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Emmy's Most Competitive Category in 2019? Limited Series

Between Fosse/Verdon, When They See Us and Chernobyl, Outstanding Limited Series is a real nail-biter.
  • (Photos: FX, Netflix, HBO)
    (Photos: FX, Netflix, HBO)

    Joe Reid isn't just Primetimer's managing editor. He's also an awards expert and one half of the popular podcast, This Had Oscar Buzz. So who better to break down each of the main Emmy categories in the run-up to the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards on September 22?

    The Limited Series Emmy category has only been called that for the last five years or so, an evolution of the once-proud miniseries, which encompassed everything from Roots to Angels in America to Downton Abbey (back before it became a series). Lately the category has been dominated by FX, after Ryan Murphy basically re-invented the genre with anthology series like American Horror Story and American Crime Story. FX is back this year with another true-celebrity tale and HBO has two contenders on the slate, but it's that big, red menace (Netflix) that threatens to take the whole category by storm with perhaps the single best contender of the entire awards season.

    Outstanding Limited Series

    • Chernobyl
    • Escape at Dannemora
    • Fosse/Verdon
    • Sharp Objects
    • When They See Us

    Total Nominations:

    • Chernobyl: 19, including writing, directing, and three acting nominations.
    • Fosse/Verdon: 17, including writing, TWO directing nods (for Jessica Yu and Hamilton director Thomas Kail), and three acting nominations.
    • When They See Us: 16, including writing and directing nods for Ava DuVernay and a whopping EIGHT acting nominations
    • Escape at Dannemora: 12, including writing, directing (for Ben Stiller), and three acting nominations.
    • Sharp Objects: 8, including acting nods for Amy Adams and Patricia Clarkson.

    The Frontrunner: The awards experts at Gold Derby think that the winning combination of Netflix, Ava DuVernay and its incredibly timely subject matter will add up to a victory for When They See Us. It would mark Netflix's first victory in this category.

    The Likeliest Spoiler: Most awards prognosticators expected HBO to be a major contender in this category, and although were right, it didn't quite go down as they anticipated. While Sharp Objects had been expected to carry the network's banner, instead it's Chernobyl that stands a puncher's chance of winning here, especially if its least-likely-ratings-smash-of-2019 track record holds true.

    The Feel-Good Long-Shot: I'm not sure many would have categorized a Fosse/Verdon as a "feel good" Emmy win in its early going, as it initially seemed most interested in exploring the inner life and personal/professional regrets of Difficult Man Bob Fosse. But as the series' perspective shifted more toward Gwen Verdon, and with it, Michelle Williams' illuminating portrait of the woman whose career triumphs were just as hard won, the show became incredibly easy to root for.

    Stat to Chew On: A win for When They See Us would be the second-ever (competitive) Primetime Emmy win for producer Oprah Winfrey, after winning in 2000 for producing Tuesdays with Morrie. She has won 16 competitive Daytime Emmys.

    Prediction: Netflix has seriously mobilized its Emmy campaign behind When They See Us, and the limited series marks the streaming platform's best chance for a series victory. Voters clearly responded in the nomination stage in a big way, and as much as I think Chernobyl should not be underestimated as a dark horse contender, I think this one's going to Ms. DuVernay.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, Chernobyl, Escape at Dannemora, Fosse/Verdon, Sharp Objects, When They See Us