With Outstanding Limited Series comprised of some of the most exciting shows of the year and an unlikely contender for Outstanding TV Movie, what will come out on top?
No format on television endured as tumultuous a change in the golden age of television as the limited series. Ten years ago, the miniseries produced warranted only two nominations at the Emmys®. Since then, the category merged with the TV movie but then separated once again thanks to Ryan Murphy’s essential use of the format, re-popularizing anthology series. Now some of the biggest shows on TV are limited series
TV movies, on the other hand, are suffering an identity crisis as an art form as well as Emmy contenders. Networks abandoned them in favor of the longer formats limited series. Even movie stars and Oscar winners who once used the genre as a surefire way to win an Emmy turned to limited series or their own shows instead. After two years of disappointing contenders, voters could revamp the TV movie category by introducing episodic anthology shows.
Overall, these two major program races serve as major reflections of the television industry. The Outstanding Limited Series race illustrates creative minds migrating from film to television to create four shows that provide a positive mark in the TV canon. The Outstanding TV Movie race, with a completely different form of suspense, will highlight whether or not the industry embraces fresh ideas or sticks with their preconceived notions of prestige.
Outstanding Limited Series
The head-to-head Emmy race every awards fanatic talks about between Feud and Big Little Lies finally enters the home stretch. However, instead of getting any clues on which show is more popular, the Television Academy fully embraced both shows by showering them with acting, directing, and writing nominations. On top of that, Emmy voters went all in on The Night Of and Fargo, making the category one of the most competitive in recent years.
Feud seemed the presumed front-runner way back in 2016. Awards groups hold a soft spot for projects about their own industry. Plus, it starred two contemporary legends as two of the most iconic actresses of all time. In fact, the show’s long-held status as the front-runner might be its only detractor. While other shows were gaining momentum as audiences discovered them, Feud came across as the conventional choice. That might hurt it in a year where voters look for something exciting and new.
On paper, Big Little Lies comes across more as a beach read more than a real awards contender. However, Reese Witherspoon’s passion project assembled the creative team of David E. Kelley and Jean-Marc Vallée. Toss in actresses like Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern, and it became one of the most popular TV shows of the year. As word of mouth grew, the limited series became a phenomenon. It could potentially benefit from a voting system that favors passion votes.
It’s rare that a top award is between two phenomenal shows focused around 40+ women. In fact, this might be the first time. Even though one of these two shows deserves to win, there is a chance that a male skewing voting body like the Emmys might simply disregard both shows and award something like The Night Of or Fargo.
Compared to the first two installments, this season of Fargo underwhelmed. That stopped any conversation of the anthology winning its second Outstanding Limited Series award. Emmy voters didn’t seem to care though when they awarded it with 16 nominations. There’s a chance that the show has its core fan base. Even with all of those nominations, there simply isn’t any excitement behind the Emmy favorite.
The true dark horse in the race is HBO’s The Night Of. That series was dismissed for premiering too early in the Emmy calendar. Instead of forgetting the murder and trial saga, industry voters held on to the show. That resonated first at the various guild groups, and then the Emmys nominated it for 13 awards. It particularly over performed with the actors. Two supporting players on no one’s radar received nominations. Plus, the directors singled out two episodes from the series.
In the end, the Outstanding Limited Series category might become the biggest toss-up of the year. If any of the four are edging the others out with momentum, it would be Big Little Lies. On top of all of the major nominations it received, a couple of branches singled out the series including sound mixing and editing. These are two groups that you wouldn’t expected to nominate a contemporary series about the inner lives of rich suburban women.
- Big Little Lies
- The Night Of
Outstanding TV Movie
In an era where every other genre on television went through its own creative renaissance, the TV movie starts to feel irrelevant. Audiences don’t care about them the way that they used to. Voters struggled to fill out their ballot, ending up nominating a Dolly Parton Christmas special.
Only one nominee seems to be generating any sort of excitement. Black Mirror wasn’t even originally going to be submitted as a TV movie until Netflix performed some creative maneuvering. After finding a cult audience on Netflix, it continuously received guild nominations. First, SAG nominated Bryce Dallas Howard, then the Producers Guild recognized it as well as various craft groups.
Netflix chose to submit the stand-alone episode San Junipero as its own film. That strategy proved successful for Sherlock many times before. Without giving anything away, it emerged as one of the most innovative hours of television in the past year. It will easily win if voters sit down and watch the episodic anthology series.
Every year, one of the biggest surprises of the TV movie/limited series races is the amount of support a series like Sherlock gets. The BBC import won acting and writing awards over “sure bets” like The Normal Heart. Last year, it came out of nowhere and was crowned as the Outstanding TV Movie. Actually, if its supporters within the Television Academy are anything like its online fandom, they might simply check it off without entertaining the idea of any of the other nominees.
HBO won this award 16 times in the past 20 years. Recently, the network seems to have lost its stronghold on the category. The Emmy-winning formula (Memorial Day Weekend + biopic + major movie star) grew stale with voters in recent years. The trend started to break with All The Way going home empty handed last year. This year, The Wizard of Lies and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks failed to excite voters.
Unfortunately, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks failed to earn a nomination in any other category, making it a non-starter. The Wizard of Lies could win simply because of its superficial sense of prestige. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be any interest or excitement in the second telling of the Bernie Madoff story.
Years ago, American Horror Story changed the industry’s perception of a miniseries. As such, 2017 holds the opportunity to be the year that Black Mirror inspires the television industry to rethink the television movie with episodic anthologies and edgier material. Or voters will instead go with the familiar and award something that will be forgotten a year from now.
- Black Mirror: San Junipero
- Sherlock: The Lying Detective
- The Wizard of Lies
- Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Readers, what shows are you predicting to win this year?