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Emmy Predictions 2018: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

HBO and Netflix battle it out with multiple offerings from each Emmy powerhouse, but there's one more dark horse. [Updated: August 13]

Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling Judd Apatow

“The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling”

Larry Watson/HBO

Last Year’s Winner: “13th”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: After earning its first nomination in 2014, Netflix is riding a two-year win streak with “What Happened, Miss Simone?” (2016) and “13th” (2017).
Fun Fact: Since the category morphed from Outstanding Informational Special in 1998, HBO has won eight of the 20 trophies and landed multiple nominations 11 times.

In recent years, documentaries with a little extra buzz have done well for themselves in this category. Both “What Happened, Miss Simone?” and “13th” benefitted from earning Oscar nominations. That bodes well for “Icarus,” which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature earlier this year. No other contenders were Film Academy nominees, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t docs or nonfiction specials with lots of buzz.

Netflix also has “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton,” sporting the biggest name on the ballot — literally, that’s the full title. It’s made quite a stir with streaming subscribers. That could push it into the winners’ circle, just as it helped edge its way into the race at all.

HBO has two offerings of its own. “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” is a personal passion project from Judd Apatow, and his intimate understanding of the late comedian combined with his influential friends should help set the doc apart. And “Spielberg” tracks an unquestionably beloved figure — who’s got quite a few likable friends in Susan Lacy’s film — though reviews for the film may not equal the great director’s best.

Then there’s the sole PBS doc, “Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like.” Helped with a bevy of goodwill thanks to great reviews for this as well as Morgan Neville’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, the entry beat out a number of strong other options. In a hard, darkening world, movies like this make people feel something they’ve long missed — it should not be discounted from the title race.

Below are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special (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 in the rest of the categories, as well.

The Nominees:

  1. “Icarus”
  2. “Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton
  3. “Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like”
  4. “Spielberg”
  5. “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling”

Will Win: “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling”
Could Win:
“Icarus”
Should Win:
“Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond – Featuring a Very Special, Contractually Obligated Mention of Tony Clifton”

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