Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series, where we analyze and predict all your favorite TV series and their chances with the Television Academy (at least at this time of publishing). The series examines the shows and performances about their awards potential, most notably the Emmy Awards. Emmy nomination voting opens June 10 and closes on June 24. The official Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 16 while the ceremony airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22. All Emmy pieces run with the following schedule: Mondays (Dramas), Tuesdays (Network Spotlight), Wednesdays (Comedies), Thursdays (Network Spotlight), Fridays (Limited Series, Variety Series, Below-the Lines).
Once Glenn Close moved to TV for FX’s “Damages,” the TV landscape changed. Movie stars could now appear on TV without it damaging their careers. The most popular place for movie stars to show up is in limited series or TV movies. This allows them to be a part of the exciting stories being told on television, while also not having to commit to five seasons of something.
This year’s Lead Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie field only further illustrates how appealing TV can be for movie stars. Six of the Emmy hopefuls have either won or been nominated for Oscars. Not only are they the most high profile nominees, they are in the prestige shows that expect nominations across the board. Between Patricia Arquette, Michelle Williams and Amy Adams, it’s the war of the movie stars.
The biggest player in the limited series races this year is Patricia Arquette. She delivered not one, but two amazing performances in limited series this year. Her work in “The Act” is being submitted in the Supporting Actress category. Yet, her leading performance in Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora” has already earned the Oscar winner plenty of additional trophies. Arquette won Lead Actress in a Limited Series at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice and SAG Awards. She only needs the Emmy to complete her clean sweep of the awards season.
Standing in her way is Michelle Williams from “Fosse/Verdon” on FX. Williams plays Broadway legend Gwen Verdon over the course of roughly 30 years. The show showcases Verdon at the height of “Damn Yankees,” her period of obscurity and subsequent efforts to make “Chicago” happen. Williams received heaps of praise for her work on the show, with some calling it the best work of her career. Not only does Williams nail Verdon’s off-screen tics and behavior, but she also excels at dancing and singing. Though Arquette has run the gauntlet in terms of precursors, “Fosse/Verdon” only recently finished airing new episodes. This means Arquette has never gone up against Williams prior to the Emmys. Can Williams stage an upset?
At this time eleven months ago, many thought Amy Adams was a shoo-in to win for “Sharp Objects” on HBO. Unfortunately, the buzz has cooled on the Gillian Flynn adaptation, especially as more competitors emerged. HBO will still push the show and Adams seems like a safe bet for a nomination. Yet, a win looks a bit harder to come by since the category has become Arquette vs. Williams. Adams fans should still be wary. She was in a similar position when she lost out an Oscar nomination for “Arrival.”
It’s rare to see an actress move to TV so soon after their Oscar win. Netflix’s “Maniac,” starring Emma Stone, premiered less than two years after she won her Oscar for “La La Land.” This makes her the most high profile of the actress contenders this year. While “Maniac” was a hit (supposedly, since Netflix doesn’t release viewership numbers), there were just as many people who didn’t understand the show as those who loved it. This sort of divisiveness could cost Stone a nomination.
On the more traditional front, Oscar winner Marisa Tomei took on the Emmy winning role of Edith Bunker in “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s All in the Family and The Jeffersons” on ABC. That role won Jean Stapleton three Emmys over the course of eight nominations in the 70s. Reactions to Tomei’s performance were spectacular. Additionally, the special recently happened in March, which makes it fresh in people’s minds. Tomei could be the latest live performer to earn an Emmy nomination in this category. Live performances that were recently nominated include Audra McDonald in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill” (2016) and Emma Thompson in “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (Live from Lincoln Center)” (2015).
Swirling her martini around in the corner is Oscar winner Renee Zellweger in “What/If” on Netflix. Zellweger camps it up and has a fun time. Yet, this won’t be enough to get into the Emmy race.
TRUE CRIME MAVENS
There are few things people love more than true crime stories. One of the more high profile projects has been Hulu’s “The Act,” The show chronicles the murder of Dee Dee Blanchard by her daughter Gypsy. Joey King portrays Gypsy through the course of her troubled teenage years and post-murder. It’s an incredible performance that announces a new talent in the TV space. King also manages to portray munchausen’s by proxy on screen in terrific ways. If “The Act” pops up across all the Emmy fields, King is assured to get in.
Bravo makes it into the scripted race with “Dirty John.” The show tells the story of a woman who gets duped by a con man who tears her family apart. Connie Britton has already received nominations at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards. The Emmys love Britton, having nominated her before for “Friday Night Lights,” “Nashville” and “American Horror Story.” Perhaps they will bring her back this year.
