For six years I served on the Television Academy’s Board of Governors, representing the Writers’ Branch. During that time there were attempts to downplay, eliminate, or move the category once known as Miniseries, and now more broadly referred to as Limited Series. There simply weren’t enough contenders, or at least enough reasonably strong contenders, to even pass the Academy’s so-called “Rule of 14” that determines if there are enough candidates to trigger a category.

Minis and Movies were even combined for a brief time. What a difference now as Limited Series has not only eclipsed the TV Movie category in hot prospects but it is one of Emmy’s most anticipated and high-profile categories. This year a strong field might just come down to a fierce race between two nominees that prove television is a fertile field for the ladies.

Big Little Lies
HBO

Perennial contender HBO hit the motherlode with this upscale, enormously popular adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s best-selling book focusing on sex, murder, motherhood, and female bonding in upper middle class suburbia. The star power alone of Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, and Shailene Woodley could certainly help, as might the heavyweights behind the scenes like writer David E. Kelley and director Jean-Marc Vallée. Kidman and Witherspoon are also producers on the project.

Chris Large/FX

Fargo
FX

Nominated for 16 Emmys this time around, and a past winner in this category (when it was known as Miniseries) for its first go round in 2014, FX’s continuing adaptation of the Oscar winning Coen brothers movie has made just as big a mark on viewers as that 1996 original. With another strong season, Fargo should never be counted out, especially if there is a split between Big Little Lies and another FX nominee, Feud.

Feud: Bette and Joan
FX

Suzanne Tenner/FX

Ryan Murphy’s ambitious and wickedly entertaining eight-part series focused on the legendary feud between Hollywood screen legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the troubled making of their 1962 horror movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? With Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon on board playing Crawford and Davis, plus a sterling supporting cast and outstanding production values, this was perhaps the season’s guiltiest pleasure and a TV event for the ages.

National Geographic/Dusan Martincek

Genius
National Geographic

This 10-part limited series focused on the life of Albert Einstein, and its 10 nominations include a directing bid for Ron Howard whose Imagine Entertainment produced the series, as well as Geoffrey Rush who played the “Genius” in question (sharing the role with Johnny Flynn as the younger Einstein). The well-regarded show has put National Geographic in this particular contest for the first time ever.

The Night Of
HBO

HBO

A thrilling murder mystery from writer Richard Price and director Steve Zaillian joins Big Little Lies as HBO’s other entry in this contest, and with 13 nominations it is definitely in the race. But coming so much earlier in the season, it runs the risk of being largely forgotten in comparison to its competition which are all much more fresh in mind.

PETE’S PICK: Big Little Lies