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 Limited Series.

Last season provided a real race between several juggernauts in this category, including Feud: Bette and Joan, Fargo, and eventual winner Big Little Lies, which seemed to sweep up everything in its sight. Well, there’s no new Feud in sight, no new Fargo, and there’s a year to wait for the next batch of Big Little Lies. So that leaves this category with perhaps its most unpredictable and weakest field, at least compared to the 2017 slugfest. Nevertheless, Emmy voters parsed through the list of possibilities and came up with a group that truly does not appear to have a distinct front-runner—although in terms of numbers, producer Ryan Murphy looks to have the best chance to prevail and avenge his Feud loss from last year, with another winning American Crime Story. Here’s the rundown…

The Alienist
TNT

The big boys have decided to let TNT come play in this particular sandbox with this late 19th century period piece about the investigation of a serial killer in New York. Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning, and Luke Evans lead the cast, but none of them scored acting nods, which immediately puts the chances of a win for TNT lower here than any other contender, since Emmy’s actors branch is by far the largest, and perhaps most influential, in determining final winners in the program categories.

FX

The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
FX

Ryan Murphy’s umbrella limited series label American Crime Story scored big on its first time out with the O.J. Simpson mini, and the producer is obviously hoping lightning strikes twice with this tale of murdered fashion icon Gianni Versace. Unlike The Alienist, this 18-time nominated show scored huge dividends in acting categories, where it simply dominates with a third of its overall nom totals. That could help it pull out a win here, although there could be surprises.

Genius: Picasso
National Geographic

National Geographic

National Geographic jumped into this race with Imagine Entertainment’s Genius concept last year, winning numerous nominations for its Albert Einstein story. The follow-up this time is Pablo Picasso, as played by nominee Antonio Banderas, but the reviews weren’t nearly as strong second time round. The fact that it still managed a nomination should be considered a victory in and of itself. 

Netflix

Godless
Netflix

Scott Frank’s 1880s-set western brought the on-again/off-again TV staple very much on-again. with a smart and fresh take on the genre that allowed its stars Michelle Dockery, Merritt Wever, and Jeff Daniels to score acting nods, but inexplicably not its lead, Jack O’Connell (who, if you ask me, was robbed). The relevance of a female-dominated Western won’t be lost in the time of #MeToo.

Patrick Melrose
Showtime

Showtime

Benedict Cumberbatch’s dazzling title-role performance dominated this complex, rich adaptation and makes him a frontrunner for a second Emmy. The show also drew praise, but turned out to be an acquired taste for some, though not enough to prevent a Limited Series nod. Having said that, a win seems unlikely for anyone other than its star.

PETE’S PICK: Godless