EMMYS: HBO's 'True Detective' To Compete As Drama Series

true-detective-hboOne of the most intriguing questions of this year’s Emmy season has been answered, with HBO‘s buzzy True Detective opting to compete as a drama series. The project, created by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, was sold and done as an eight-episode limited series, which easily would’ve qualified it as a miniseries. FX’s anthology series American Horror Story, which airs 13-episode installments, started off in the drama series category at the 2012 Golden Globes before switching to longform for the 2012 Emmy Awards. It has competed Emmyslogo_newas a miniseries ever since and has been dominant in Emmy nominations, landing 17 last year. The drama field is far more competitive and tough as PBS’ Downton Abbey found out after switching from miniseries to drama series after Season 1. Still, winning a drama series Emmy has a big cachet to it. Plus, True Detective does employ drama series storytelling techniques. But an entry as a miniseries would’ve pretty much guaranteed the moody Louisiana series a dominant performance and a slew of trophies. Now it will go against the final installment of AMC’s Breaking Bad among other drama heavyweights. With the TV Academy restoring separate best TV movie and best miniseries categories and True Detective not entering as mini, the longform field has a lot of room this year. Ryan Murphy is behind top contenders on both sides — film The Normal Heart and mini AHS. With the slew of event series put in the pipeline by the networks not slated to premiere until after the end of this year’s eligibility period (Fox’s 24: Live Another Day, for example, debuts in May and won’t qualify for 2014 Emmys), AHS‘ top competitor will likely be FX’s Fargo.

In the drama series category, True Detective will be submitted alongside returning HBO dramas Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones, True Blood, all previous best series nominees, and The Newsroom. Getting submitted by the pay cable network on the comedy side are previous best series nominees Girls and Veep as well as departing Eastbound And Down and freshmen Family Tree, Getting On, Hello Ladies, Looking and Silicon Valley.

    1. The series just has more balls than Ryan Murphy does… props to them for not bitching out and putting it up for best MOW or whatever Murphy does with AMS.

      It deserves the best drama award hands down.

      Everything else was slush.

      1. It’s not about balls. It’s not a series. This is ridiculous. Breaking Bad is still much better. It’s a completely new story each season. It’s a mini-series. Shameless and Orange is the New Black don’t beling in the comedy section either. They are dramas.

  1. Much to the chagrin of every network other than HBO. Might as well announce the winner now…

      1. True Detective was captivating and damn good but it wasn’t as good or as captivating as the single episode of Breaking Bad, Ozymandias, was. Period.

      2. Sorry but this is nothing but arrogance by the TD producers thinking that they can beat Breaking Bad. And that just cost them an Emmy

  2. Strange choice. But I guess Pizzolatto wants it to be recognized as a series.

    It’s a shame, though. I’m certain that as a miniseries submission it would have swept the awards, but as a drama series there is no way that Breaking Bad and Cranston will shut them out of every category, except for tech awards and perhaps writing. Directing too, I suppose… Maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea…

      1. I don’t know. Maybe it’s controversial to say so, but I felt like the final season of Breaking Bad was… Kind of a let-down. The ending was too neat, the relationships between the characters too well-trodden (or redundant, if you prefer), and the writing became a bit uncharacteristically overwrought.

        I’m not sure if this is a smart move or not on HBO’s part, considering they could have easily swept both the mini-series category (with True Detective) and the original films category (with The Normal Heart), but the article is correct in asserting that a Best Drama Series nomination (to say nothing of a win) is certainly more prestigious.

        Still, with Game of Thrones looking to have its best season yet, a fantastic fourth season for Boardwalk Empire, and Breaking Bad becoming a distant memory (in the same way that films released early in the eligibility cycle are often ignored at the Oscars) maybe it would have been best to place TD in the mini-series category so as not to cannibalize their own shows.

        Time will tell.

        1. I actually totally agree with you, Weez. I feel like Breaking Bad fell apart story-wise toward the end. I almost wish they’d ended after the penultimate season. The final run sort of felt like a hat on a hat.

  3. It’s an anthology series, like American Horror Story. Although you could probably argue that if the other series are set in different places and different cast then they’re still in the same “universe”.

  4. It will do well in the Drama Series category. I don’t think anyone will beat Matthew McConaughey or True Detective. They will win.

