Thursday, May 23, 2024

Top 10 Drama Series To Keep An Eye On For The 2024 Emmy Awards Season

After its four explosive seasons, there’s little doubt of the enormous impact that “Succession” has had, both on the Emmy Awards and on television itself. The exploits of the powerful Roy family created headlines and social media buzz, unlike any other show at the time, and with critical acclaim came Emmy success: 19 wins from 75 nominations. With six Primetime Emmy Awards in 2023, “Succession” certainly left on a high, awards-wise.

However, what it also left in its wake is a Drama Series category that’s, frankly, in shambles. In most years, if an Emmy juggernaut – for example, “Game of Thrones” – has ended its run, most of its rival nominees in Drama Series would return the following year to fill out the category. Not so in 2024. Seven of the eight series nominated last year (including “Succession“) have either ended their runs or are between seasons and are thus ineligible this year. Only Netflix’s “The Crown” is in contention to return, leaving the category more wide open for newcomers than in recent memory.

So, with even some ace Emmy prognosticators flummoxed as to what titles will make the elite eight, this is your chance to jump ahead of the pack. Here are ten drama series to put on your Emmy radar, along with a few comments on where their awards strengths (or weaknesses) may lie. Happy streaming!

3 BODY PROBLEM (Season 1) (Netflix)
Game of Thrones” co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss joined writer Alexander Woo in adapting the Hugo Award-winning Chinese novel “The Three-Body Problem” for television. Like “Thrones,” Benioff and Weiss’ series know how to balance epic crowd scenes with quiet, tender moments in this story of an astrophysicist (Rosalind Chao) who is conscripted by the Chinese army to respond to contact from an alien planet. The series received praise from critics, particularly for its creators’ ability to create a compelling narrative from more philosophical source material.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Emmy voters have not shied away from nominating science-fiction shows for Drama Series in the past, and the “Game of Thrones” pedigree from its co-creators won’t hurt. Emmy chances will likely be best in the craft categories, although nominations for writing and directing are certainly possible. Acting nominations may be a bit of a long shot for now, but that may change when more voters catch up with the series.

THE CROWN (Season 6) (Netflix)
With the departure of “Succession,” things should be looking good for this Netflix series to retake the Outstanding Drama Series crown it won in 2021. With this – its sixth and final season – “The Crown” is the one contender considered Emmy royalty, with 69 nominations and 21 wins, and it is the only series returning from last year’s Drama Series race. On paper, it looks like the frontrunner for now, but potential obstacles may lie ahead for another Drama Series win. The award trajectory for “The Crown” is definitely down, dropping from 24 nominations for Season 4 to only six last year. And, for the first time in the series’ history, the reviews for Season 6 were not good (55% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes). With other, more acclaimed series in contention, we may have a real race on our hands.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Still, it would be a shock if “The Crown” missed a Drama Series nomination, and a good number of its distinguished cast members will certainly contend for nominations. Elizabeth Debicki, who has already won SAG, Globe, and Critics Choice Awards for her performance as Diana, is certainly the frontrunner for an Emmy win as well, with Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Dominic West as key players in the nomination hunt.

THE CURSE (Season 1) (Paramount+ with Showtime)
No new drama series had as high a profile kickoff as “The Curse,” which held its gala premiere at the 2023 New York Film Festival. The satiric thriller, created by co-stars Nathan Fielder and Benny Safdie, focuses on Asher (Fielder) and Whitney Siegel (Emma Stone), a couple who host an HGTV reality show and seek to use their property expertise to help poor New Mexicans, only to have their efforts turn sour when a young street vendor places a curse on the obtuse Asher. Though the use of cringe-inducing humor caused some critics to label the show “divisive,” most reviews were laudatory, citing its creative defiance of genres and singling out the performances by its cast.

EMMY OUTLOOK: “The Curse” was the subject of numerous newspaper think pieces during the fall, which always helps a new series stand out from the crowd. And, the presence of newly-minted [two-time] Oscar winner Stone (whose performance in “The Curse” has already earned her a Globe nod) will likely prod more Emmy voters into watching the series. At this point, “The Curse” looks to be on the bubble to make the final eight nominees, but its cast and big creative swings could be enough to land that Drama Series nomination.

THE GILDED AGE (Season 2) (Max)
If there is a series that learned its lessons from a rocky first season, it’s this grand Julian Fellowes costume drama. Burdened at first with the mantle of being “the new ‘Downton Abbey,'” the series needed time to sort out the collection of Tony-winning actors in its cast, and the result was an overabundance of storylines and an unfortunate lack of focus. First-season reviews were largely favorable, if unenthusiastic (79% on RT). But, Fellowes sharpened his “old money vs. new money” narrative in Season 2 by centering it on, of all things, a war between dueling opera houses. Critics’ reviews soared to 92% favorable, and “The Gilded Age” at last had what it had been looking for for so long: buzz. And Emmy voters love buzz.

EMMY OUTLOOK: There’s nowhere to go but up. In 2023, “The Gilded Age” received a grand total of one Emmy nomination – for production design – which it won. Season 2 will almost certainly fare better, and a Drama Series nomination seems likely. With a cast that includes Emmy favorites Carrie Coon, Christine Baranski, Cynthia Nixon, and Nathan Lane – plus key players Morgan Spector and Dénee Benton – opportunities for nominations in the now suddenly-cleared acting categories abound, not to mention the many craft categories (especially costumes), where it’s likely to shine.

