Emmy Nominations: TheWrap Picks Dream Contenders for Outstanding Drama Series

In this installment of our series on performers and programs that are deserving of Emmy awards recognition, even if they’re unlikely to get it, we turn the spotlight on drama series

"Sleepy Hollow"

Emmy nominations will be announced on Thursday morning, and we all know what that means: We’ll sit in front of the TV and hear the same names we heard last year, and the year before …

Also read: Emmy Nominations: TheWrap Picks Dream Contenders for Comedy Series

Emmy voters, after all, are creatures of habit who tend to go for the same shows and performers over and over. But while we have nothing against “Modern Family” and Bryan Cranston and Claire Danes, TV is so vast and so good that lots of worthy shows can stay on the air season after season without ever landing Emmy nods.

So to salute the whole wide world of great TV, TheWrap staff would like to throw out some names that we don’t expect to see on the Emmy ballot – but wouldn’t it be a wonderful surprise if some of them did make it?

Also read: TheWrap’s Emmy Nomination Predictions — and Way-Too-Soon Winner Picks

This category may change more slowly than any other. In 2013, “Boardwalk Empire” wasn’t nominated to make room for “House of Cards.” Every other nominee was the same as the previous year. And there’s no reason to imagine Emmy without nominations for “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “Game of Thrones,” ‘Homeland, “House of Cards,” and “Mad Men” — although the arrival of “True Detective” will most likely place one of those favorites in jeopardy. Where does that leave everyone else? Hoping Emmy voters got tired of nominating a couple of these shows to make room for even one more new entry, like one of our picks below.


Banchee Lucas Hood

It’s too bad that this show airs on Cinemax, which means no one is watching it. The society women of “Banshee” are former assassins, the new sheriff is also an assassin and he isn’t who he claims to be. And, the fabulous drag queen is the badass bomb expert. “Banshee,” created by Alan Ball, is like a classic Western on acid. What a hoot. –Jethro Nededog

Also read: 7 Questions With ‘Graceland’ Star Daniel Sunjata: Emmy Contender Quickie

Vera Farmiga Bates Motel

“Bates Motel”
Yes, creating a series that can stand as a prequel to the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Psycho” is a fool’s errand. And yes, drawing inspiration from David Lynch‘s brilliantly impenetrable “Twin Peaks” is risky business indeed. But with help from Freddie Highmore, Michael O’Neill and particularly the always-wonderful Vera Farmiga, damned if Carlton Cuse, Kerry Ehrin and Anthony Cipriano haven’t pulled off a spooky family drama that stands on its own and doesn’t shame its ancestors. –Steve Pond

Also read: Emmy Nominations: TheWrap Picks Dream Contenders for Outstanding Lead Actress Drama

orphan black

“Orphan Black”
As any “Star Trek” or “Battlestar Galactica” fan can tell you, the TV Academy doesn’t know what to do with science fiction. And as Trekkers and Galactikers (or whatever they’re called) can tell you, sci-fi can produce some of the most intriguing and thought-provoking work on TV. “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany may finally edge her way into the drama-actress race, but her smart, sprawling futuristic clone drama, reeking of allegory but always entertaining, will most likely stand proudly with its predecessors, a group for which Emmys remain the final frontier. –SP

Also read: Emmy Nominations: TheWrap Picks Dream Contenders for Outstanding Lead Actor Drama


The NBC family drama will make you hate your own family. No, seriously — nobody can be as perfect as the Bravermans, so don’t even try it. But that fact doesn’t make the show corny at all. In fact, it’s quite brilliant. “Parenthood” also manages to make viewers legitimately care about every individual and couple in the ensemble show. Monica Potter likely has the best chance to get a nomination, and she deserves one, but the show should get a little more acknowledgement of its own — especially since it is not long for this TV world. If you haven’t yet checked out “Parenthood” — and the ratings would suggest that you have not — it is highly binge-watchable. –Tony Maglio

Also read: 7 Questions With ‘Parenthood’ Star Monica Potter: Emmy Contender Quickie


Sundance’s series about a man released from death row is one of the most patient and moving shows on television — and the care and precision that goes into each episode means every small moment pays off. So do the big ones. “Rectify” doesn’t make a lot of big moves, but when it does they feel grounded and honest. If Emmy voters have the attention span to appreciate “Rectify,” it may one day land a well-deserved nomination. –Tim Molloy

Also read: Emmy Nominations: TheWrap Picks Dream Contenders for Drama Supporting Actors and Actresses

Scandal Kerry Washington

Its actors and writers may be good enough for Emmy nods, but “Scandal” will probably never break through into the Emmy Drama category due to its super-primetime-soapy nature. Nonetheless, Shonda Rhimes has put together a series that gets the audience involved with its characters, thrilled by every shocking turn and asking for more. From its finely crafted monologues to its procedural-like case of the episode, “Scandal” delivers satisfaction on different levels. –JN

Also read: 8 Questions With ‘Scandal’ Star Kerry Washington: Emmy Contender Quickie

Sleepy Hollow

“Sleepy Hollow”
This show woke America up and then continued to poke it incessantly for 13 episodes. A star was born in Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane, while Nicole Beharie was every bit his equal as Abbie. It’s hard to come out of the gate this strong with a largely unknown cast and a bizarre premise like this Fox drama, but this show knew what it was and it got right to business. It featured unpredictable writing, fantastic guest stars, convincing performances across the board, and twists and turns that would give “Scandal” a run for its money. Unfortunately, supernatural shows have a real struggle getting Emmy attention, and this one may even be too crazy on top of that. –Jason Hughes

Also read: Emmy Nominations: TheWrap Picks Dream Contenders for Comedy Series

walking dead

“The Walking Dead”
The second half of the season elevated this hack-and-slash show into a true drama, as the group was scattered. Suddenly, each episode was a character study, exploring the horrors of living in a world filled with the undead. The performers proved up to the challenge, as “The Walking Dead” decided to live up to its AMC pedigree and become a smart show as well as an incredibly popular one. Unfortunately, some of its campier elements early on are going to linger with Emmy voters, as well as the perception that it’s just a show about killing zombies. –JH

Also read: Emmy Favorites in Danger: ‘Mad Men,’ Ryan Seacrest, ‘Homeland’ Lead the Pack

Justified Raylan Givens Boyd Crowder

It’s downright criminal that FX’s wily western hasn’t been nominated every year in all the drama categories, but this penultimate season — the series concludes next year — was one of its finest. Like Kentucky bourbon, Season 5 distilled “Justified” to its essence: the spirited rivalry between U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and his boyhood pal turned criminal ringleader, Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins). Their charming drawls and piquant dialogue only thinly disguise the hostility foreshadowing their final showdown in Season 6. –Drusilla Moorhouse