Emmy longform picks focus on war
HBO's gritty Iraq War miniseries "Generation Kill" had 11 nominations. HBO's heartfelt ratings hit "Taking Chance," the story of a Marine escorting the body of a solider killed in Iraq, earned 10 nominations. While HBO's "House of Saddam," chronicling the rise and fall of the former Iraq leader, drew four nominations.
In addition, "Into the Storm," about Winston Churchill in the closing days of World War II, drew 14 nominations.
"There are 100,000 members of the military in two countries, and yet when I walk out of my apartment you'd never know the war was going on," said writer-director Ross Katz, nominated for three Emmys for "Taking Chance." "I felt a certain sense of shame that I didn't know anyone who was at risk and felt like I needed to engage in some way. It felt wrong that life was normal."
TV historian Tim Brooks had a different take, calling the nominations "a reflection of Hollywood's political bent."
"It's just like how they increasingly give awards to candidates -- like Barack Obama winning a Grammy -- and gave a ton of awards to 'West Wing,' " Brooks said.
If true, the most-nominated longform title this year, HBO's biopic "Grey's Gardens," which earned 17 nominations, might have benefited from some post-Camelot sentiment by chronicling the aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy.
"It's not just because the topic of war is current," Brooks added. "It makes the Emmys into something serious, involving them in more serious matters of society and state as opposed to just trivial entertainment."
The projects have also been decent business. Though most theatrical attempts at tackling the Iraq War fizzled at the boxoffice, HBO's efforts have managed to draw an audience. "Saddam" and "Generation Kill" did fairly well, and the apolitical heroism of "Taking Chance" was a blockbuster -- the network's most-watched original debut in five years.
"Chance" star Kevin Bacon noted that the lag time between a war and entertainment seems to be shrinking.
"When it came to World War II or Vietnam we gave ourselves like four years of space to make films and comment on the war," Bacon said. "That didn't happen this time, and a lot of the first (projects) came out and people were not ready to process it."
"House of Saddam" director-writer-producer Alex Holmes agreed there were a plethora of war films, but noted, "Unfortunately, there's been a lot of war around."
"It's one of the roles of TV to reflect the world back to us," Holmes said. "What's more, these are conflicts that are hard to understand with complex issues, and people felt especially conflicted over the war in Iraq. These are attempts to wrestle with those."