At one time this was one of Emmy’s most sought after and prestigious prizes, but as the Limited Series format became more attractive, and a magnet for top talent, the TV Movie category is just a shell of what it used to be. The numbers say it all. Only one of the five nominees received more than two nominations overall, and three of the nominees find their only Emmy mention right here—not a great indication of widespread support for this form in the Academy, to say the least. Netflix has actually won here a couple of times by plucking episodes from their popular anthology series, Black Mirror, and labeling them ‘movies’. A new rule instituted this year requires an entry to run at least 75 minutes long, which would have disqualified two of the past three winners here.
Bandersnatch (Black Mirror)
The only anthology entry this year, and once again from Netflix’s Black Mirror series, this technically innovative ‘movie’, described as an “’80s-set, morally compromising adventure,” uses technology to create an interactive experience, forcing the viewer to make story choices. It’s been done before—most notably in a Steven Soderbergh project for HBO—but not quite to this degree, and that could likely make it the first contender ever to win in this category with this kind of gimmick.
Benedict Cumberbatch, a familiar figure in recent Emmy seasons, stars in this origin story depicting the emergence of Brexit—one of HBO’s three nominees this year. The pay cabler has been the one outlet keeping this category alive, as TV movies fell out of favor on the networks and elsewhere. This is its only nomination, and a win is a longshot at best. Still, Brexit itself is still very much in limbo and in the news, so some momentum could be gained just by being timely, if nothing else.
The TV movie revival of this cult classic Western series received eight nominations this year—by far the biggest total for any of the TV movie nominees. Its sheer number of noms is the key reason it could actually pull off a win, since the entire Academy votes on this prize and clearly there is some significant support here. It remains HBO’s best bet to stop the huge Netflix momentum in this category.
Amazon Prime Video
Adding a touch of Shakespeare to the race, this handsomely-mounted production stars Anthony Hopkins in the title role, alongside Emma Thompson. This is the kind of prestige package that used to seriously impress Emmy voters, but not so much recently. The biggest roadblock to a win is that Hopkins failed to get an acting nomination in this, perhaps the greatest role written by Shakespeare, and with a performance that was praised by critics. With only one nomination its chances are weak.
My Dinner with Hervé
Inspired by a true story, this Sacha Gervasi-directed movie chronicles a one-night meeting between struggling journalist Danny Tate, played by Jamie Dornan, and iconic Fantasy Island actor Hervé Villechaize, played by Peter Dinklage. It worked better than you might ever have expected, and turned out to be entertaining in its own right. As HBO’s third entry in this race, it likely won’t make it to the winner’s circle, unless some of Dinklage’s Game of Thrones popularity rubs off on it.