This Emmy season filled our DVRs and watch queues with so many excellent limited series — too many to fit into a contracted slate of five nominees. Probably too many for most voters to watch.
You’d think that breadth of quality would be reflected in the nominations, but that didn’t really happen. HBO’s “Watchmen” earned a leading 26 nods; the other four nominated series combined for 27.
That doesn’t leave too much guesswork when it comes to predicting this year’s winner as you’ll see from this early look at the movie and limited series Emmy races.
“Little Fires Everywhere”
Should win: “Watchmen”
Will win: “Watchmen”
Among “Watchmen’s” 26 nominations, it picked up three of the six Emmy directing nods (one of the others went to Lenny Abrahamson for “Normal People,” a show that should have been nominated for series), along with a writing nom (alongside, again, “Normal People” … how did this program fail to get in?). Obviously, its examination of American racism resonates in the current moment. The way “Watchmen” folds the Tulsa race massacre into an alternate history of America, incorporating a beloved graphic novel series, a love story and absurdist humor is inspired and astonishing. Among this category’s slate of superb nominees, it ranks as the best.
“Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings: These Old Bones”
“El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie”
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend”
Should win: “Bad Education”
Will win: “Bad Education”
This is a thin crop, the weakest set of nominees from any major prime-time category. It boils down to a contest between the emotionally satisfying and sumptuously shot “Breaking Bad” continuation, “El Camino,” and HBO’s excellent corruption drama “Bad Education.” As the “Breaking Bad” universe didn’t do particularly well when nominations were announced — no nods for Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk, Rhea Seehorn and Jonathan Banks — I’d give “Bad Education” the edge in a category that HBO used to own before “Black Mirror” came along.
LEAD ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Cate Blanchett, “Mrs. America”
Shira Haas, “Unorthodox”
Regina King, “Watchmen”
Octavia Spencer, “Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker”
Kerry Washington, “Little Fires Everywhere”
Should win: King
Will win: King
This was the year’s most competitive category, a race so crowded that, in the end, it excluded the work of the remarkable leads from “Unbelievable” (Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Wever) and Daisy Edgar Jones’ achingly vulnerable turn in “Normal People.” (It’s the last time I’ll mention that show, but do allow me to wipe away this final tear.) Now that the dust has settled though, King stands as the clear-cut favorite to win for her spectacular work on “Watchmen,” a performance that pivoted between grace and power with a subtlety that anchored the series in truth.
LEAD ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Jeremy Irons, “Watchmen”
Hugh Jackman, “Bad Education”
Paul Mescal, “Normal People”
Jeremy Pope, “Hollywood”
Mark Ruffalo, “I Know This Much Is True”
Should win: Jackman
Will win: Jackman
This is a toss-up between Jackman and Ruffalo, with Mescal looming as a possible spoiler. (He’s the only nominee starring in a new Rolling Stones video, so he owns the “Goats Head Soup” voting faction.) Ruffalo has the showiest performance, playing twin brothers, one a paranoid schizophrenic, the other a weary working man making sacrifices out of familial love and duty. How can he lose? Well, the show was a relentlessly brutal slog, and I’m not sure how many voters made it through one episode, much less six. So that tilts the race toward Jackman, except voters gave “Bad Education” only two nominations. Hmmm … that Rolling Stones song is kind of catchy …
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Uzo Aduba, “Mrs. America”
Toni Collette, “Unbelievable”
Margo Martindale, “Mrs. America”
Jean Smart, “Watchmen”
Holland Taylor, “Hollywood”
Tracey Ullman, “Mrs. America”
Should win: Smart
Will win: Smart
There’s no obvious choice among the “Mrs. America” contestants, ruling them out of the race. Then again, with two Emmys on four tries, I probably shouldn’t underestimate Aduba’s fanbase. And the episode focusing on Shirley Chisholm’s failed bid for the presidency was one of the show’s best. So I’m kind of talking myself into this (check back before the ceremony on Sept. 20), while knowing that voters admire Collette (she won the lead actress comedy Emmy for “United States of Tara”) and they absolutely love Smart, having given her three Emmys from nine nominations over the years. I think she has the edge as “Watchmen” showcased her almost as much as it did King. When she entered in the series’ third episode, she boosted an already great show into the stratosphere.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE
Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, “Watchmen”
Jovan Adepo, “Watchmen”
Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend”
Louis Gossett Jr., “Watchmen”
Dylan McDermott, “Hollywood”
Jim Parsons, “Hollywood”
Should win: Abdul-Mateen II
Will win: Parsons
How to choose among the three “Watchmen” nominees — Hooded Justice, young (Adepo) and old (Gossett) and Doctor Manhattan (Abdul-Mateen). At the moment, I’d vote for Abdul-Mateen, who aced pivotal scenes while his face was obscured, but ask me tomorrow and my answer might change. That’s the problem for this trio, and it will likely split the vote enabling four-time Emmy winner Parsons to prevail. Voters certainly liked “Hollywood” enough, giving it a dozen nominations (though, strangely, not for limited series) and Parsons’ slimeball talent agent was one of the principal draws.