LOKI (Season 2) (Disney+)
While Disney+ drama series based on the “Star Wars” saga (“Andor” and “The Mandalorian”) have earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Drama Series, no Disney+ series based on the MCU has yet to clear that bar. That may change this year with the second season of “Loki,” which expands the world of Thor’s mischievous adopted brother into a multiverse, a successful move that retained the critical acclaim of the first season. Season 1 earned six below-the-line Emmy nominations, but with several slots opening up in the above-the-line Emmy races, this could be “Loki’s” year.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Getting past that Emmy hurdle for an MCU series will likely be tough, particularly in a year that has been troublesome for Marvel franchises. Still, the fact that “Loki’s” Season 2 earned its first Critics Choice nomination as Best Drama Series and that three members of the cast – Tom Hiddleston, Sophia Di Martino, and Ke Huy Quan – earned acting nominations are encouraging signs for the series’ Emmy chances.

THE MORNING SHOW (Season 3) (Apple TV+) 
With its topical storylines involving COVID, January 6th, and sexual harassment in the workplace, “The Morning Show” has provided actors with juicy, meaningful roles, so it’s no surprise that, of its 11 Emmy nominations in its first two seasons, seven were for acting, including a 2021 supporting win for Billy Crudup. However, despite that Emmy success, the show has not been nominated for Outstanding Drama Series in its first two seasons. But, with such a wide-open field this year and its most critically acclaimed season yet, its time may have finally arrived.

EMMY OUTLOOK: At long last, a Drama Series nomination may be in the cards for “The Morning Show,” likely helped by strong support in the acting branch. Jennifer Aniston looks to be a frontrunner in the Lead Actress race, right beside castmate Reese Witherspoon, who hopes to earn her second consecutive Lead Actress nomination. In addition, the show’s supporting ranks are filled with such contenders as Crudup, Greta Lee, Jon Hamm, Nicole Beharie, Mark Duplass, Karen Pittman, and Holland Taylor. Nomination morning may be a good one for this Apple TV+ series.

MR. AND MRS. SMITH (Season 1) (Prime Video)
When it was announced that “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” the 2005 spy adventure that starred Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, would be adapted into a television series, visions of Emmy nominations did not necessarily come to mind. (Memories of too many flop series adapted from movies are still too fresh). But, the series, created by Donald Glover and Francesca Sloane, took a surprising path: Each episode was a separate mission in locations around the world that also revealed the state of the couple’s business “marriage,” as well as their growing personal relationship. In its look and approach, it stood out from any drama series out there, and at 89% critical favorability on Rotten Tomatoes, Emmy nominations don’t seem so fanciful after all.

EMMY OUTLOOK: The combination of action, comedy, and romance in “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” could prove to be catnip for Emmy voters, especially given the respect the Academy has shown to Glover, who has received 11 total Emmy nominations, winning two for his work on “Atlanta.” Like Glover, who is in the mix for his lead performance, co-star Maya Erskine is also favored to land a Lead Actress nomination for her memorable work. And the array of guest stars in each episode could prove to be surprise contenders.

THE NEW LOOK (Season 1) (Apple TV+)
The unlikely combination of World War II espionage and the world of high fashion comes together in this Apple TV+ series set in Europe from 1943-55. The series focuses on two iconic figures—designers Christian Dior (Ben Mendelsohn) and Coco Chanel (Juliette Binoche)—as they develop their respective styles, shaped by their experiences during the war. Critical reviews were largely mixed, but the scale of “The New Look” is certainly large enough to impress Emmy voters.

EMMY OUTLOOK: Frankly, this is probably limited to being a below-the-line player with strong tech possibilities, especially costume design. But don’t sleep on the possible celebrity lure of Emmy winner Mendelsohn or Oscar winner Binoche (or even the series itself) to fill out a category.

SLOW HORSES (Season 3) (Apple TV+)
It’s hard to believe, but this critically acclaimed Apple TV+ series, despite near-universal critical acclaim, has yet to receive a single Emmy nomination. With a devoted fan base on both sides of the Atlantic, “Slow Horses” is a spy thriller with a twist, focusing on the rejects from MI:5 who have been relegated to paper-pushing jobs but somehow become involved in cases that threaten the future of Britain. Awards recognition has been slow to come, but that may soon change: For the current season, star Gary Oldman has earned his first Best Actor nomination for the show from both the BAFTA and the Golden Globes.

EMMY OUTLOOK: With so many slots still available in Drama Series and Lead Actor, Emmy voters will undoubtedly be shopping for new series and performances to consider, and Oldman and his series may be in a prime spot to grab those nominations.

SUGAR (Season 1) (Apple TV+)
This neo-noir mystery series stars and is executive-produced by Oscar nominee Colin Farrell, who plays the title character, an American private eye based in L.A. who is hired to find the missing granddaughter of a powerful Hollywood producer. As he digs deeper, Sugar unearths some shocking family secrets, as T.V. private eyes are wont to do. The series, directed by Oscar-nominated director Fernando Meirelles (“City of God”), has a look that evokes L.A. in every frame, and the techs are solid. But, the real attraction is Farrell, whose sheer coolness has rarely been used so effectively.

EMMY OUTLOOK: This may be one of those highly regarded shows that critics appreciate now, but it is also one that the Academy takes time to recognize until it establishes its bona fides. Nevertheless, it will be very difficult for Emmy voters to ignore Farrell, who has a strong shot to land a nomination in Lead Actor.

What do you think are the biggest Emmy contenders for Outstanding Drama Series this year? Which of these shows is your favorite so far? Please let us know in the comments section below or on Next Best Picture’s Twitter account. Be sure to also check out our Next Best Series Podcast throughout the Emmy season.

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Tom O'Brien
Tom O'Brien
Palm Springs Blogger and Awards lover. Editor at Exact Change & contributing writer for Gold Derby.

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