The major late breaker in the limited series space is “When They See Us,” Ava DuVernay’s four episode miniseries about the Central Park Five. If the show takes off with Emmy voters, the coattails of the show could pull many more actors into these categories. Niecy Nash delivers a fierce performance as the mother of one of the boys. If they campaign her in lead, she has a shot to get in, particularly since the Emmys nominated her twice for “Getting On.”
Emmy favorite Julianna Marguiles hopes to show up to the ceremony yet again. National Geographic’s “The Hot Zone” chronicles the outbreak of the Ebola Virus. While National Geographic seems like a weird fit for a scripted show, they were able to push both Geoffrey Rush and Antionio Banderas into the acting categories for “Genius.”
HISTORICAL PERIOD PERFORMANCES
PBS used to be a major player in this category, appearing consistently in the lineups up until 2012. Since then, it has had a bit of a drought in terms of nominations in this category. Ruth Wilson hopes to bring PBS back with “Mrs. Wilson,” a drama about a woman who realizes her dead husband had other wives.
In terms of traditional historical period pieces, Starz enters the Emmy race with “The Spanish Princess,” which stars Charlotte Hope as Caterine of Aragon. The show acts as a sequel to Starz’s “The White Queen,” which earned Rebecca Ferguson a Golden Globes nomination in the lead. Though the show received a nomination for Best Miniseries, Ferguson did not receive an Emmy nomination. If Ferguson can’t get nominated, Hope will have a tough time, especially since “The Spanish Princess” doesn’t have the reviews of “The White Queen.”
While the term “period piece” conjures up images of Elizabethan era, it can be applied to a myriad of different things. Two 60s/70s set thrillers debuted on the small screen this year with leading performances hoping for attention. Florence Pugh headlines AMC’s “The Little Drummer Girl” by Park Chan-wook. The series was an adaptation of the John le Carre novel of the same name. Meanwhile, TNT aired “I Am The Night,” a thriller set around the aftermath of the Black Dahlia murder and based on the autobiography “One Day She’ll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel” by Fauna Hodel. Newcomer India Eisley plays Hodel alongside Chris Pine. Both projects have their pockets of support. Yet, Joey King seems most likely to be the coronated newcomer in the category.
Olivia Cooke also competes this year for her lead role in “Vanity Fair” on iTV.
CHILLS AND THRILLS
This year features more genre performances than usual. Both major streaming services – Hulu and Netflix – have their own macabre horror shows eligible this year. Hulu had a summer hit on their hands last year with “Castle Rock.” If voters were fans of the show, perhaps its lead actress, Melanie Lynskey, could benefit in this category. However, these genre shows very rarely receive widespread love at the Emmys. If anyone from “Castle Rock” is going to get in, Sissy Spacek possesses the best shot in the Supporting Actress category.
Netflix also had a horror hit on their hands with “The Haunting of Hill House” in late last year. Star Carla Gugino anchored the series. Yet, the show looks to be more of a technical player, rather than factoring in the acting or limited series races.
While it may not be horror, Amazon Prime’s mystery-drama “The Widow” pulls the rug out from its audience more than a few times. Though the show received mixed reviews, star Kate Beckinsale stood out as the titular widow who believes she has seen her dead husband alive. She may be a dark horse in this category, but it may be hard to push this lesser-seen title through in this crowded category.
TV MOVIE QUEENS
There aren’t too many actress contenders coming from the TV Movie side of the equation. While HBO airs most of the TV Movies up for contention this year, the majority of them center around men. Strangely enough, “Deadwood: The Movie” is HBO’s only TV movie that features lead actress possibilities. Both Molly Parker and Paula Malcomson are vying for spots in the category. While both women are reprising their roles from the beloved TV series, neither received Emmy nominations during the show’s original run.
Following Netflix’s strategy with “Black Mirror,” Amazon Prime has decided to campaign each episode of “The Romanoffs” as a TV movie. That means both “House of Special Purpose” and “End of the Line” will be judged separately. From “House of Special Purpose,” Christina Hendricks and Isabelle Huppert are being submitted in lead. They will compete against Kathryn Hahn from “End of the Line.” The show was highly anticipated, since it came from “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner. Unfortunately, the reviews were much more mixed to negative once they were released last October. While it may slip into the TV Movie category, neither looks to be competitive in the categories where Limited Series and TV Movie are combined.
CURRENT OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS (LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE) PREDICTIONS
- Michelle Williams – “Fosse/Verdon” (FX)
- Patricia Arquette – “Escape at Dannemora” (Showtime)
- Amy Adams – “Sharp Objects” (HBO)
- Joey King – “The Act” (Hulu)
- Marisa Tomei – “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” (ABC)
- Connie Britton – “Dirty John” (Bravo)