Murderers’ Row: The Greatest Emmy Awards Lineups Ever

The strongest nominee for each major category in TV’s top honors

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Best Drama, 2012
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Best Drama, 2012

The Lineup: Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland (winner), Mad Men

Welcome to the Golden Age. Believe it or not, The Wire was never nominated for the Emmys' top honor (!?!), making the television renaissance's early years difficult to capture in a single award slate; ditto the mid-2000's, when Battlestar Galactica, arguably the finest science-fiction show in the medium's history, was routinely ignored in favor of Fox-y fare like 24 and House. But in 2012, the second generation following The Sopranos' breakthrough ran the table. (Yes, once upon a time Downton Abbey was indeed that good.) True, Homeland's misfiring, exec-meddling second season may have been an undeserving winner, given its competition — Boardwalk Empire's breathtaking late-season shocks, Game of Thrones' epic 'Blackwater' battle, Breaking Bad's face-off with drug kingpin Gus Fring, and Mad Men Season Five's back-to-back-to-back masterpieces — but the contest itself was incredible.

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