My Predictions (And Hopes) For This Year’s Emmy Nominations
Week 3, Part 1: Outstanding Limited Series
In all candor, the only thing that’s still limited about this category is the number of nominees. Every other category has seven or eight more than qualified nominees; why are the Emmys still stuck in only allowing five? I’m still hoping that, given the level of quality in this category, the Emmys might be willing to go as high as six nominated shows. So I’m going to pick my six favorite as well as one that I think deserves to be considered. I admit up front my choices will not please a lot of people; I still haven’t gotten around to a couple of Amazon’s picks and I’m not wild about all of HBO candidates. But I do think there’ve been a lot of good series, so here we go.
I really didn’t think I’d have to make that hard an argument for this series. Historically, this anthology has been one of the most nominated and honored series in award show history. And the fourth — and most likely, final — season was just as outstanding as the previous three. It delved into the racial and class issues that dominate so much television these days (and Noah Hawley was planning it for a couple of years before the pandemic, so it’s not like he was trying to be timely) mixed it with all of the colorful characters that have made up the world of Fargo, told another dark and comic story and in its final moments, showed us how this 1950s era story linked with every other incarnation of the series. Yet for some reason, it hasn’t done nearly as well with all of the previous awards that have come out and seems unlikely to do well at the Emmys. And considering that that the writing was incredible (East/West was one of the best episodes of any TV show 2020) and had the usual level of brilliant performances (from Chris Rock and Jason Schwarzman all the way down to Timothy Olyphant), I can’t for the life of me figure out why. I’m actually hoping that the Emmys historical laziness when it comes to recognizing previous nominees will grandfather the show in. Because Fargo didn’t just tell another great story; it showed just how America works by showing just how the world of crime works.
The Good Lord Bird (Showtime)
By far this was Showtime’s greatest accomplishment when it came to limited series. The Comey Rule played like a really bad documentary and Your Honor was formulaic despite its extraordinary cast. Everything about The Good Lord Bird was exactly what television — a look at one of the most controversial men in American history and showing that being insane and prophetic are not mutually exclusive. Ethan Hawke gave what may very well be the performance of his already storied career, but the entire cast was more than up to the challenge. We followed Brown from Missouri to his fate at Harper’s Ferry and saw it from a perspective that no one else would’ve dared to take. Considering the Peabodys were willing to recognize it as one of the great accomplishments of the past year, I think the Emmys would do well to take note.
I May Destroy You (HBO)
It debuted last June, but it’s impossible to forget Michaela Coel utterly mesmerizing series dealing with another appropriate issue — consent and where we draw the line. Coel’s utterly mesmerizing work as Arabella, the millennial writer whose entire life changes after a night out she can’t remember clearly but her subconscious refused to let her ignore. This was one of the darkest series on a network that has been known for them, mainly because it took a look at an issue we really don’t want to consider that much, even after last few years. It’s hard to watch, but it’s impossible to forget. The Peabodys also made tribute to the series last week, and I think more tributes do including multiple nominations for Coel in writing, acting and direction. If she doesn’t win at least one Emmy this year, there’s little meaning to the trophies
Mare of Easttown (HBO)
I’m not entirely convinced this series deserves all the praise it has gotten the last few months. Compared to some of the other limited series, its pretty conventional and I’m pretty sure that if Kate Winslet was being worshipped for doing a perfect Philadelphia accent, there wouldn’t be half the attention being paid to it. That being said, there are a lot of great supporting performances in it and I have to admit I didn’t see the final twist coming at all. It’s a very well performed and written HBO series. It’s not nearly as good as some of the other limited series in this category (or even some HBO limited series) But hey, it’s the Emmys. That’s usually enough.
The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
Will Netflix finally be able to break through in a major category this year? The odds are very good, and a lot of it stands with one of the more remarkable achievements they’ve managed in more than a decade of original programming (and that’s saying a lot). Taking a subject that has nearly been impossible to make interesting in any visual medium — chess — and centering it around one of the great performances of the last year Anya Taylor-Joy’s incredible work as Elizabeth, a troubled child who becomes a trouble addicted adult with only chess to sustain her. There are a lot of other great performances in this series, and frankly, some truly remarkable visuals. And if for no other reason that this series made chess at the center of a great story and comprehensible to more people who just know what the pieces are, this series deserves praise. It has been waltzing to the Emmy for Best Limited Series (though admittedly the Peabodys were a stumbling block) and its going to be real hard for any other series in this category to avoid being checkmated by it.
Wandavision (Disney +)
This may be the best Marvel series for people who (like me) have very little use for the Marvel-verse. If you knew what the comic storyline that was built around this show was, I’ve no doubt you could enjoy it, as well as appreciate all the Easter eggs. If you just liked seeing brilliant visuals, well crafted satire, and some truly exceptional performances, then Wandavision could appeal to you as well. I have no doubt that a lot of people basically saw this was a Marvel series and dismissed it out of snobbery. But unlike The Mandalorian, this was a series that was able to take its source material and use it to negotiate far more interesting territory than you’d expect from anything in television, much less a mere ‘comic book series’. Plus there were a lot of great performances. May Kathryn Hahn finally get the Emmy she’s deserved for at least the past ten years!
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
The Undoing (HBO)
Honestly, if you had told me at the end of 2020 that this series wasn’t going to be guaranteed an Emmy nomination for Best Limited Series, I’d have told you were out of your mind. It’s a David E. Kelley adaptation of a best-selling novel with Nicole Kidman as the lead; the nominations practically seem guaranteed. And though I admit to have issues as to how it was adapted (anyone whose read You Should Have Known knows it bares on resemblance to what we got) that doesn’t change the fact that it was a genuine phenomena in the fall of 2020. Everybody was talking about it, and why shouldn’t day. Kidman for a change wasn’t the best thing about it; there were extraordinary performances by Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland, both of whom are long overdue some kind of award recognition by now. I know our attention spans are shorter these days; but this series came out around the same time as The Queen’s Gambit; why is that show still remembered and this one being ignored? It’ll get a lot of nominations, but it deserves to be nominated for Best Limited Series far more than Mare of Easttown. I am certain of that.