It’s EMMY Week! Television is preparing to give itself its annual pat on the back, complete with a red carpet, gorgeous gowns, and big shiny gold statuettes.
This week we’re gonna look at some of the major categories and offer a few thoughts and questionable predictions. With nearly 500 scripted shows plus more reality shows that we can shake a stick at, it’s impossible to watch even a little of each one. So first off: mad props to the voters who wade through all the shows.
To make our analysis and predictions we rely on the shows we actually watched, other critical reviews, and general buzz surrounding a show.
Today we’re gonna tackle the Limited Series Categories. These are our favorites. Limited series are able to develop characters and plot more than a movie, but don’t feel forced to stretch material thin over a full 13 or 22 episode season. They do what they set out to do and that’s that!
Up first, Actress.
The nominees are Laura Dern (“The Tale”), Jessica Biel (“The Sinner), Michelle Dockery (Godless), Edie Falco (The Menendez Murders), Regina King (“Seven Seconds), and Sarah Paulson (“American Horror Story: Cult”).
Godless was a dark, gripping show on Netflix. Hard to watch because it was so intense that it drained you emotionally. Dockery’s role was good, but not stand out.
The rest of the nominees are household names.
Edie Falco has so many EMMYs that if she wins she’ll need to build another shelf in her den (do people still have dens?). Her performance in Menendez showcased her depth and versatility.
Sarah Paulson is a regular player in the AHS franchise. Ryan Murphy seems to find his favorites and make use of them frequently, and that’s certainly deserved for Paulson. But the Cult season didn’t bring anything new so much as it drew on the headlines to play on people’s fears.
Regina King and Laura Dern are both solid actresses, but neither their shows nor their nominations are creating much buzz. That said, Limited Series categories aren’t super buzzy this year.
If the EMMYs, which have been trying to get away from the perception that they always pick the same shows and stars year after year, want a big name but fresh face, they’ll go with Jessica Biel in The Sinner.
If they revert to their mean, they’ll go with Edie.
Now it’s the boys’ turn.
Up for a statue are Antonio Banderas (“Genius: Picasso”), Darren Criss (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”), Benedict Cumberbatch (“Patrick Melrose”), Jeff Daniels (“The Looming Tower”), John Legend (“Jesus Christ Superstar”), and Jesse Plemons (“USS Callister”).
With the exception of a couple standout performances, Jesus Christ Superstar, the NBC live musical, was a mess. But one of those exceptions is John Legend. He can sing and he can sing live. But that doesn’t get him up on the stage.
If Jeff Daniels was going to be nominated this year, we thought it would be for his vicious role in Godless. The Looming Tower does not mean an EMMY is looming in his future.
Darren Criss’ performance as the murderer of Gianni Versace was killer. Another one of Ryan Murphy’s faves, Darren was believable, charming, and disturbing all at once. He’s definitely a dark horse in this category.
Antonio Banderas turned in a genius performance in Genius: Picasso. He’s a fave of Oscar and EMMY voters and we wouldn’t drop our drink in surprise if he ends up on stage giving an acceptance speech.
But our prediction is Benedict Cumberbatch in Patrick Melrose. It was easily one of the most gripping television performances of the year. The source material is strong but what he did to bring it to life is amazing. The first episode is easily the best, and his role (due to childhood flashback scenes) is diminished in later episodes. But there is no doubt that he deserves to hit up the afterparties posing with his new statue.
Know Your Limits
And for the series themselves, the nominees are “The Alienist,” “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” “Genius: Picasso,” “Godless,” and “Patrick Melrose.”
All of these are strong stories that are brought to life by strong performances, writing, and cinematography. Versace is good, but it uses buff bods to cover weaknesses in storytelling. Godless is powerful and intense and The Alienist is the dark horse of the category.
But we’re giving love to Patrick Melrose. Good source material that was brilliantly adapted for television and the best performance of the year coming from Cumberbatch.
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
A Summer Ale. They are Limited Edition Beers, and you need to make room for your autumn brews.