As of last night, AMC can no longer claim to be the only cable network as essential as HBO. By snagging the Emmy for Best Drama Series, Homeland officially dethroned four-time winner Mad Men — and ushered in what may be a new era for Showtime, a channel that’s never been quite as prestigious as its brethren. Homeland executive producer Alex Gansa noted as much at the beginning of his acceptance speech: “I want to start by congratulating Showtime on its first best series Emmy ever. It’s been a long time coming, and Homeland stands on the shoulders of a lot of great shows over there: Dexter, Weeds, Nurse Jackie, among them all. So I want to congratulate… the entire Showtime family: This is your night as well as ours.”
But Homeland‘s win doesn’t just mean great things for Showtime. It indicates that other cable networks may also have a shot at the prestige that’s been hogged by HBO and AMC over the past five years — so long as they continue to make quality programming. Could the grizzled antiheroes of FX be the next cablers to break through? What about the fun, glossy series on USA? And are TBS and TNT bound to ditch reruns for more original series?
Obviously, there’s no way to know yet. So in the meantime, let’s concentrate on answering this question: Which of these cable networks is most essential to you — and which would you pick if forced to choose between them?