  5. This is BS. The networks should not get to decide this. The Academy needs to finally make concrete rules to separate series from miniseries. Length is the obvious factor. If it’s under eight hours, it’s a automatically a miniseries; if it’s over eight hours, it’s a series.

    1. That I completely disagree with. It’s not how long a season is. Many shows have short seasons now. It’s about if the show’s story continues beyond one season or not. Downton Abbey has very short seasons but the story continues each season. AHS has longer seasons but each season is completely separate, therefore it’s a mini-series. TD has completely separate season, so it should be a mini-series.

  6. BB is not the unstoppable force at the Emmys that everyone thinks it is. It may still win series, but McConaughey will win actor. It’s fresh, it’s new. Homeland’s first season beat BB and that’s why I think it still has a chance as a series. Still, it should’ve been in the miniseries category.

  7. Damn their eyes! Making me pick between my two favorite series/mini-series or movies or whatever of the past 10 years.

    As much as I love BB and Cranston, it only took TD and McConaughey 3 hours to do what it took BB 3 years to accomplish.

    Gotta go with TD and McConaughey.

  8. It may turn out to be the smart move but there’s no question it would’ve swept the mini-series categories. Now even nominations will be harder to obtain.

    With drama they are up against the cast and crews of Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Masters of Sex, Downton Abbey, House of Cards, Homeland and The Good Wife. Plus Boardwalk Empire, The Blacklist and Scandal could nab some nominations.

    For mini-series they would’ve been up against American Horror Story: Coven, Dancing on the Edge, Fargo, Sherlock and The White Queen.

    I enjoyed True Detective’s 8 episodes but they still don’t top the final 8 of Breaking Bad. The people freaking out about True Detective to me were those that hadn’t gotten around to watching other great dramas from the past five years and just happened to stumble upon it because of the cast.

    Breaking Bad will take home another Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series.

  9. Enough of these egos….if it’s under 8 hrs….it’s a mini-series. PERIOD. Over that a drama series. The Academy should be embarrassed by letting these executives walk all over them. They need to set strict rules and stop being manipulated or bought.

    1. Where are you getting this eight hour rule from? One, the season was not under eight hours. It was eight hours. Two, it’s not about how long the season is, it’s about if the story ends after one season or keeps continuing for multiples seasons. For that reason, it has to be a mini-series, not the reason you’re giving.

      1. Anyone else remember when a mini-series DID NOT have a ‘season 2’? This new-fangled definition of a mini-series that allows for it to run for 3 or 4 or 5 seasons is just absurd!

        Duration is irrelevant. Number of episodes is irrelevant. Cast turn-over is irrelevant. Plot culmination is irrelevant. American Horror Story belongs in the drama category, not pillaging the mini-series category. Sherlock belongs in the drama category. Downton Abbey belongs in the drama category. True Detective belongs in the drama category.

        1. Clearly, you neither work in television nor have a clue as to its workings. All the series you mention belong solidly in the miniseries category. It’s a whole other ball of wax when you’re doing 22 or more network episodes using the same characters and world, the very definition of series. If you get to reinvent it every 13 or fewer episodes, it’s a helluva lot easier.

          1. Dude, in my little lifetime the mini-series has gone from at least 2x90min or 4×45 (which is now a tv movie) to something which can go on for 14 years so long as there are not many episodes per year. The definition has almost completely changed. I call bullshit to the whole thing. The moment you add “season 2” gone is the mini-series qualification. Mini-series were by design not recurring. At the point of announcing there will be a second season it just is a series, whether it is 4 episodes or 24, whether it is on HBO or imported from BBC for PBS.

            My personal favourite is how Sherlock and Downton Abbey are series in their native lands and mini-series in America.

            Ease of writing the thing should not be what determines if it is a mini-series. If it is too hard for you then go work at Wal-Mart or go to law school.

          2. If they didn’t have season-specific production numbers, I would agree with you. /grin

            There is no way a program like AHS or True Detective are the same as recent minis like Hatfields & McCoys on History or Bonnie & Clyde A+E Networks. If the one season/cast/story definition determines a mini-series, then programs like The Amazing Race, Survivor and The Real World would also qualify.

            This “semicolon titling” is simply marketing tool.

