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Uh-oh! Is 'Mad Men' in trouble at the Emmys?

September 12, 2011 |  8:22 am


The vast majority of Emmy pundits have been betting on "Mad Men" to win best drama series for a fourth year in a row, but now they must be worried after witnessing its wipe-out at the Creative Arts Awards on Saturday. Not only did "Mad Men" win just one trophy (hairstyling), but its chief rival, "Boardwalk Empire," ruled the kudofest with seven. All "Boardwalk Empire" needs to tie "The West Wing's" 2000 record for most victories in one year is two more at next Sunday's Emmycast. Surely, it'll bag best director for Martin Scorsese. Steve Buscemi has an excellent shot at best actor and ... hmmm ... what about that top prize for best series? Suddenly, it all appears to be within HBO's grasp.

That shouldn't be surprising considering that "Boardwalk Empire" won best drama series at the Golden Globes plus best drama ensemble at the SAG Awards, but pundits have been pooh-poohing its Emmy hopes because original episodes were last seen on TV in December.

That seems hugely unfair considering that original episodes of "Mad Men" were last seen on TV in October, but most pundits shrug that off, probably because "Mad Men" was able to overcome the same problem in the past. However, each time "Mad Men" won, AMC aired new episodes during the voting period and Emmy voters couldn't drive down Sunset Boulevard without spying Don Draper and the gang smiling down from billboards overhead and from the sides of buses gliding by. Not true this time. Series creator Matt Weiner's protracted negotiations with the network caused production delays, which limited all that advertising.

Will that matter? Maybe. But maybe not. Back in 2002, "Mad Men" merely won one prize at the Creative Arts Emmys and it just so happened to be the same solo category it won this year –- hairstyling -– and it still managed to prevail as best drama series. This year "Mad Men" clearly has widespread support across the academy since it leads with 12 nominations, compared with 11 for "Boardwalk."

Personally, I think "Mad Men" will still win. It has class and Emmy voters are snobs. That's why they kept picking "The West Wing" for four years in a row. It's no coincidence that the TV series with the most wins in all categories (37) is about two snooty brothers bickering about opera and vintage wines: "Frasier." "Boardwalk Empire" has "The Sopranos" problem. It's about thugs and, remember, "The Sopranos" lost its first year in the race for best drama series to "The Practice," a classy show about attorneys.

When evaluated by its crafts –- art direction, casting, cinematography –- "Boardwalk Empire" is extremely impressive and thus had an advantage over rivals at the Creative Arts Emmys. It's also immensely impressive overall, granted, but I think "Boardwalk" needs more to surmount the thug problem and beat "Mad Men" for drama series. If HBO had scheduled episodes of the new season of "Boardwalk" to air during the voting period, that might've helped, but, alas, the new episodes began to air a few weeks too late.

But take heed, "Boardwalk" fans. "The Sopranos" eventually won best drama series twice (2004, 2007). "Boardwalk" can still do that too, but sometimes it just takes a while for Emmy snobs to get comfy with a rough-tough show.


'Boardwalk Empire' rules Creative Arts Emmys

Elisabeth Moss: There's more to be revealed about Peggy and Don

"Mad Men" may tie record as Emmy's drama series champ

-- Tom O'Neil

Photo: Some of the men of "Mad Men." Credit: AMC