HBO’s “The Normal Heart” premiered on May 25, right under the wire of the Emmys’ eligibility cut-off (May 31), so it’s well positioned to take the awards by storm. But will it dominate as decisively as “Angels in America” did 10 years ago?
The two projects have a lot in common: both of these HBO dramas address the early years of the AIDS crisis in New York City, and both are adapted from Tony-winning stage productions, with screenplays by the original authors (Tony Kushner penned “Angels” for stage and screen while Larry Kramer wrote “Normal Heart”).
“Angels” pulled off an overwhelming sweep of the Emmys, winning 11 in all including Best Miniseries, Movie/Mini Writing and Directing, and all four acting races. At the time, it tied the record of “Eleanor and Franklin” for the biggest haul ever for a movie or miniseries, though that was eclipsed by “John Adams” with 13 wins in 2008.
Could “The Normal Heart” match that total? It’s bolstered by strong critical acclaim – scoring 85 on MetaCritic and earning a leading five nominations at the Critics’ Choice Awards – as well as the 1.4 million combined viewers it drew for its two premiere-night airings. Those are far from “Game of Thrones“-level numbers, but it’s a solid showing for a film with such grim subject matter.
But what about Creative Arts categories? It could be a strong contender for Casting, Picture Editing, Score, and Makeup for its harrowing depiction of the ravages of AIDS, though the contemporary drama may lack the showy details to win more visual categories like Art Direction and Cinematography. Nevertheless, that’s a plausible 10 awards if all goes well for the Ryan Murphy-directed drama.
The biggest hurdle for “The Normal Heart” may be the unusually deep field of longform programs it’ll be competing against. Movies and miniseries have surged during the past television season, including “Fargo,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” “Dancing on the Edge,” “Sherlock,” and “Luther,” to name a few, so it might be difficult for any one program to sweep.
Currently, “The Normal Heart” is the strong favorite in our combined predictions to win Best TV Movie (15/8 odds), while its actors face tough competition on all fronts. Lead star Mark Ruffalo ranks a close second to Billy Bob Thornton (“Fargo”) for Movie/Mini Actor. Matt Bomer is challenged in the Movie/Mini Supporting Actor race by frontrunner Martin Freeman (“Sherlock: His Last Vow“). And Julia Roberts will have to take down Kathy Bates (“American Horror Story: Coven“) for Movie/Mini Supporting Actress.
Bomer and Roberts’s parts won Tonys for John Benjamin Hickey and Ellen Barkin, respectively, in the 2011 stage version, so those roles are already proven winners. Will their success, and the success of the play as a whole, transfer to the small screen?
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