Last Year’s Winner: “Big Little Lies”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Over the past five years, HBO and FX have alternated wins in this category. Since HBO’s “Big Little Lies” won in 2017, it’s FX’s “turn” in 2018.
Fun Fact: The “American Horror Story” franchise has been nominated five times in this category, one short of the record held by “Prime Suspect” — except the PBS series had won three times by this point, and “American Horror Story” has never won.
Five networks (at least) have two legitimate contenders in this category, and no limited series has yet to emerge as a sure thing. FX, which consistently makes a strong showing here, will have “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” and “American Horror Story: Cult.” Both projects are produced by Ryan Murphy, and both franchises have stellar track records with the TV Academy (with “American Crime Story” the more dominant of late). But “Versace” has slipped a bit in terms of critical adoration and cultural impact, while “Cult” faced some particularly scathing reviews.
Perhaps three Netflix offerings can take one (or both) of their slots. “Godless” was a low-key hit for the streaming giant, and it’s also got critics’ picks in “Alias Grace” and “American Vandal.” (Yup, despite getting a second season, the streaming giant is submitting the comedy as a limited series. Perhaps an anthology structure is in the offing?) “Alias Grace” could ride a wave of Margaret Atwood adoration, especially after the author’s adaptation of “The Handmaid’s Tale” did so well in 2017, while “American Vandal” amassed a small but passionate following and could squeak into the category in a weaker than normal year.
But let’s not forget the premium networks: Starz has a couple of notable miniseries in “The Girlfriend Experience” Season 2, the acclaimed anthology series, and Kenneth Lonnergan’s adaptation of “Howard’s End.” Meanwhile, Showtime is hoping the “Twin Peaks” love from last summer can carry into this one, and, if not, Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Patrick Melrose” will catch fire in the here and now. And AMC is offering up “McMafia” as its next glossy, globe-trotting miniseries (a la “The Night Manager”), as well as Ridley Scott’s “The Terror.”
Finally, following the success of “Mr. Robot” at the Emmys, USA Network is pushing two limited series for gold: “The Sinner” and “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.” The former was Jessica Biel’s buzzy summer hit, and the latter is a not-so-subtle attempt to capitalize off all the “American Crime Story” love with USA’s own true crime show.
But that’s not all: In the peak TV age, there’s always more contenders, and Hulu has a big one of its own. “The Looming Tower” stars an Emmy winner (Jeff Daniels, repping his second show in the category) and comes from an Oscar winner (Alex Gibney), two-time nominee (Dan Futterman), and a Pulitzer Prize-winner (Lawrence Wright). Toss in a stellar cast, strong reviews, and a weighty premise, and Hulu could have another original program competing for the top slot (you know, besides that little Elisabeth Moss show).
Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Limited Series (listed in alphabetical order), which will be updated throughout the season. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz and highlights from the 2018 race, and read predictions for the rest of the categories, as well.
- “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story”
- “The Looming Tower”
- “Patrick Melrose”
- “The Terror”
- “Twin Peaks”
Spoilers: “Alias Grace,” “American Horror Story: Cult,” “American Vandal,” “Genius: Picasso,” “Howards End,” “McMafia,” “The Sinner,” “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.”
In a Perfect World: “The Girlfriend Experience”