THE LIM­ITED POS­SI­BIL­I­TIES

Los Angeles Times - - THE ENVELOPE -

In each of the last two years, a stand­out lim­ited series — HBO’s “Olive Kit­teridge” in 2015, “The Peo­ple v. O.J. Simp­son: Amer­i­can Crime Story” last Septem­ber — has steam­rolled through that cat­e­gory’s top prizes.

That’s not go­ing to hap­pen this year as the two most cel­e­brated lim­ited series — FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan” and HBO’s “Big Lit­tle Lies” — are pow­ered by women. Nei­ther has a lead ac­tor in the run­ning, though both of­fer plenty of choices in the sup­port­ing cat­e­gories. (I’d sug­gest Al­fred Molina’s sharp por­trayal of be­lea­guered di­rec­tor Robert Aldrich in “Feud” and Alexan­der Skars­gard’s richly nu­anced work as the abu­sive hus­band on “Big Lit­tle Lies.”)

But even if there’s no sweep, you have to won­der if vot­ers will spread the love be­tween the two cel­e­brated shows or co­a­lesce be­hind one when Em­mys are handed out in Septem­ber. Here’s an early look at the cat­e­gories.

LIM­ITED SERIES

“Big Lit­tle Lies” “Feud: Bette and Joan” “The Night Of” “Fargo” “Ge­nius”

Prime con­tenders: ”Amer­i­can Crime,” “The Young Pope,” “Shots Fired,” “Gil­more Girls: A Year in the Life”

Anal­y­sis: “Big Lit­tle Lies,” “Feud” and “The Night Of ” are the big play­ers in these cat­e­gories this year, with “Fargo” in play too for a sea­son that hasn’t quite mea­sured up to its pre­de­ces­sors. For the fi­nal spot, ABC’s re­cently can­celed “Amer­i­can Crime” could well make the cut. John Ri­d­ley’s crime drama an­thol­ogy earned nom­i­na­tions for its first two sea­sons, and its third won plenty of crit­i­cal ac­claim. But rat­ings for the show cratered in its Sun­day night time slot, so aware­ness of its re­cent run of im­pas­sioned, am­bi­tious episodes may have di­min­ished among vot­ers too.

Whereas, thanks to a huge pro­mo­tional push, Na­tional Ge­o­graphic’s first scripted series, “Ge­nius,” is ev­ery­where. You don’t have to be Al­bert Ein­stein to know that the for­mula ($) x($$2) = awards recog­ni­tion, though it’s worth not­ing that Emmy vot­ers also like to stick to math they know, giv­ing “Amer­i­can Crime” the edge. Bot­tom line: It’s a coin flip as to which of the two shows snags the fi­nal slot.

LEAD AC­TRESS, LIM­ITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Ni­cole Kid­man, “Big Lit­tle Lies” Jessica Lange, “Feud: Bette and Joan” Reese Wither­spoon, “Big Lit­tle Lies” Su­san Saran­don, “Feud: Bette and Joan” Oprah Win­frey, “The Im­mor­tal Life of Hen­ri­etta Lacks” Car­rie Coon, “Fargo”

Prime con­tenders: Felic­ity Huff­man, “Amer­i­can Crime”; Bryce Dal­las Howard, “Black Mir­ror”; Sanaa Lathan, “Shots Fired”; An­drea Rise­bor­ough, “Agatha Christie’s The Wit­ness for the Pros­e­cu­tion”; Lau­ren Gra­ham, “Gil­more Girls: A Year in the Life”

Anal­y­sis: The de­bate be­tween the “Big Lit­tle Lies” camp and the “Feud” fam­ily will con­tinue all the way to the Em­mys. Which is the wor­thier show? And, within each series, which of its leads most mer­its recog­ni­tion? (Con­tin­u­ing with our arith­metic theme, I’d of­fer: Saran­don < Wither­spoon < Lange < Kid­man.) All four

LEAD AC­TOR, LIM­ITED SERIES OR MOVIE

Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of” John Tur­turro, “The Night Of” Ge­of­frey Rush, “Ge­nius” Ewan McGre­gor, “Fargo” Robert De Niro, “The Wiz­ard of Lies” Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, “Sher­lock: The Ly­ing De­tec­tive”

Prime con­tenders: Jude Law, “The Young Pope”; Toby Jones, “Agatha Christie’s The Wit­ness for the Pros­e­cu­tion”; Michael Gam­bon, “Churchill's Se­cret”; Ricky Ger­vais, “David Brent: Life on the Road”; Ti­mothy Hut­ton, “Amer­i­can Crime”

Anal­y­sis: “The Night Of,” though im­per­fect, of­fered a pierc­ing look at the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem with stand­out work from Ahmed and Tur­turro. One of them should win this Emmy, but it’s easy to imag­ine them split­ting the vote be­tween them the same way Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Free­man did two years ago women will be nom­i­nated.

The three like­li­est con­tenders for the re­main­ing two slots are Huff­man (pre­vi­ous Emmy win­ner, four-time nom­i­nee, twice lauded for “Amer­i­can Crime”), Coon (boosted here by her bril­liant work in “The Left­overs”) and Win­frey (who is Oprah). Win­frey gave a gut-wrench­ing turn in “Hen­ri­etta Lacks,” but Emmy vot­ers have over­looked big names in the past. This is go­ing to be close. with the first sea­son of “Fargo.”

McGre­gor’s dou­ble-duty turn play­ing bat­tling broth­ers on “Fargo” will prove ir­re­sistible to his peers, as will De Niro’s cast­ing as Bernie Mad­off in “Wizards.” The fi­nal spot will likely go to Cum­ber­batch, nom­i­nated four pre­vi­ous times (with one win) for “Sher­lock.” Pos­si­ble spoiler: Gam­bon, tow­er­ing as another leg­endary English­man.

By­ron Co­hen FX

“FEUD”: Bette Davis (Su­san Saran­don, left), Joan Craw­ford (Jessica Lange).

Craig Blanken­horn HBO

RIZ AHMED stars in HBO’s “The Night Of” with John Tur­turro.

Chris Large

CAR­RIE COON as Glo­ria Bur­gle in “Fargo,” now in its third sea­son. FX

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