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What the ‘True Detective’ Release Date Tells Us About Season 2, the Emmys and ‘The Leftovers’

What the 'True Detective' Release Date Tells Us About Season 2, the Emmys and 'The Leftovers'

Yesterday, in a surprise release tied to the unveiling of a trailer, HBO announced “True Detective” Season 2 would premiere early this summer. Though production didn’t start until November 24 — and was scheduled to last four to five months — HBO wasn’t about to delay their follow-up to 2014’s hottest new series any longer than they already have (as the first season premiered in January).

But what does that mean for the Emmys and thus the series? 

READ MORE: Watch: ‘True Detective’ Season 2 Trailer Marks the Battlefield Between Colin Farrell and Vince Vaughn

At first glance, the summer release date looks like a bad sign for the mysterious new season. The eligibility period for the 2015 Emmys is June 1, 2014 – May 31, 2015, meaning the Season 2 premiere of “True Detective” will miss the cut-off by a mere 22 days.

This seems like an egregious miscalculation by HBO, because no matter how pressed for time the post-production team is, getting your series out in time for this year’s Emmys is incredibly enticing: 

• “True Detective” would have the new “Limited Series” category all to itself (essentially), as none of the current contenders hold a candle to the intense fandom surrounding Nic Pizzolatto’s cop drama (unless there’s an “Olive Kitteridge” cult following I’ve yet to encounter).
• The return of “Fargo” — “True Detective’s” main competition for the foreseeable future — isn’t a factor this year, as it’s set to launch much later in 2015.
• The free marketing brought along with the Emmys is incredibly alluring for all prestige dramas looking to expand their audience. 
• We all know how much HBO loves awards.

So why not pay the overtime, get the episodes released and sweep your category at the Emmys? The only explanation is that those who’ve seen “True Detective” Season 2 know it doesn’t stack up to Season 1, so it may not be the Emmys contender we imagined.

Or wait. Not so fast.

To be eligible for the Emmys, a “majority” of a series must have aired before the cut-off date. That means “True Detective” would have had to release five or more episodes of its 10-episode season. HBO couldn’t just debut the first episode on May 31 and be done with it. They would have had to start on May 3, presuming they wanted to air episodes every Sunday night. 

Given the timeline provided by Farrell of a four-to-five month production, “True Detective” likely hasn’t even wrapped shooting. Moving the premiere date up nearly two months would be virtually impossible, especially when considering the need to get a marketing plan together, ship screeners to critics and TV Academy voters, as well as free up actors for the press tour. With all that in mind, June 21 is starting to look pretty impressive.

Yet the question still remains: Why? Why push it out so soon after production? Summer series have never proven fruitful for HBO when it comes to awards, as the long wait between release and campaigning can make series feel dated. Its biggest success stories are “The Comeback” (three nominations for Season 1, then canceled), “The Newsroom” (a win in Season 1 for Jeff Daniels, now canceled) and “True Blood,” which snagged one nomination for Best Drama Series in seven seasons (six of which ran in the summer)… Which leads us to the fate of “The Leftovers.”

“True Blood” ended its run last summer, and HBO tried to introduce “The Leftovers” as a pseudo-replacement. Tom Perrotta’s novel-turned-TV show was met with mixed but mostly-positive critical reaction. Many viewers were polarized by the stark nature of the downtrodden drama, even if the acting, direction and overall production showcased much to be admired. Whether or not it could become an awards contender seemed questionable at best, and the final nail in the coffin seemed to come when the Golden Globes snubbed Damon Lindelof’s new series.

Now, “True Detective” has taken over its time slot (though technically new comedies “Ballers” and “The Brink” are in the 10pm hour) and that could mean just about anything. On the one hand, HBO could believe “True Detective” is so incredibly amazing it can overcome the long wait for the 2016 Emmys (or simply that the Limited Series category will remain sparse). On the other hand, it could be trying to dump Season 2 to capitalize on fan enthusiasm before it wanes and not worry about awards this time around. Only one things for sure: after losing to “Fargo” in the heads up battle at this year’s Golden Globes, HBO doesn’t want to go 0-2 against FX with their prestigious new limited series.

As for “The Leftovers,” a push in the schedule may indicate renewed faith in the series. Maybe a fall release will better its odds at the Globes and the Emmys for Season 2, even if its lack of presence during this year’s nomination process will certainly lower the odds for nods in 2015. 

While we all wait on pins and needles for more information about both shows, this year’s Emmys are already approaching. It’s a shame we won’t see “True Detective” in the race, but hopefully more time means a better final product. Win, lose or don’t compete at the Emmys — it’s the quality that matters in this (very) long run.

HBO did not respond for comment on this story.

READ MORE: ‘True Detective’ Season 2: Everything We Know Right Now (Almost)

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