Deadline Awards Columnist and Chief Film Critic Pete Hammond gives his take on contenders in the key categories for the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards. Here, he breaks down the category of Outstanding Television Movie.

There can be no question that the once very prestigious Emmy competition for Outstanding TV Movie was one of the richest categories around. Now, ever since being split again from the Limited Series category (although not in other categories, where the two still compete side-by-side), it is floundering around, barely able to come up with the requisite five nominees. This year’s crop is fairly lackluster, and once again taking the questionable step of plucking a nominee from an anthology series and calling it a movie.

Fahrenheit 451
HBO

Ray Bradbury’s classic dystopian novel about book-burning was turned into a film for Julie Christie and Oskar Werner in 1966, and director Ramin Bahrani apparently thought it would still have relevance today. It does, but this take starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon did not gather any significant critical support and was virtually invisible at its Cannes Film Festival debut just a couple of weeks before the HBO premiere. 

Lifetime

Flint
Lifetime

A top-rank director in Bruce Beresford, a cast including Queen Latifah, and a hot-button topic of water contamination in Michigan has the makings of a very important film, but critics felt the treatment of the material lacked fire, despite being well-meaning. There clearly is a major movie to be made on this shameful chapter in American history, but this Lifetime movie came and went. It is the only nominee in the category to receive just a single nomination, which probably tells you all you need know.

Paterno
HBO

HBO

Whenever Al Pacino decides to do a TV movie, he usually wins an Emmy or at least a nomination. But in the case of playing Penn State coach Joe Paterno, he was overlooked, even though HBO’s film did manage a couple of nominations, including in the weak field here. Without Pacino in the running—and even with the fact it had an Oscar-nominated director in Barry Levinson—there hasn’t been much excitement for this project, and the nomination is probably where it stops.

HBO

The Tale
HBO

A harrowing and very timely story of a woman’s experience of sexual abuse as a young girl, this film from Jennifer Fox is likely to earn Laura Dern her second consecutive Emmy—but whether that also translates into The Tale’s only other nomination as Television Movie is a closer call. The performance-driven film is powerful stuff and sure to impress Emmy voters, but it’s no slam-dunk.

USS Callister (Black Mirror)
Netflix

Netflix

Netflix’s highly acclaimed anthology series Black Mirror just keeps churning out winner after winner. That was the case last year with San Junipero, which took the top award here, as well as for writing in a Limited Series or Movie—which was impressive since that “movie” ran to just 61 minutes. USS Callister is 76 minutes, so we’re getting there. Nevertheless, it’s probably the one to beat.

PETE’S PICK: USS Callister (Black Mirror)

WHO DESERVES TO WIN?

Who actually deserves to win across all the thousands (or so it seems) of Emmy categories for 2018? When it comes to the Emmys, I tend to favor the underdogs—those who maybe haven’t won and have been waiting a long time to make that speech. Yes, there are lots of deserving winners, but some that just stand out as really deserving, if only given a chance.

Topping my list is Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm. This is a show that has consistently delivered whenever it chooses to be on the air, and it would be about time for David and his show to actually win after eight Comedy Series nominations since 2002. Plus I’d love to hear Larry’s speech. He has my vote.

HBO

Wouldn’t it be great to see The Americans win Drama Series on its last chance? For Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, my vote would go to Thandie Newton, whose incredible work in this season of Westworld—which included doing most of her role in a particular Japanese dialect for the fifth episode—is just beyond compare.

And, OK, being one for pure drama and rebelliousness, I would love to see the moment Laurie Metcalf takes the Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Roseanne. Of course, she’s already won three times for the original, but this would be different, eh?

In Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, I think it is Henry Winkler’s moment. A TV icon with six nominations and no wins, he truly does deserve a win for his exceptional work in Barry—and, by the way, I wouldn’t mind Bill Hader taking home a couple of statuettes for that daring show.

FX

I really want to see Penélope Cruz win as Donatella Versace in The Assassination Of Gianni Versace. Why not? It’s her first trip to American television and she nailed it. And in Variety Talk, nothing—and I mean nothing—would make me happier than to see Jimmy Kimmel finally take an Emmy. No one used their TV gig in a more responsible, funny, biting, and brilliant way than Kimmel did this year. Please not John Oliver again, OK?

One more thing. I would love to see TV icon and Little Women Supporting Actress Angela Lansbury finally win an Emmy after 18 nominations. Oh, wait—she wasn’t even nominated? Shame on you, Academy!