Emmy Contenders Rise and Fall Amid Schedule Delays

Courtesy of Craig Blankenhorn/HBO; Gianni Fiorito/HBO
HBO's ‘The Night Of’ and ‘The Young Pope'

While the follow-up to FX's 'American Crime Story' is among the limited series being pushed back, HBO looks to capitalize with its slate of minis.

The Emmys' limited series category, by its nature, constantly reinvents itself. But several recent schedule moves — FX's American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson follow-up, set during Hurricane Katrina, has been pushed a year, and Showtime's Twin Peaks revival will arrive too late for 2016 consideration — might alter the 2017 and 2018 races.

That, coupled with a second season of AMC's The Night Manager still in the planning stages, gives a potential boost to a slew of HBO minis — The Night Of, Big Little Lies and perhaps even The Young Pope, which may still be deemed a drama — and FX stalwarts American Horror Story and Fargo, along with Ryan Murphy's new anthology Feud. "I never want to be in a situation of feeling like we have to rush something onto our air because we need to check a certain box in a certain year," says FX Networks president John Landgraf. "That defeats the purpose of making shows that are good enough to distinguish themselves in this ridiculously competitive field."

Still, limited series is a category with growing luster. Once less competitive than the drama series race, it now is perhaps the prestige focus of the night (especially since Game of Thrones and Veep have won drama and comedy series, respectively, the past two years). "In 2014, we had 16 limited series submit, and last year we had 26," says TV Academy president/COO Maury McIntyre. "And we expect it to keep rising."

That volume still doesn't approach that of dramas, which dominate the 450-some scripted series to air in the past year, making the category that much more enticing for programmers. Showtime CEO David Nevins told reporters earlier in January of his eagerness to join the limited race this year. And he will, with April's John Ridley and Idris Elba effort Guerrilla. David Lynch's long-awaited Twin Peaks revival, however, is on the Emmy bench for next year. Its May 21 return, with 18 hours, means it won't be eligible until 2018 — and perhaps even in another category.

Sources suggest Showtime is already eyeing Twin Peaks as a limited submission, but the fact that it is a continuation of the 1990 ABC drama means that the network will have to petition a TV Academy industry panel for a category switch. (The X Files' six-episode Fox return suffered a similar setback in 2016 and ultimately failed.)

But with so many miniseries, and a growing number of one-off revivals (see: Netflix's four-part Gilmore Girls return), there's always a chance that the parameters may evolve by then. Says McIntyre, "We are always seeing what's going on with the landscape and addressing the rules accordingly."

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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