two nominations
Strengths: After moving to Lifetime and changing production companies in 2009, Runway had to evolve. This year, the show finally found its new voice and expanded to 90-minute episodes.
Weaknesses: Many of the show’s fans drifted away after the move and have not returned.

Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance
Stats: Eight nominations, including one for host Cat Deeley.
Strengths:Dance has been on the air since 2005, but this is the first year it has been nominated best reality competition show.
Weaknesses: The show earned eight nominations, but most of them are in the choreography category.

Bravo’s Top Chef
Stats: Four nominations
Strengths: Last year’s winner is coming off a strong season that included Top Chef: All-Stars
Weaknesses: With only four nominations, Top Chef looks weak compared to the competition.

Outstanding Nonfiction Series

PBS’ American Masters
Stats: Seven nominations
Description: This 25-year-old series explores the lives of the people who shape American culture. Some of this year’s topics included a film on Jeff Bridges, just coming off his Oscar win for Crazy Heart, and Cameron Crowe’s take on grunge trailblazers Pearl Jam.

Travel Channel’s Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
Stats: Four nominations
Description: Watching this show is like taking a trip to Haiti or Cuba with your pal Anthony Bourdain, in which you eat local cuisine, drink to your heart’s content and hang out with Sean Penn.

Bio’s Biography
Stats: One nomination
Description: The show remains the standard documentary-style format on which this channel launched.

TCM’s Moguls & Movie Stars
Stats: Three nominations
Description: TCM’s seven-part history of Hollywood, narrated by Christopher Plummer. How could Emmy not love a show about itself?

PBS’ Pioneers of Television
Stats: One nomination
Description: Eight-part series exploring the formats—such as sitcoms, sci-fi and late night—and the personalities, including current Emmy nominee Betty White, on which today’s TV was built.

ESPN’s 30 for 30
Stats: One nomination
Description: ESPN’s much-praised documentary series, in which each episode allows a director to take on one sports-related story—whether well-known or obscure— representing each year from 1979 to 2009.

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