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Early, gutsy Emmy predix: 'Mad Men' vs. 'Damages'

August 19, 2008 | 10:32 pm

It's interesting to see that our two shrewdest Emmy gurus — our forum moderators Robert "Rob L" Licuria and Chris "Boomer" Beachum — don't agree on what series will win best drama.

They both rank the same shows in their top two, but Rob picks "Mad Men" and Boomer opts for "Damages."

These are just early, preliminary predix, by the way. Despite what Rob asserts below, they might change later after we learn what sample episodes were submitted to judges in what pairings. A total of six are entered by each series, grouped into three pairs that are distributed randomly to voters.

Frankly, I'm not convinced that Rob or Boomer are correct here.

Yes, those shows seem like the Emmy front-runners just based upon buzz and The Cool Factor. But as Boomer acknowledges in his commentary, "Mad Men" "can seem slow and plodding to the uninitiated." "Damages" is much more intense, fast-moving and action-packed, but, like "Mad Men," it's a serialized drama and one that requires voters to know much more about its back story than "Mad Men." If voters aren't regular viewers of "Mad Men" — and, surprisingly, many Emmy voters aren't regular viewers of various hot shows — they can probably still appreciate much of what they see in, let's say, a mid-season episode, but what response can we expect if you throw episode no. 5 or 8 of "Damages" at the uninitiated? Yikes!


"Lost" is one of the few serialized dramas that managed to win in its first year (2005). Let's recall that megahits "The Sopranos" and "24" didn't prevail until later. When "Lost" failed to be nominated in 2006 and 2007, that revealed a lot. Both times producers submitted episodes that didn't have a self-contained story. The upshot was clear: judges didn't vote for "Lost" because they didn't understand what was going on. That was validated this year when producers made a special point of submitting an episode (just one gets viewed by the nominating committee during that early round of voting) with a self-contained story and it made it back in the derby.

"Mad Men" and "Damages" have fewer viewers than "The Sopranos" and "24" had in their first years when they failed to win best drama series. So that's another strike against those shows.

Rob and Boomer have "Boston Legal" in their third position, but I think they're crazy. Ever since at-home voting replaced judging panels to determine winners in 2000, programs have needed a certain Cool Factor to prevail. I think it's the only show on this list that can't win.

And I believe that the previous two loses by "House M.D." suggest that it's probably out of contention too.

But I believe that "Lost" and "Dexter" — ranked in the bottom three by both of our gurus — have a real chance to win.

But enough of what I think. Let's toss off to how they've sized up this contest. First, Rob's ranking.


1. "Mad Men"
2. "Damages"
3. "Boston Legal"
4. "Lost"
5. "House"
6. "Dexter"

QUICK EARLY CALL: Without having viewed the official submitted episodes, I would say that this is "Mad Men's" year. With more positive reviews than viewers, especially in the last few weeks (for the currently airing second season), this show is once again fresh in the minds of voters. It has the most nominations, the buzz, the excitement, "Sopranos" alumni at the helm, and it's the "Year of Basic Cable."

If any show can upset, it's "Damages," with a stellar pilot episode that I'm sure will be submitted and which will wow voters. Any other winner (apart from a shock "Lost" or "Dexter" win) would be met with an avalanche of criticism that ATAS would likely wish to avoid. Look to "Mad Men" and "Damages" sweeping the main categories this year. I doubt I'll be changing my pick in this category. Take this one to the bank.

1. "Damages"
2. "Mad Men"
3. "Boston Legal"
4. "House"
5. "Lost"
6. "Dexter"

QUICK EARLY CALL: This is an extremely tough category to predict!  I will rule out "Lost" and "Dexter" since there has only been one drama series ("The Practice") to win in the past 25+ years without at least a directing or writing nomination.

However, I am thrilled that "Lost" made it back into this race since it is truly one of the best series on TV today. My personal preference to win this year is "Mad Men," but listening to comments from friends and others, I realize that the show can seem slow and plodding to the uninitiated. Voters have loved legal shows in this category for many years, and I have found "Damages" a very compelling series with tons of great performances and a great mystery at its core. That is why I have it slightly ahead of "Mad Men" right now.

Don't count out "Boston Legal," though, because David E. Kelley knows more than just about anybody what buttons to push with Emmy voters. It would be an embarrassing day for the academy if that schlocky show wins when there were at least 10 better dramas this past season.

(Photos: AMC, FX)