What’s the best strategy to get ahead in the brutally competitive Outstanding Limited Series category at the Emmys?
Should you drop your show early, so voters have plenty of time to watch, absorb and live with it before they’re overwhelmed by other contenders? HBO’s “The White Lotus,” Hulu’s “Dopesick” and Netflix’s “Maid” hope so.
Or is it better to come out in the first couple of months of the new year, as Television Academy members begin to think more seriously about this year’s Emmys? That could be the ticket for later Hulu entries like “The Dropout,” “Pam & Tommy” and “The Girl From Plainville.”
Or should you wait and premiere in the last month or two of Emmy eligibility, where you might be one of the final things voters discover and love? Starz’s “Gaslit,” HBO Max’s “The Staircase” and FX’s “Under the Banner of Heaven” are opting for that strategy.
When nominations are announced on July 12 after voters cast their ballot between June 16 and 27, the finalists will likely be a mixture from those three periods. But the category, always competitive, is so jammed this year that you could fill a slate of worthy nominees with nothing but shows about real-life swindlers, scammers and cheaters: “The Dropout” (Amanda Seyfried as Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes), “WeCrashed” (Jared Leto as WeWork founder Adam Neumann), “Inventing Anna” (Julia Garner as fake heiress Anna Delvey), “Super Pumped” (Joseph Gordon-Levitt as former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick) and “We Own This City” (Jon Bernthal as corrupt Baltimore cop Wayne Jenkins).
Or accused murderers: Elle Fanning in “The Girl From Plainville,” the Purdue Pharma execs in “Dopesick,” Colin Firth in “The Staircase,” the Mormon murderers in “Under the Banner of Heaven” and Jessica Biel in “Candy.”
What makes it particularly tough is that the limited series category – which this year is technically Outstanding Limited Series or Anthology Series – is limited by the Television Academy’s rules to what will almost certainly be just five nominees. As in most categories, this one will require more than 80 eligible series to trigger the move to six nominees, and there simply aren’t that many limited series made.
So while Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Drama Series are guaranteed eight nominees each, Outstanding Limited Series will only have five, this despite the fact that it has become such a prestigious category that it was handed out as the final award at last year’s Emmys.
And that sets up a fearsome battle between dozens of limited series that came out during three distinct phases of the Emmy calendar.
The first phase started before last year’s Emmy nominations were even announced on July 13, with Mike White’s wry “The White Lotus” premiering on HBO to acclaim on July 11 and Peacock’s “Dr. Death” debuting four days later. September and October saw “Scenes From a Marriage” (which landed a Toronto Film Festival premiere), Ryan Murphy’s “Impeachment” (part of the “American Crime Story” series, which once dominated the category), Netflix’s “Maid” and its dark “Midnight Mass” and Hulu’s “Dopesick,” which became the most awarded limited series through the winter guild awards. December closed out the year with a cult favorite, “Landscapers,” and two major contenders, “Station Eleven” and Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” spinoff “1883,” just in time to capitalize on its parent show’s newfound visibility on the awards circuit.
The second phase was the beginning of 2021, when ABC dropped its Emmett Till drama “Women of the Movement” early in the new year. February brought a trio of contenders in Hulu’s “Pam & Tommy,” Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” and Showtime’s “Super Pumped.” And then the floodgates opened in March, with Seyfried in “The Dropout,” Renéee Zellweger in “The Thing About Pam,” Samuel L. Jackson in “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” Leto and Anne Hathaway in “WeCrashed,” Fanning in “The Girl From Plainville” and Oscar Isaac in “Moon Knight.”
The final blast of contenders came in the final six weeks of eligibility, from the middle of April until the end of May. There were two scandal shows, “Anatomy of a Scandal” and “A Very British Scandal,” along with the star-studded anthology series “The First Lady.” And in the final week of April, there was “Gaslit” on the 24th, “We Own This City” on the 25th and the Mormon mystery “Under the Banner of Heaven” as well as the Hollywood tale “The Offer” on the 28th. May, not to be outdone, dropped “The Staircase,” “Candy,” “Angelyne” and, on the final day of eligibility, Danny Boyle’s Sex Pistols chronicle, “Pistol.”
While this year’s field is jammed and appearances can be deceiving prior to voting, the top five appear to be three shows that voters have been able to see since 2021 – “The White Lotus,” “Dopesick” and “Maid” – plus “The Dropout” from March and “The Staircase” from May.
But a number of limited series, including “Gaslit” and “1883,” are strong contenders to get in, while others (“The Girl From Plainville,” “Pam & Tommy,” “The First Lady”) may have better luck in the acting categories.
Here’s what we see as the pre-voting lay of the land in a very crowded category.
The High Five
“The Staircase” (HBO Max)
“The White Lotus” (HBO)
“The Dropout” (Hulu)
“Under the Banner of Heaven” (FX on Hulu)
“Inventing Anna” (Netflix)
“Station Eleven” (HBO Max)
“We Own This City” (HBO)
“The Girl From Plainville” (Hulu)
“Moon Knight” (Disney+)
“Pam & Tommy” (Hulu)
“A Very British Scandal” (Amazon Prime Video)
“Scenes From a Marriage” (HBO)
“WeCrashed” (Apple TV+)
“The First Lady”(Showtime)
“Women of the Movement” (ABC)
“The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey” (Apple TV+)
“Impeachment: American Crime Story” (FX)
“The Offer” (Paramount +)
“Super Pumped” (Showtime)