Memorial Day weekend is traditionally a time for television academy voters to take serious note of candidates for the Emmy ballots they’ll be returning in mid-to-late June, and the contest has grown more complicated as the number of shows and networks multiplies. But it’s more than safe to say that after a Covid break, Succession will be back in contention this year and is arguably HBO’s best chance for a best drama series statue.
More than 15 years ago, after HBO wrestled the “prestige drama” banner away from the broadcast networks—a feat brought off with such wonders as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and The Wire—expectations of infallibility became downright problematic. Sure, there would be more hits, like Big Love, Boardwalk Empire, True Blood, Deadwood, Westworld, and the mightiest of them all, Game of Thrones, but that left precious margin for error—as witnessed with the likes of John from Cincinnati, Luck, Vinyl, and numerous others. HBO covets celebrated dramas not only for the luster that accrues around its brand, but also the very survival of its pipeline. As Game of Thrones began rounding third, HBO made discovering its next breakout hour the network’s top programming priority.
Mission accomplished. After three noisy seasons, Succession has proved itself an awards juggernaut and a glittering crowd-pleaser (if not a ratings powerhouse), reflecting its wide and deep excellence in writing, directing, music, casting, and editing—even if some wardrobe choices amount to a parade of horribles. (Hey, you can’t have everything.)