There was a time, not long ago, when the Television Academy could barely make a category out of miniseries, or what is now called “Limited Series.” And usually, it would be HBO dominating whatever list it had, including last year’s winner Olive Kitteridge. Now, this is one of the hottest areas of the Emmys and continues to be separated in the top program category from TV Movies. They were once combined, as they continue to be in the acting, writing and directing categories. But the field is too rich in terms of Limited Series now, so the separate program designation was adopted.
And to show the degree of heavyweight competition in this category, HBO was completely shut out, with no nominations for its big 2016 hopeful, Show Me A Hero, which had won a Golden Globe for star Oscar Isaac. FX’s staple here, American Horror Story, is also AWOL in the category for the first time since its inception, but that cable powerhouse still finds it is competing against itself with the top two nomination-getters in the category, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and 2014 champ, Fargo.
The second season Limited Series from creator John Ridley is carrying the flag for the broadcast networks with a television form they practically invented, but had abandoned in recent years. Though not a ratings juggernaut, the show, with a strong ensemble cast changing parts each season like American Horror Story, tackles controversial themes in powerful ways. But with a mere four nominations, it is falling far behind its cable competitors and looks like a long shot for victory.
With 18 nominations, the 2014 champ in this category—when it also garnered 18 nominations—has come on very strong in its second season and is breathing heavily behind FX stablemate The People V. O.J. Simpson. With virtually a new cast, it has lost none of its punch and could repeat if only FX didn’t already have another dog in this hunt that threatens to suck the air out of the room.
This remake of perhaps the most famous miniseries of them all is trying to make history for History. Adapted from Alex Haley’s famous book, this version was very well received, but its chances are hampered by the fact that it received no acting nominations (unless you count its bid for Narrator) and only five other relatively minor technical nods. With no mentions for writing, directing or acting, the road will be a long one if it is to prevail here, especially in the shadow of the original.
With 12 nominations, this exquisite six-part adaptation of John le Carré’s novel would be a likely winner in any other year with lesser competition. Shot like an expansive widescreen motion picture, its intelligent script, top direction from Oscar winner Susanne Bier on locations around the world, and a remarkable cast led by Tom Hiddleston, Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman—all nominated—would seem to spell a real contender. Look for this to be a sleeper here.
Perhaps the trick of this 10-part limited series was to make fresh a story everyone thought they already knew. Seeing it all presented in a new light, that made the viewer feel they were truly a fly on the wall of perhaps the most famous murder trial of the 20th century, has given this FX contender 22 nominations and a real shot at the crown. Instantly making the O.J. Simpson trial watercooler fodder again, this is the one to beat.
PETE’S PICK: The People V. O.J. Simpson, but don’t be surprised by a British upset with The Night Manager.