Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
The movie/mini grouping is a diverse collection that has a bit of an apples-and-oranges feel. That’s certainly been the case since the TV Academy voted to combine the made-for-TV movie and miniseries categories into one two years ago. It resulted in wins for PBS’ Downton Abbey two years ago and the HBO docudrama Game Change in 2012. This time, only two actual movies made the nomination cut: The HBO biopics Behind The Candelabra and Phil Spector. The other four are miniseries, including FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum along with Sundance Channel’s Top Of The Lake, History’s entry The Bible and USA Network’s soapy Political Animals. The Liberace pic Candelabra has to be seen as the overwhelming favorite.
If any project stands a chance to derail Behind The Candelabra, it’s this one, due in large part to its graphic horror presentation, eye-popping effects and acting work that resulted in four performers getting nominated. People who work in television also tend to relate to tales of insane asylums.
There remains some question over whether American Horror Story should even be in this category, seeming more like a regular series than a true mini. And horror remains a niche that rarely wins a top prize.
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA
It has all of the intangibles, as well as tangibles, that make for Emmy-night dominance, including movie stars (Michael Douglas, Matt Damon) and a high-profile director (Steven Soderbergh). Critics were also fairly universal in their praise. A potential category sweep (film, actor, writer, director) looms.
Upsets happen, and some who watched Candelabra found it too much like caricature in its portrayal of the piano showman and his relationship with a younger, impressionable man.
The reason this project has a shot is that one can never underestimate the reach and impact of religious-themed programming, nor the ability of co-executive producer Mark Burnett to drum up votes through sheer force of will.
It’s difficult to foresee the TV Academy giving more than a nomination to a Bible saga, even one with top-notch production values. Programming with spiritual themes rarely gets awards.
Political Animals earned solid praise for being smart and savvy, while generating Emmy-nominated work from lead Sigourney Weaver and supporting player Ellen Burstyn. The project had an energy that was hard to ignore.
The limited-run series didn’t generate nearly enough buzz when it aired and was, frankly, something of a surprise nominee. If voters go for a mini, it will be one with greater cachet.
Al Pacino gave a mesmerizing performance in the lead as the pathetic train wreck that is Phil Spector in this otherwise pedestrian biopic. Upsets like this have happened before, however.
It was a clunky film that was fortunate even to be nominated, despite David Mamet’s being recognized for his writing and direction. Those noms were bestowed based on reputation rather than merit. It’s also tough to honor a project whose lead has so many bad hair days.
TOP OF THE LAKE
The fact this mystery mini was crafted in the stable of Oscar winner Jane Campion (The Piano) lends it an air of quality and integrity, as does the involvement of fellow Oscar winner Holly Hunter. It also has the sort of languid pacing that gives it an epic feel.
Lake received mixed reviews, with many finding it meandering and self-involved. Sundance also isn’t HBO in terms of Emmy pedigree. Not even close. It’s frankly doubtful that most voters will even make it to the end of the screener.