Can Fargo withstand the Emmy hurricane that O.J. Simpson is shaping up to be?
Fargo season two started off the Emmy season last fall as an undeniable powerhouse. Stepping back into a 70s setting to tell a backstory only hinted at in the Emmy-winning season one, the series struck an immediate chord with critics. Metacritic ranks it at an excellent 96 (season one received an 85). The kinder, gentler Rotten Tomatoes awarded it a perfect 100 percent across 59 television critics after recognizing season one with a 98. With an extremely TV-friendly cast boasting Kristen Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Jesse Plemons, Jean Smart, and Ted Danson, among others, Fargo seemed at the time unstoppable in the 2016 Limited Series Emmy categories.
But one thing it does not have on its side is time.
The first installment premiered in a very Emmy friendly late spring window. It was heavily buzzed, solidly rated, and eventually ranked in 18 Emmy nominations, best FX’s other big miniseries to American Horror Story: Coven‘s 17 nominations. Even though it won only three awards, it still took home the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries.
By comparison, Fargo season two premiered in the fall to heavier critical acclaim but slightly lower ratings, down nearly one million viewers on average season over season. No matter. People loved what they saw, and the first half of the season blisteringly captured the fictitious massacres set in the Midwest in 1979. The performances. The writing. The direction. People seemed to fill out their Emmy ballots back in October. Nothing could top this? Right?
But then things started to look a little dimmer as the end of year awards season started to roll around. The Golden Globe television awards had originally recognized the first season with five awards, but season two only garnered three. They somehow omitted seemingly certain nominees Jean Smart, Ted Danson, or Bokeem Woodbine from the supporting categories where Colin Hanks and Allison Tolman had factored in with season one’s recognition. But the Golden Globes aren’t everything, and their supporting categories ridiculously lump together miniseries, drama, and comedy performances.
This didn’t feel like a snub until the Screen Actor’s Guild completely ignored season two. Granted, season one didn’t heavily factor in after receiving only one nomination for Billy Bob Thornton. But the SAG’s failed to recognize anyone from the cast. Even Bill Murray (playing himself in A Very Murray Christmas) and Kristen Wiig (The Spoils Before Dying parody film) managed nominations over the more deserving Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons. The Critics’ Choice Awards somewhat helped their cause with eight nominations, up from season one’s five citations. That, though, comes with a huge asterisk – the Critics’ Choice shifted their television awards to the end of 2015, narrowing the eligibility window to six months. Fargo season two was pretty much the biggest thing to air in the category during that period.
It even managed to beat The Wiz Live! which wasn’t even a limited series.
And then FX, the same network that airs Fargo, debuted The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story in early February. That, coupled with an intoxicating start to American Crime, seemed to take all the air out of Fargo‘s sails. And I haven’t even mentioned the completely shark-jumping series conclusion where the UFO shows up…
All that aside, though, Fargo still shouldn’t be damaged in terms of Emmy nominations. Emmy wins are another story, but we’re talking nominations today. Fargo season two should still be able to come close to matching season one’s Emmy haul, but it will not exceed it. The 2016 acting races are far more competitive this year, particularly since O.J. Simpson boasts some five or six supporting actor contenders alone. They’re likely to shut out many of the Fargo contenders, if not all of them. If there’s any justice Jean Smart will be recognized for her (too?) subtle work as the Gerhardt family matriarch. She’s been unfairly ignored all season long. Emmy would be classy to finally recognize her treasure of a performance.
Fargo season two’s status as a period piece should help too. Costumes, art direction (just for Plemons and Dunst’s maze-like basement alone), and cinematography will all recognize the series. It will still be a stretch to match 18 nominations. The competition this year is just too tough.
I’m not blaming the UFO, though. O.J. Simpson, though… My finger’s pointed squarely at you.
Kirsten Dunst, Lead Actress
Jean Smart, Supporting Actress
Patrick Wilson, Lead Actor
Jesse Plemons, Supporting Actor
Ted Danson, Supporting Actor
Bokeem Woodbine, Supporting Actor
Cristin Milioti, Supporting Actress
Jeffrey Donovan, Supporting Actor
Nick Offerman, Supporting Actor
Adam Arkin, Supporting Actor