Emmys: Breaking Down the Odds in the Limited Series and TV Movie Races

7:00 AM 8/17/2018

by Scott Feinberg

The Hollywood Reporter awards analyst Scott Feinberg weighs the chances among both categories' nominees, which include Ryan Murphy's 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,' Al Pacino starrer 'Paterno' and a strong 'Black Mirror' episode.

Courtesy Photos

  • 'The Alienist'


    Jesse Giddings/TNT

    TNT spent big on the production and promotion of this 10-part look at 
a team investigating a serial 
killer in 1890s New York that stars Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans and Dakota Fanning. The 
series, based on a best-selling book, was executive produced by notable names like Hossein Amini, Cary Fukunaga and Eric Roth, among others. Amini, Fukunaga and John Sayles were among the writers of the show, which drew strong ratings and six nominations.

    On the other hand... Reviews were mixed, and this nom was surprising. It comes without any acting, writing or directing mentions.

  • 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story'


    Jeff Daly/FX

    Ryan Murphy's nine-
part second installment of the American Crime Story anthology series comes two years after his first, The People v. 
O.J. Simpson, was chosen as the top limited series. This one 
earned strong reviews and ratings; the Critics' Choice Award 
for movies, miniseries and specials; and 18 Emmy noms (including directing, writing and an unequaled six acting noms), the most in the field.

    On the other hand... Andrew Cunanan's serial killing spree has less of 
a hold on the public's imagination than the O.J. case did.

  • 'Patrick Melrose'


    Justin Downing/SHOWTIME

    Adapted from Edward St. Aubyn's novels, this five-parter centers on a Brit who — after the death of the father who abused him — strives 
to overcome the fallout of that abuse. The TV Academy loves Benedict Cumberbatch (this is his sixth nomination, and he 
won for lead actor in a miniseries in 2014 for Sherlock) and nominated him as well as the show's directing and writing — a trifecta only Versace and Godless can also claim.

    On the other hand... No nominee in this category offers fewer installments (two offer twice as many), which may make Melrose seem slight in comparison.

  • 'Genius: Picasso'

    Nat Geo

    Courtesy of the Tribeca FIlm Festival

    Just a year after the first season of this Nat Geo series (devoted to Albert Einstein) was nominated in this category, so, too, is the 10-part second iteration, which looks at the life and times of the artist Pablo Picasso as a young man (Alex Rich) and a grown-up (Antonio Banderas, an acting nominee). Banderas' performance, in particular, was warmly received by critics and viewers, and the network has campaigned hard on behalf of the show.

    On the other hand... The series itself was pretty poorly reviewed, and the first Einstein-focused season earned more noms (10) than the Picasso season (seven).

  • 'Godless'


    Ursula Coyote/Netflix

    Scott Frank's acclaimed seven-part Western 
drama series, set in northern New Mexico in 1884, stars 
Jack O'Connell and a host of Emmy favorites — including 
Jeff Daniels (who is nominated for supporting actor here and 
for lead actor in another limited series, Hulu's The Looming Tower) and Michelle Dockery. It received noms from the DGA, WGA, SAG and Critics' Choice Awards en route to 12 Emmy noms, including directing and writing (both for Frank) and three for acting.

    On the other hand... Westerns, particularly those with gory violence, are not everyone's cup of tea.

  • 'Fahrenheit 451'


    Courtesy of HBO

    This adaptation of Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel, co-written and directed by Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes), boasts some major star power — Michael B. Jordan as Guy Montag, a man who risks his life for the chance to learn how to read in a world in which books are banned, and Bahrani regular Michael Shannon as Montag's main antagonist, fire captain John Beatty. Its five nominations are bested in this field only by Black Mirror's "USS Callister."

    On the other hand... The HBO TV movie garnered abysmal reviews and does not count a directing, writing or acting nom among its haul.

  • 'Flint'


    Courtesy of Lifetime

    From producers Neil 
Meron and Craig Zadan (also behind this year's Jesus Christ Superstar) and director Bruce Beresford (best picture Oscar winner for Driving Miss Daisy) comes the first narrative film about the water contamination in the titular Michigan city, starring Queen Latifah (who also exec produced). Already nominated for the best TV movie Critics' Choice Award, it might attract Emmy backers who want to send a message to Washington: Don't forget Flint.

    On the other hand... This is its sole nomination (every other film in the category has more). Plus, a Lifetime movie has never won.

  • 'Paterno'


    Powerhouse director Barry Levinson and actor Al Pacino reteam (after the 
2010 TV movie You Don't Know Jack and the 2014 film The Humbling) to profile revered Penn State football coach Joe Paterno late in life, when he became embroiled in an assistant coach's sex abuse scandal. This category's only nominee with 
a directing nod, it could follow in the footsteps of the 13 other 
HBO winners in this category since the turn of the century.

    On the other hand... The TV Academy's snub 
of the entire cast, even longtime favorite and two-time winner Pacino as the disgraced Paterno, is troubling.

  • 'The Tale'


    Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    Inspired by writer-director Jennifer Fox's own childhood sexual abuse, this film centers on a woman who recalls events that happened to her 
when she was 13. The movie, which HBO picked up at the Sundance Film Festival (where it premiered to heavy buzz), has #MeToo bona fides and an impressive 98 percent favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And it stars Laura Dern — an Emmy winner last year for Big Little Lies and nominee for this project — Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki and Ellen Burstyn.

    On the other hand... HBO has two other, arguably higher-profile horses in the race.

  • 'Black Mirror: USS Callister'


    Courtesy of Netflix

    The Star Trek-inspired first episode of this popular anthology series' fourth season garnered a field-leading seven noms, four more than its "San Junipero" episode that won in this category last year, becoming Netflix's first major Emmy winner. The only nominee with a writing mention, it also registered a surprise acting nom for Jesse Plemons.

    On the other hand... It's not really a TV movie but rather an episode of 
a show (then again, so was "San Junipero"). No other nominee has a shorter runtime than its 76 minutes. And, unlike Paterno, it has no directing nom.

    This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.