The 2013 Primetime Emmy Awards will be presented next Sunday night, Sept. 22, starting at 8 Eastern on CBS, with Neil Patrick Harris as host. From now until Sunday (sometimes multiple times a day), Dan Fienberg and I will be making our usual picks for the major categories – for both what should win and what will (and keep in mind that Dan is much better historically at predictions than I am).
We’ll begin the same way we did last year, by looking at the nominees for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, which features one show that still arguably doesn’t belong here (“American Horror Story”), a huge commercial hit (“The Bible”), a couple of HBO films starring multiple Oscar winners (“Phil Spector” and “Behind the Candelabra”), a prestige cable miniseries that might have turned into an ongoing series if its ratings were better (“Political Animals”), and the start of Sundance Channel’s impressive push into original scripted series (“Top of the Lake”):
“American Horror Story: Asylum” (FX)
“Behind the Candelabra” (HBO)
“The Bible” (HIS)
“Phil Spector” (HBO)
“Political Animals” (USA)
“Top of the Lake” (Sundance)
Alan’s pick: I’ll be perfectly happy with the inevitable “Candelabra” win, as it was HBO’s best movie in forever, with fantastic performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (and a hilarious one from Rob Lowe) and the usual meticulous direction from Steven Soderbergh. But “Top of the Lake” is going to have a prominent place in my best of 2013 list, as a great showcase for Elisabeth Moss, the writing and directing of Jane Campion (in concert with Gerard Lee and Garth Davis) and some gorgeous New Zealand scenery, as well as an example of how powerful and taut a long-form TV mystery can be in the right hands.
Dan’s pick: This is a deeper category than usual and I could be perfectly tolerant of wins for the flawed ambition of “Political Animals” or the polished professionalism and style of “Behind the Candelabra.” Heck, I’m even more tolerant of bat guano crazy pastiche smorgasbord that was the most recent season of “American Horror Story” than I was of the differently masturbatory first season, though since both are really and truly seasons, you know it belongs in a different category. But I have to be boring and echo Alan that when it comes to combining aesthetics, nuance and scope, Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake” is the real standout in this category. It aspires to depth and cultural specificity, while also telling a frequently gripping yarn. It also has the advantage of coming out well enough before “Broadchurch” that nobody had to make direct comparisons.
Alan’s pick: “Candelabra” combines so many things that Emmy voters like: movie stars (both of them Oscar winners) doing TV, a story about a beloved and controversial showbiz figure, and a production history in which Soderbergh couldn’t get it made for an American theatrical release. Plus, it’s really, really good.
Dan’s pick: Last year, I somewhat overestimated the Emmy appeal of the sizzle of “American Horror Story” and ignored how fundamentally conservative Emmy voters are at heart. “Asylum” is out. “Top of the Lake” is probably too challenging and Sundance is probably too inexperienced at making the push. “Political Animals” was too scattershot and, apparently, not well enough received. And “Phil Spector” was just mediocre as heck. Do I suspect that some corner of Emmy voters will be anxious to reward “The Bible” for its wildly successful populism? Yes. Do I think there’s a bigger corner of Emmy voters who would prefer to reward Steven Soderbergh’s “Candelabra” for its gorgeously produced glitz and its slew of tremendous performances from A-list movie stars? Also, yes. HBO knows how to bring home the Emmys and the network hasn’t had an original movie this good in years.