Ursula Coyote/AMC; Netflix; David Giesbrecht/USA Network; Jeff Neumann/CBS
EW Staff
June 06, 2016 AT 12:00 PM EDT

This year EW is here to help with our first-ever For Your Consideration issue. We have curated the bajillion shows and performances (give or take a million) eligible for Emmy nominations to help voters select their top picks. Consider this a sneak peek into the nomination process and an early guide to the awards, which air Sept. 18 on ABC.

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Sweeping last year’s ceremony—a record 12 wins in one year—HBO’s fantasy hit is the drama king all others quest to overthrow. So far, there are no cracks in its armor: The show’s flawless execution continues to set a high bar, and this season adds rays of fan-pleasing hope for long-suffering characters after season 5’s dark turns, all while reducing some extraneous story lines (looking at you, Dorne). “I think the big lesson we hopefully learned for this season is there are characters who mean so much to us and that’s who we want to spend time with,” showrunner David Benioff says. Now if only the Emmys were decided with trial by combat, Thrones would be a total lock.

The Americans (FX)

With daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) in the know and assets like Martha (Alison Wright) in trouble, the Cold War espionage drama’s fourth season put spies Elizabeth (Keri Russell) and Philip (Matthew Rhys) on the defensive—a raw, risky move that turned up the heat on their slow-burn story.

Better Call Saul (AMC)

In a stakes-raising second season, the intriguing drama proved that it’s much more than just a prequel spin-off of the now-immortal Breaking Bad—whether it’s meditating on identity, showcasing sibling rivalry, delighting in the art of the scam, or signaling criminal doom to come. 

Craig Blankenhorn/FX; Courtesy of HBO; James Dittiger/Lifetime

Mr. Robot (USA)

A June debut with a weird title, an indie filmmaker as a showrunner, and a hacker-centric story line: Was any new series in 2015 more of an unexpected hit than Mr. Robot? The show defied easy characterizations, and made a summer splash by looking like absolutely nothing else on television.

UnREAL (Lifetime)

On its high-gloss surface, UnREAL’s first season was a cheeky critique of the dysfunctional reality TV industry. But beneath the glitter and hairspray was its true beating heart: a nuanced portrayal of female friendship between manipulative mentor (Constance Zimmer) and troubled protégée (Shiri Appleby).

House of Cards (Netflix)

The show was creatively rejuvenated with the separation and—spoiler alert!— eventual reconciliation of presidential couple Frank (Kevin Spacey) and Claire Underwood (Robin Wright). And their final-episode declaration of war was one of the series’ most chilling moments.

The Good Wife (CBS)

Like a slap to the face, The Good Wife ramped up the drama in its final season as it pushed Alicia (Julianna Margulies) to her breaking point—taking a character that began the series as a stoic spouse and turning her into a fully independent (and quite fed-up) woman finally willing to put herself first.

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