Emmy Predictions 2019: Best Limited Series

"When They See Us" will need big turnout from actors if it hopes to topple "Chernobyl." [Updated September 16]
"When They See Us"
Atsushi Nishijima/Netflix

Last Year’s Winner: “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: With its win in 2018, “American Crime Story” officially became the first series to win multiple awards in the Best Limited Series category. Now, that’s not to say franchises had yet to earn multiple wins before. “Roots” (1977) and “Roots: The Next Generations” (1979) both won the category, but the sequel season would’ve qualified as a drama series under modern Emmy rules. Meanwhile, Ryan Murphy’s FX anthology is also the only show to have the same title (“American Crime Story”) preceding its new, winning entries (“The People vs. O.J. Simpson” and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace”), but other sequel seasons had won (“Columbo” Season 3 and “Upstairs, Downstairs” Season 4 submitted as limited series and won) as well as unofficial franchises like HBO and Dreamworks’ “Band of Brothers” (2002) and “The Pacific” (2010). Among active franchises, “Fargo” could become the second official anthology series to win multiple trophies — and the first with the exact same title.
Fun Fact: With one more win, HBO would tie NBC and PBS for the most all-time wins in this category. The two broadcast networks have 10 wins each, while HBO is stuck at nine — for now. (Notably, FX won its only three trophies in just the last five years.)
Notable Ineligible Series: “Big Little Lies,” “Fargo,” “American Crime Story,” “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Limited Series. This article will be updated throughout the season, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz from the 2019 race, and read predictions in the rest of the categories, as well. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 15. The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, September 22. Fox is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

While the two networks with the most nominations — HBO and Netflix — are squaring off for Best Drama and Best Comedy as well, this is the category one needs to win and the other wants to win. Towards the latter, HBO is in a prime position to sweep the top three categories. With “Game of Thrones” poised to dominate the drama race, and “Veep” and “Barry” as the top comedy contenders, it could just need Limited Series to complete the sweep. “Chernobyl” is the surprise nominations leader and one of the buzziest titles on the list. On paper, it’s the favorite, and HBO would obviously love to see it take the trophy.

But Netflix needs this win. “When They See Us” is third in total nominations, but only three shy of “Chernobyl” and one short of FX’s “Fosse/Verdon.” The streaming giant has been aggressive in advertising, FYC events, and keeping the conversation around Ava DuVernay’s four-part series active, including multiple unconfirmed reports of high viewership on the platform. Throw in executive producer Oprah Winfrey’s efforts to stress the series’ relevancy, a number of events and interviews with the real-life men who make up the Central Park Five, and actual real-world results sparked by the series’ release, and it’s hard to argue against “When They See Us” as the most important limited series on the list.

If HBO and Netflix are duking it out with the buzziest and most important limited series, respectively, that leaves “Fosse/Verdon” to pick up the popular vote from Hollywood. Focusing on film favorites with two Oscar winners leading the charge, FX’s Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon bio-series certainly appeals to the core of the TV Academy, who still loves stories about Old Hollywood told by respected icons. Its 17 nominations bucks the biggest slight against the series (that, given the low ratings, TV Academy members may not have seen it), so now it comes down to how much they love the show compared to its competition.

That leaves former favorites in the category, “Escape at Dannemora” and “Sharp Objects.” The latter seemed to lose a lot of steam after its summer 2018 debut, struggling through the winter awards circuit even when it landed near the top of critics’ best-of lists. HBO’s “show of last summer” snagged the lowest nominations total of any Best Limited Series nominee (with eight), while Showtime’s prison drama came in second-to-last with 12. That’s still a respectable number, and Patricia Arquette is still the actress to beat in her category, but it will take a big story to reignite the buzz behind this fall 2018 release. Trends favor the newer shows, even when these two have all the bonafides needed to win. Competition will be fierce from top to bottom, so while an upset is possible, this does look to a two-horse race right now.

Power Ranking the Nominees:

  1. “When They See Us”
  2. “Chernobyl”
  3. “Escape at Dannemora”
  4. “Fosse/Verdon”
  5. “Sharp Objects”

Will Win: “When They See Us”
Could Win: “Chernobyl”
Should Win: “Sharp Objects”

Daily Headlines
Daily Headlines covering Film, TV and more.

By subscribing, I agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

PMC Logo
IndieWire is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2023 IndieWire Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.