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HBO Officially Deems ‘Watchmen’ a Limited Series, Shaking Up Emmy Race

And limited series is exactly where the show should be competing.

Watchmen Episode 8 Dr Manhattan Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in “Watchmen”

Colin Hutton / HBO

The 2020 Emmy Season has one less mystery hanging over its head, as HBO announced Friday that its critically-acclaimed “Watchmen” series, as adapted by Damon Lindelof, will be entering the fray as a limited series — despite a winter spent competing as a drama series in associated guild and craft organization awards.

The premium cable giant released the following statement early Friday afternoon: “We discussed with the producers and felt limited series was the most accurate representation of the show and any possible future installments.”

The move seems strategic but not surprising for HBO, who benefits from the category adjustment on several levels. In recent months, “Succession” has positioned itself as the Emmy frontrunner for drama series, where “Watchmen” likely would have stood in fierce competition come September. Further, after the “Big Little Lies” brouhaha, where the first season was sold as a limited series, even as most everyone involved was bending over backward to make a second season happen, putting “Watchmen” in limited series is an excellent way for HBO to distance itself from potential accusations of category fraud.

But in truth, limited series is precisely where “Watchmen” should be competing (and not just because that’s what they put on the DVD box). While HBO Programming Chief Casey Bloys has made no secret of the fact that he’d be interested in further seasons of the series, showrunner Damon Lindelof has been resolute in his stance that the show’s nine episodes fully captured the story he was set on telling and encouraging the network to continue the series as an anthology, with each season as a self-contained story. Assuming a new season would have no cast carryover from Lindelof’s season, the show would retain the limited series classification similarly utilized by FX’s “American Horror Story” and “Fargo,” or Hulu’s “Castle Rock.”

Still, “Watchmen” made a fine showing for itself competing as a drama series in recent months, with director Nicole Kassell winning a DGA Award for her work on “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice” and the writing staff winning a WGA Award for New Series, plus several other award nominations.

The 2020 Emmy Awards eligibility window closes May 31 with nomination-round voting beginning June 15.

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