By Peter Knegt and Ben Travers | Indiewire August 13, 2014 at 10:26AM
The experiment is over. After three years of a merged TV Movie/Miniseries category, the TV Academy voted to revert to its old ways and separate the two groupings. Sadly, it's not a particularly strong year for either field, but the contenders that did make the cut provide plenty of drama to break down. We've got Martin Freeman squaring off against his co-stars (Billy Bob Thornton from "Fargo" and Benedict Cumberbatch from "Sherlock"). Julia Roberts is trying to land her first Emmy to go with her Golden Globes and Oscar, and there's a three-way battle for Supporting Actress. Plus, can anyone upset "Fargo" and "The Normal Heart" for the top prizes? Let's dig in.
Who Should've Been Here:
Ben Travers: Well, Peter. I honestly don't know what to say about anything that's missing from these two categories. Pretty much every TV movie and miniseries worthy of serious consideration made the cut (and some that weren't). While I would've liked to see Lifetime's "Return to Zero" in the TV movie mix (it's still your typical Lifetime movie, but it packs a PUNCH), I was more upset by some of the acting snubs in these categories. I honestly found Rob Lowe deserving of a nod for "Killing Kennedy" and thought his status as a dual applicant (also on the ballot for "Parks and Recreation") would get him a nod. Poor guy can't catch a break.
Peter Knegt: Yeah, I don't have so much to offer here either. I'm rather indifferent re: Mr. Lowe, at least for "Killing Kennedy." I would have loved to see him last year for "Behind The Candelabra." But I mean, nothing is really missing here, largely because there wasn't too much to choose from in the first place. "Fargo" deservedly is all over the nods, as is the overrated (in my opinion) Ryan Murphy double header of "The Normal Heart" and "American Horror Story: Coven." They even impressively gave Kristin Wiig a nod for "The Spoils of Babylon." I guess I kind of wish Jacqueline Bisset could've scored a nomination for "Dancing on the Edge," if only for a potential sequel to her wacky Golden Globes speech.
BT: That would've been a tough encore performance, so maybe it's best a sequel wasn't optioned. I'll tell you one movie I'm glad didn't make the cut, and then we can move on to the actual race: "Clear History." With a large and well-liked ensemble cast, I worried it would garner enough votes simply because people adore those actors (Jon Hamm! Larry David! Amy Ryan!). They must have watched the movie and realized what a mistake it would be to nominate such poorly constructed, nonsensical comedy -- even in a year scant with competitors.
PK: Based on opinions just like this, I avoided "Clear History" altogether, so my thoughts on this takedown are irrelevant. But yeah, let's move on to the actual race then, and who COULD win these awards. It seems to me like a bit of a "Fargo" vs. "The Normal Heart" deal more or less, as far as potential winners go...
Who Could Win
BT: I'd have to agree with your top contenders. In the Outstanding TV Movie category, it seems like it's "The Normal Heart's" trophy to lose. The sheer Hollywood star power would be enough even in a year with stronger competition, and the film's topical content has to bolster its odds, too. Winners need passionate fans, and Ryan Murphy's adaptation of Larry Kramer's play (that Kramer wrote the screenplay for) should have enough voices behind it to go the distance. That being said, the film also has its fair share of detractors (present company included): can the vocal minority do enough damage here for something like "Sherlock: His Last Vow" or "The Trip to Bountiful" to steal HBO's Emmy?
PK: It's easy to forget how unpredictable Emmy voters can be sometimes. Even last year, few bet Laura Linney would win the TV movie/miniseries actress award for "The Big C: Hereafter" over Elisabeth Moss for "Top of the Lake" or Jessica Lange for "American Horror Story." The Emmys are far harder to predict than say, the Oscars, which kind of makes the "could win" status apply to most of these nominees. Though that said, I still think almost all of these awards are going to "The Normal Heart," "American Horror Story" or "Fargo." Though the two TV movies you note -- "Sherlock: His Last Vow" and "The Trip To Bountiful" -- are the ones to upset if anything does. Cicely Tyson ("Bountiful") could definitely win best actress, and Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman ("Sherlock") are the ones to steal away the male trophies from the boys of "Heart" and "Fargo." Stranger things have definitely happened... I just wouldn't bet on it.
BT: The other Outsanding TV Movie nominees fall under the "just happy to be here" category. "Killing Kennedy" could have sold itself as a strong contender had Mr. Lowe earned a nod, but seems weak without its lead nominated as well. "Muhammed Ali's Greatest Fight" wasn't really expected to make it this far. It really shows how far HBO's arm goes into the pool of Emmy voters, especially when able to promote actors like Frank Langella and a director like Stephen Frears. As for the Outstanding Miniseries nominees, it's interesting to me the two top contenders are both from FX. They'll choose to push one over the other (and based on advertising, "Fargo" is their clear pick) while the other contenders' networks struggle to convince anyone of their relevance. Anything outside of "Fargo" would be a huge surprise... But you're right. It could happen.
Who Will Win
PK: So let's just get to our full-on predictions, then? I've already alluded to it but "Fargo" and "The Normal Heart" seem like pretty safe bets for miniseries and TV movie trophies, respectively. I assume you're in agreement?
BT: Absolutely. "Fargo" seems like the safer bet between the two extremely likely winners. "The Normal Heart" could lose out to a new contender from a veteran show. "Sherlock" has seen a wealth of nominations with zero wins as of yet, and its two stars continue to cast a bigger and bigger shadow across Hollywood. Benedict Cumberbatch has never been hotter and Martin Freeman is a double-nominee this year for "Sherlock" and "Fargo." Can they overpower the Hulk (aka Mark Ruffalo) and Julia Freaking Roberts? I doubt it, but "Sherlock" is always full of surprises.
PK: Roberts no, but Hulk maybe? I'd bet that "Normal Heart" wins the supporting categories with Matt Bomer and Julia Roberts, but that Mark Ruffalo loses out to Billy Bob Thornton, not Cumberbatch or Freeman. But that category is genuinely a four way race, as far as I'm concerned (with Idris Elba and Chiwetel Ejiofor the two that seem most unlikely winners. Best actress in a TV movie/miniseries is just as tight... Except no one from "Normal Heart," "Fargo" or "Sherlock" is among the nominees... So what happens? One of the "American Horror Story" women?
BT: Jessica Lange, Sarah Paulson, and Cicely Tyson are the only Best Actress nominees with their shows in the mix for Outstanding TV Movie/Miniseries, so I see that one as a three-way race. Lange, a two-time Oscar and Emmy winner, could snag another trophy for her mantle, or the Academy could favor her younger, trophy-less co-star (who's been nominated twice for this show already). But I think it's Tyson. She has 11 Emmy nominations now and has won three of them. She's nominated as a producer for "The Trip to Bountiful" this year as well, and since she won't be bringing home the trophy there, look for voters to make up for it in the acting category.
PK: Just to mix things up... I'm going with Paulson, for the very reasons you discuss. She was also the best thing about "Coven," as far as I'm concerned. And this gives them an opportunity to throw at least one bone that show's way.
BT: It's Emmy favorites squaring off. Could go either way. But since you disagreed with me, I'm going to go start a #TeamTyson Twitter campaign and hope no one associates it with Iron Mike.
PK: Well then watch out for #TeamPaulson.