Jalal’s Take: The Crowded Limited Series Race

Limited Series

Jalal Haddad takes a look at the Limited Series Emmy race in a series of posts leading up to the Emmy nomination announcement on July 14th. Over the next week, Jalal will be providing his own expert analysis in individual races and covering the top ten contenders in each category.


1. The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story  

Limited Series
Photo courtesy of FX.
Ryan Murphy has single handedly taken the dying miniseries genre and turned it into the most exciting on television by revamping it with various anthology series or inspiring others to do the same. With American Crime Story, he turned O.J. Simpson once again into the most captivating pop culture event of the year. Actors like Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance, and even John Travolta gave some of the best performances of their careers. American Crime Story has the potential to dominate the Limited Series/TV Movie categories and even though it has a lot of worthy competition it will probably do just that.


2. American Crime  

Limited Series
Photo courtesy of ABC.
For a broadcast network in 2016 to produce something as high caliber as American Crime is a huge accomplishment in and of itself. Oscar winner John Ridley took themes like sexual assault, racism, and violence and dealt with them in a timelier and more thought provoking manner than any of the limited series or TV movies that HBO produced in the past year. On top of that, the show gave us some of the best performances of the year from Lili Taylor, Connor Jessup, and Joey Pollari. The show may not be able to beat American Crime Story for the top award, but the Television Academy will honor this sophomore season with a lot of nominations, especially in the acting categories.


3. Fargo  

Photo courtesy of FX.
Two years ago, Fargo won the Limited Series award after receiving 18 nominations. The second season premiered to even more acclaim than the first, and, for the first part of the season, fans were obsessing over the 1979 set story. The finale was a bit more divisive amongst fans and critics, but Emmy voters are historically much more forgiving than any other group. Even if the show doesn’t have the momentum to win again, it will at least be nominated.


4. Roots  

Photo courtesy of History.
The $50 million remake of the most successful miniseries of all time is never going to be as successful as the original, and a lot of people (especially those who were around for the original) dismissed it because of that. After the series premiered, critics and filmmakers like Ava Duvernay began to champion the series and some even argued that it is better than the original. Because of its massive scale and importance, the remake will likely make it into the Limited Series lineup. However, like other History Channel projects, it was probably released too late in the awards calendar to make a bigger splash in the acting and craft categories.


5. American Horror Story: Hotel  

Photo courtesy of FX.
Fans and critics were largely disappointed in the fifth AHS installment because of its weak and muddled plot, and many voters weren’t ready to say goodbye to Jessica Lange and embrace Lady Gaga. Enough voters could be done with the show after Hotel and ready to move on to much stronger anthology series. However, last year a lot of fans were frustrated with Freak Show, and the season ended up having its most successful year at the Emmys in terms of nominations. The craft and tech branches will continue embracing the show in their categories and because of that the show might just have enough support to continue being nominated.


6. The Night Manager  

Photo courtesy of AMC.
The adaptation of John Le Carré’s novel could easily be embraced by Emmy voters, especially since they have a long history of recognizing BBC imports. The limited series didn’t dominate the cultural conversation in the same way that the various American anthology series did, but it uniquely appeals to older voters. Because of its subject matter and source material, the series also carries a stronger sense of sophistication compared to its competition that might help it stand out to voters.


7. Show Me a Hero 

Photo courtesy of HBO.
Show Me a Hero came and went quickly last August without much attention from audiences and journalists. Public Housing as a topic isn’t much of a draw to audiences even if it is created by Oscar winners like Paul Haggis. I don’t know very many people besides myself who watched all four parts of the limited series so voters will probably get bored before being shown the tragedy. Oscar Isaac did win a surprise Golden Globe for his role (probably attributed to his rising star status), and the program was nominated by the DGA and WGA awards so at least some industry professionals are paying attention.


Worth Mentioning: London Spy, The Spoils Before Dying, Madoff, True Detective


The Limited Series category has fluctuated between five and six nominees over the years depending on the votes, and this year there are only seven likely contenders vying for those slots. The year began with one of the most disappointing second installments of an anthology series (True Detective), but as the year progressed the anthology format gave us some of the best programs on television. The most interesting element of the category will be what series actually fills that fifth (sixth?) slot when nominations are revealed next week. Arguments could be made for any of the three contenders but in the end I’m betting on the craft branches to push American Horror Story: Hotel into another nomination.

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