The Emmy nominations at the end of last week brought good news for Mad Men. The 11 nominations for its final season marked a return to form after a few down years in the awards sweepstakes. And after reading a number of forecasts by various entertainment outlets, it looks to me like the show has at least a decent shot at capturing a record fifth Emmy Award for Best Dramatic Series at the awards show on September 20th.
But should it?
Mad Men's final sequence marks a very satisfying ending to the series. Don't watch if you don't know how it all ends.
The competition this year does not seem extreme. Most entertainment analysts -- I don't know if they're any better at what they do than most political analysts -- think that the race for Best Drama is either wide open, tilting slightly or heavily to Mad Men, or tilting somewhat to Game of Thrones.
With nominations expanded this year, there are six Best Drama nominees in addition to Mad Men.
Better Call Saul is the spin-off of Mad Men's award-winning AMC stablemate Breaking Bad. Based on a largely comic relief character from that classic show, it's very good but not great.
Downton Abbey is the British period perennial. It got the slot that should have gone to the much superior The Americans.
Orange Is the New Black is an intriguing comedy-drama about women in prison. A worthy addition to the mix.
House of Cards was the first Netflix streaming series a couple years back. I love the 1990 BBC miniseries it's based on, and liked the first season of the American political melodrama it's become. But it's gotten more and more farfetched, and never had the black comedy highs of the British original.
Back in its first season, in 2011, Homeland was a near perfect post-9/11 espionage series, absolutely great. It very deservingly broke Mad Men's record-tying streak of four straight Best Drama Emmys. But its terrific producers, veterans of 24 and The X-Files -- both big past faves of mine -- fatefully chose to make the show more about a relationship than a milieu.
The show became more and more unrealistic and soapy. The relationship finally ended with a death that should have occurred in the Season 1 finale. The show has gotten better again, but is nowhere near its heights.
Then there's Game of Thrones, arguably Mad Men's only real competition. I've watched it and enjoyed it, but sword-and-sandal fantasy is not exactly my thing.
Readers know I'm an aficionado of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That wouldn't be nearly so if the Marvelverse centered on Thor and Asgard.
The show is very popular, though I hear less talk about it than in previous seasons. It got twice as many nominations as Mad Men, though tellingly trailed in the writing category, where Mad Men took two of the five nods to the fantasy show's one.
Game of Thrones has two big, fundamental problems. It's a genre show and it's adapted material based on a series of best-selling novels.
No genre show, i.e., fantasy or scifi, has won the Best Drama Emmy aside from Lost. Which at least looked like it was based in the real world.
And only one show that is not original material for television has won.
That's Homeland, which is based on an Israeli TV series about returned prisoners of war. But Homeland is really a very different show than Hatufim.
Game of Thrones, in contrast, follows the novels closely.
Mad Men is original all the way. And it ended very well. Not many were dissatisfied with the telling and poetic ending devised by series creator Matt Weiner. I love the ending.
Mad Men definitely stuck the landing especially in comparison to the endings of such award-winning shows as The Sopranos -- on which Weiner was a writer/producer -- and Lost.
It wasn't the spectacular ending of Breaking Bad. But it was much more realistic. I love the final season of Breaking Bad, but its finale really plays more like a dream sequence that anything that would really happen with those characters. Or any other characters, for that matter, aside from The Avengers.
It would make perfect sense for Mad Men to win its record-setting fifth Best Drama Emmy. And it's high time for Jon Hamm, after eight nominations for his masterful performance as the iconic Don Draper, to finally take the Best Actor prize.
Hamm, somewhat amazingly, has 16 Emmy nominations, but no wins. Half for playing Don Draper, the other half as a latter-day producer of the show and frequently hilarious guest actor in comedy series.
It would also be good to see Elisabeth Moss and Christina Hendricks win with their sixth nominations apiece. But that's more of a long shot, perhaps less so for Hendricks in the supporting actress category.
The only possible problem I have with Mad Men winning the record fifth Best Drama Emmy -- and longtime readers know I was very frank about the show's relative down seasons -- is that it would be the record fifth Best Drama Emmy. That will imply that Mad Men is the greatest television drama of all time.
Mad Men is clearly a greater show than any of this year's nominees. And it's clearly a greater show than LA Law, one of the three other shows which won four Best Drama Emmys.
But is it a greater show than The West Wing? Or Hill Street Blues?
Is it greater than shows which don't have those four Emmys, like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad?
Those are tougher questions.
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