Emmys: Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Each Best Movie and Limited Series Nominee

10:00 AM 8/15/2017

by Scott Feinberg

This season's standouts are filled with Oscar-winning talent behind the scenes and on the screen, complicating — and enriching — two tough races, writes THR's awards analyst Scott Feinberg.

'Big Little Lies,' 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,' 'Sherlock Holmes: The Lying Detective'
'Big Little Lies,' 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,' 'Sherlock Holmes: The Lying Detective'
From left to right: Courtesy of HBO (Lacks, Big Little Lies) and Ollie Upton/Harstwood Films (Sherlock)

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

  • Black Mirror: San Junipero


    Laurie Sparham/Netflix

    PRO The fourth episode of Charlie Brooker's sci-fi anthology series was a critics' darling — it's at 93 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest of any nominee in this category. It's also the only one to nab a writing nom. Netflix landed its first nom in this category in 2016 and has the resources to aggressively go after its first win this year.

    CON Mirror is the least fresh option in the category, having rolled out way back on Oct. 21. And at just 61 minutes, it's the shortest of the lot.

  • Big Little Lies


    Courtesy of HBO

    PRO The soapy saga of a group of mothers in Monterey, California, who are hiding some serious secrets — starring, among others, Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, who are among its nominated producers, as is TV great David E. Kelley — landed 16 noms, including one for directing, one for writing and five for acting. It already won the TCA Award for outstanding achievement in movies, miniseries and specials.

    CON It plays best with women, who are believed to be outnumbered in the TV Academy.

  • Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors


    Annette Brown/NBC

    PRO Everyone loves Parton, which is why NBC greenlighted this sequel to 2015's Dolly Parton's Coat of Many Colors, a story of faith and family inspired by the singer's own life. She's played by someone else but makes a cameo, and a whopping 11.53 million viewers tuned in to watch.

    CON This is the sole nom for the movie, which was released in November. Its 57 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating is the lowest here, and Parton hasn't campaigned to give it a boost.

  • Fargo


    Courtesy of FX

    PRO Noah Hawley's anthology series, inspired by the 1996 Coen brothers movie (the bros are among its nominated producers), is in the running for its third season (its first won this award in 2014). The nominee most recently on TV (its final episode aired June 23), it landed 16 noms, including one for directing, one for writing and three for acting (for Ewan McGregor, David Thewlis and Carrie Coon, who won the TCA Award for individual achievement in drama).

    CON Unlike the competition, it may be judged against its earlier seasons.

  • Feud


    Byron Cohen/FX

    PRO Campy but addictive, this first installment in the latest anthology series from Ryan Murphy — whose American Crime Story won this award in 2016 — landed the most nominations of any show in this category (18 in all), including one for directing, two for writing (it's the only show with more than one) and six for acting (leading this field, with noms for stars Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon as well as four supporting players).

    CON A lawsuit filed by 101-year-old Olivia de Havilland may have caused some to question the show's verite.

  • Genius

    National Geographic

    Courtesy of Dusan Martincek/National Geographic

    PRO Nat Geo's first scripted program — the start of an anthology series about great scientific minds — focuses on Albert Einstein. Guaranteed a high profile with Ron Howard (who directed its pilot) and Brian Grazer among its producers, it delivered big ratings and buzz. It's also the field's only nominee with the undivided attention of its network.

    CON Of this category's nominees, it landed the fewest noms — 10 — and is the only one without a writing nom. It also has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes rating at 83 percent.

  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


    Quantrell D. Colbert/HBO

    PRO George C. Wolfe's adaptation of Rebecca Skloot's nonfiction best-seller, which centers on Lacks, a woman whose cancer cells were used for medical research after her death without her family's permission, attracted 11.1 million viewers for its premiere — not least because of Oprah Winfrey's performance as Lacks' daughter Deborah.

    CON This is the movie's sole nom (Winfrey was snubbed), so HBO likely will focus more on its other nominee in the category, The Wizard of Lies.

  • The Night Of



    PRO Of this category's nominees, Steven Zaillian's murder mystery averaged the most viewers (1.4 million per episode) and registered the highest Rotten Tomatoes rating (95 percent) en route to its 13 noms, including two for directing (it's the only nominee to get more than one), one for writing and four for acting. It seems as likely as any show to appeal to men, believed to account for a majority of TV Academy voters.

    CON It's the least fresh option in the category, having rolled out more than a year ago, between July and August of 2016.

  • Sherlock Holmes: The Lying Detective


    Courtesy of MASTERPIECE

    PRO The second episode of the franchise's fourth season stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, as well as Toby Jones as a creepy villain. A hit critically (it's at 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and in the ratings (6 million viewers in the overnights and a consolidated 9.5 million overall — the third greatest time-shift ever), it's tied for the category lead with four total noms.

    CON Unlike the competition, it may be judged not on its own merits, but against earlier installments.

  • The Wizard of Lies


    Courtesy of HBO

    PRO This star-studded Bernie Madoff biopic — freshest in the minds of voters, having premiered May 20 — attracted huge viewership (1.5 million for its initial run, more than any HBO movie since 2013's Behind the Candelabra, and 2.4 million across its first weekend) and four overall noms (including mentions for stars Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer).

    CON After ABC's 2016 limited series, not everyone is ready for another two-plus hours of Madoff (this film has the longest runtime in the race).