HBO has been familiar in the Outstanding Limited Series winners circle, last year triumphing overwhelmingly with Chernobyl, even though Netflix gave them a run for their money with When They See Us. This year the two will go head to head again, but HBO seems to have the magic touch here, and, if not them, it has been FX in past seasons, with Ryan Murphy fare, such as The People v. O.J. Simpson and The Assassination of Gianni Versace. This year FX is back with another formidable contender just to mix things up. Let’s look at the landscape and see which one gets the Pete’s Winner Pick stamp.
Little Fires Everywhere
Yet another streamer invades this space with the female-driven limited series based on Celeste Ng’s 2017 bestseller. With Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington battling it out on screen as well as producing, it certainly doesn’t lack for star power, landing five nominations, including a bittersweet one for its late director Lynn Shelton. As a book, it was a real page-turner, and the series ratchets that aspect up while also dealing with themes from race to motherhood. It could be a popular choice.
This FX entry is a strong and timely one that looks at the feminist movement through the eyes of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who did everything she could to stop it despite the intense efforts of women who made history in the battle for equality. With Cate Blanchett as Schlafly and an all-star cast including Margo Martindale, Uzo Aduba, and Tracey Ullman (all four Emmy nominated), and Rose Byrne (as Gloria Steinem), Elizabeth Banks and Sarah Paulson, this show has a good shot.
One of two Netflix entries, this powerful drama about the rape of a young woman and its aftermath is so compelling that it would be a contender in any year. Despite some superb performances, the show racked up only four nominations and, oddly, just one acting nod for Toni Collette over co-stars Merritt Weaver and the excellent Kaitlyn Dever, who played the victim in this tragic true story. Lack of any more love from the Academy, and the fact it came out almost a year ago, probably lessens its chances of winning.
Fronted by a stunning performance from Shira Haas as a young ultra-orthodox woman who flees her marriage to start a new life abroad, this show has been a bit of a sleeper in terms of the Emmy race. Still, it has been steadily gaining momentum for Netflix after gaining eight nominations, including the important writing and directing nods that could make this one to watch out for.
With 26 nominations, more than any other show this year, the favorite in the race has to be this highly-acclaimed entry adapted from Alan Moore’s infamous graphic novel, which charts a course of its own, defies genre, features some brilliant performances and offers a great deal of food for thought. The amount of nominations means it dwarfs the category, but I wouldn’t count out Mrs. America, despite the numbers.
In recent years it has been rare to see this category feature any serious contenders from the standalone TV Movie side of eligibility. However, this year Hugh Jackman has emerged as the favorite to win as scandal-ridden superintendent of schools Frank Tassone in Bad Education, a movie he thought was being made for the big screen, but which sold to HBO at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, which makes one wonder what other possible future Emmy juggernauts might be swept up this week as Canada holds its famous film festival. When he made Bad Education Jackman probably thought , if anything, this might lead him to yet another Oscar season, but it appears he may be headed instead for a second Emmy victory, the first coming ironically for hosting , you guessed it, the Oscars.
Competition might come from Mark Ruffalo’s dynamic dual turn in HBO’s I Know This Much Is True, since it always helps to play two roles for the price of one, however Ruffalo’s is the sole recognition for the show so that makes a win all that more difficult. Otherwise, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons lends gravitas to Watchmen, and Paul Mescal and Jeremy Pope are worthy nominees for Normal People and Hollywood respectively. Mescal, making his tv debut , is finding his career on fire after the Hulu Irish-set series hit American shores and could upset the apple cart if you are looking to bet on a dark horse.
The Winner: Hugh Jackman, Bad Education
First off, watch out any time Regina King is nominated for an award. Does she ever lose? She could rack up another win (she already has three plus an Oscar) as a key part of the success of this year’s most nominated show, Watchmen. You simply can never count her out.
Both Octavia Spencer in Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker and Kerry Washington in Little Fires Everywhere will deservedly have supporters, with the latter perhaps given a boost by her excellent work in TV Movie nominee American Son. Shira Haas could upset for her stunning turn in Unorthodox against her better known competition, but this category probably belongs to Cate Blanchett for her richly layered performance as Phyllis Schlafly in Mrs. America, a well regarded entry into TV for the two-time Oscar winner, and much admired star. This would also be a way of honoring the FX series which has many fans, particularly in this hot political season. It might be a draw here, but Blanchett, not favored by pundits as much as King is , may squeak it out and join her fellow Australian Jackman in grabbing the Emmy.
The Winner: Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America