OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
I’ll withhold comment on the award for Best TV Movie, save for two remarks. First, if nothing else, this year should persuade the Academy to at least consider separate categories for Directing and Writing for a Movie. It may add a few more minutes to an already lengthy night, but this is the second straight year Movies have been shut out of all major categories, and that’s unreasonable, even for a category HBO has dominated.
Second, I really want Deadwood to win. It was mostly ignored by the Emmys in its all too brief time on the air, and this would be a way to make up for it. Besides, given the state of David Milch’s health, and the fact that this movie got made at all, it honestly should be a sentimental favorite, goddamn it.
OUTSTANDING LIMITED SERIES
Arguably the most frightening of the nominated series, it’s hard to know what was honestly more terrifying about it: the carnage and utter wreckage of the fallout of the nuclear incident, or how the USSR’s concerns of not looking terrible in the eyes of the world may have led to God knows how many more deaths. A bleak and frightening series, this was a high point of HBO’s year of exceptional limited series. Pro: Considering the underlying message that truth must prevail in spite of the state, this is a far more relevant period piece than almost any other series this year. Plus HBO and FX have alternated wins in the Limited Series category for the last four years. It’s their turn. Con: As brilliant as it was, this was one of the hardest things to watch on TV last year. The Academy tends to like its winners to be entertaining as well as informative.
Escape at Dannemora: 9–2
The amazingly true life story of a prison break, this was one of the more fascinating series to air this season. And its all the more remarkable considering it comes from Ben Stiller, a man definitely not known for wrenching drama. A story about two men determined to escape prison and the desperate woman trying to escape a humdrum life, this was by far had some of best lead performances at the center of it. Pro: Featuring one of the most memorable character stints at the center of it from Patricia Arquette, had the Emmys stopped at 2018, it would almost assuredly have won. As it is, it’s still one of the more dazzling pieces of work. Con: It’s been eight months since it debuted, and it did so on Showtime, a network that has a decidedly mixed track record at the Emmys. Time, like it was for so many of the characters, is the series enemy.
The brilliant story of two legends in musical theater, told from the voice of their child, this may be the least serious of the nominated series. Which doesn’t make any less important. Telling the story of Bob Fosse, warts and all one of the most brilliant creative minds who could handle failure only slightly less well than success, was equally matched by the story of Gwen Verdon, an ignobly forgotten legend of Broadway, who the series makes clear was just as important to Fosse’s success as the man himself. A series with two of the most brilliant tour de forces of the entire year. Pro: It features two of our greatest actors today playing two of the most iconic figures in Broadway history, and it goes to great lengths to show just how brilliant — and how flawed –they were. Con: This was by far the most erratic of the nominated series, with brilliant episodes mixed with deeply flawed ones. The actors may triumph, the series probably won’t
Sharp Objects: 9–2
The only work of fiction among the nominated series, this adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s first best seller was one of the most wrenching experiences of them all. More than that, it was by far the most female centric, featuring searing performances by Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson as a mother and daughter who never loved each other, and whose destructive behavior led to sickness, abuse, and the most horrific crimes of all. The murders at the center of the story almost paled compared to the carnage of the mother and daughters. Pro: Featuring some of the greatest performances by actresses all year, this series demonstrated that you don’t need a true story to show horrible things. And it’s clearly lasted with the academy. Con: It aired more than a year ago, and considering the length of the novel it was based on, it really suffered from padding more than any other series on the list.
When They See Us: 82–25
Ava Duvernay took one of the most horrible miscarriages of the justice system — the arrest and conviction of the Central Park Five — and turned it into a look at some of the greatest horrors in life — police investigation, the justice system, incarceration and post-prison life. These was one of the most unsettling series all year, and the fact that it ended with some of the police refusing to admit they’d done anything wrong — and the implied criticism of the President — remains one of the most terrifying things yet. Pro: This series bore the hallmarks of one of the great accomplishment in television — American Crime, a series that took a bleak, uncompromising look at America today. The fact that When They See Us takes place thirty years ago doesn’t make it any less relevant or necessary viewing. Con: As brilliant as the acting, directing and writing were, a lot of the time the series was harder to watch than all the other nominees. (This was one of American Crime’s biggest problems as well. It’s extraordinary, but that doesn’t necessarily mesh with entertaining.
I’d honestly prefer to see Sharp Objects win, but I expect When They See Us too. Though honestly, no losers in this category. (They should still have more than five nominees, though.)