Boardwalk Empire (HBO), which premiered in 2010, is set in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the Prohibition era of the 1920s and 30s. The first episode earns the dubious honor of "most expensive pilot" at $18 million in production costs. Apparently it paid off, because the show has received several nominations from the Writers Guild of America, the Golden Globes and now the Emmys, and critical reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.
The Good Wife (CBS) began in 2009 and has been renewed for a third season. The show deals with a woman whose husband has been incarcerated following a public sex scandal, inspired by most of the male politician sex scandals you can think of, and the creators' thoughts about what the diligent wife standing by must be thinking during those times. The second season is generally considered an improvement on the first, and The Good Wife has earned 9 Emmy nominations this year.
Mad Men (AMC) has been a darling of critics and viewers since 2007. Another period piece, it's set in the 1960s at a fictional advertising agency in New York City. Actor Jon Hamm has found his breakthrough role as advertising creative director Don Draper, and he's up for Best Lead Actor in a Drama for the third time this year. Mad Men has won the Emmy for best drama series in 2008, 2009 and 2010 -- it's likely to win again.
Friday Night Lights (DirecTV) is a small-town drama based on a book and film of that same name. It began in 2006 on NBC and faced cancellation due to a small audience, so NBC made a deal with DirecTV to keep broadcasting the show. It stopped airing this year after five seasons. Critics have praised the show for its depth and its realistic exploration of issues facing Middle America. 
Dexter (Showtime) debuted in 2006 and appealed to viewers as a forensic procedural with a twist. This past season of Dexter, the fifth, was the highest-rated yet. Dexter has received many award nominations, but has won only one primetime Emmy, for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series in 2010. Also, guest actor John Lithgow won for Outstanding Guest Actor in 2010 for his turn as the Trinity Killer, the main antagonist in season 4.
Game of Thrones (HBO) began airing just five months ago, in April 2011. In that short time it's earned 13 primetime and technical Emmy nominations, including Best Drama Series. Based on the medieval fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, the show adheres closely to its source material, to the delight of reader-viewers. Ever since the project was announced, fans and critics have eagerly anticipated it, and it's been so successful that HBO renewed it for a second season two days after the pilot aired.



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Emmy Nominees: Best Drama Series

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