        2. I totally agree. If it comes back in any incarnation, it’s a series. Mini-series are meant to be one and done. We all know the reason American Horror and others are doing this, they’re afraid to face the competition of the genre they really belong to. They can pontificate all they want but they’re really just pussies. Props to True Detective for having the guts to compete in their proper category and not pull a Ryan Murphy.

  10. The real issue is season 2. Even if the show drops in quality for season 2, it would probably do very well in the mini series category.

  11. Matthew McConaghey for actor, True Detective for series. Some of the best acting and story-writing I’ve ever seen, bar none.

  12. I love this they’re not going the chickenshit route of American Horror Story (which is HUUUUUUGELY overrated by the way). I think voters will have either forget about Breaking Bad’s final 8 and Cranston’s amazingness or decide BB’s had enough praise and focus on True Detective. That said, I found this show to be every bit the equal of Breaking Bad. And McConaghey is a lock for best actor. As great has Cranston’s perf was, MM’s was better. My 2¢.

  13. This is absolutely absurd. How on earth is this different than American Horror Story? it is not in any way… except that AHS re-uses some of the cast, which apparently TD will not being doing.

    If American Horror Story is a mini-series, then so is True Detective.

    Besides that, it’s just unfair to normal dramas. They have to keep a story line and characters going for season after season. This show has a story that is designed to, and does end after 1 season and ONLY EIGHT EPISODES. It’s just not the same game… it is not a series. It is a mini-series that will keep producing more mini-series under the same title… JUST LIKE AHS.

    How can they possibly justify this? (sorry to be so passionate, I don’t actually care, I don’t have a dog in the race… but this sets a bad and stupid precedent).

    1. Yeah I agree Chaz. I’m sorry but Breaking Bad required a great deal more skill than True Detective, which gets to hit a nice big reset button after episode 8. It shouldn’t be allowed to compete as a Drama imo.

  14. Also, why do the networks get to decide what the shows are? Like other awards, there should be clear and strict rules, with a committee that rules on what competes as what… what the eligibility and category definitions are. And producers can submit and petition to be considered X Y or Z… but someone else should be deciding based on the same set of rules and definitions as anything else competing.

    This makes no sense. Just because I say my horse is a turtle doesn’t mean I can enter it into the turtle race and win as Best Turtle.

  15. Here is a question that maybe someone here can answer. Has anyone ever won Best Actor in a lead role for drama for the Academy Awards, and then gone on to win Best Actor in a lead role for drama for the Emmys?

    I can’t recall that ever being done, but MM could very easily do this.

    And just maybe that played into the positioning.

    If I were voting, TD would win probably every award there is. It may be the best TV show I’ve ever seen, and I think it may have more influence on the writing community than any of us have ever seen. BB didn’t change television, but TD just might have.

    1. TomCat… I believe your hunch is right — Matthew M. would be the first actor to win both an EMMY and an OSCAR in the same year if he triumphs with True Detective. Just the novelty factor might give his Emmy nod an edge in the horse race…

      1. Helen Hunt won the lead actress Oscar and Emmy in the same year. As Good As It Gets and Mad About You.

  16. I liked True Detective a lot, but I don’t think it’s the best show on TV. I think House of Cards was better even though it was something of a let down in Season 2. I also agree with the previous poster that BB was also lacking this season though there were individual moments that were fantastic. Still, True Detective made the right move. I’ve always thought American Horror Story found a convenient loophole so they didn’t have to compete in the toughest category in television. Righteous move.

  17. Inconsistent categories-should be up to the Academy, not the networks. That said, True Detective will probably beat out Breaking Bad for best drama now. (Though Walking Dead is better than both.) McConaughey will likely beat out Cranston too. For the others, I go with Vera Farmiga of Bates Motel for lead actress, and Scott Wilson and Melissa McBride from Walking Dead in the supporting categories. But that Drama show category has a lot of great shows to choose from-maybe they should expand to 10 like the Oscars. I mean there are so many more shows and networks than in the days of the big 3.

    1. Walking Dead better than Bresking Bad en True Detective is just absurd. The two you mentioned will not even get close to an nomination. No problem that you enjoy and like TWD but a little perspection would be greatly appreciated.

  18. I’d put it as a miniseries. It’s not really fair to compare an 8-episode closed story with an actual series that has to maintain an interesting, continuing plot between years without tying up all the holes (not that True Detective actually tied up any holes – to repeat again, what a massive letdown). The former is much easier than the latter and is an entirely different style of television.

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