Emmy for Best Limited Series: ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson,’ ‘Fargo’ & ‘Night Manager’ in three-way race

Even before Emmy nominations were announced on July 14, it looked like Best Limited Series would be a race between FX anthologies “Fargo” and “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” The nominations reinforced that perception, with “People” picking up 22 bids (just shy of Emmy leader “Game of Thrones” with 23) and “Fargo” not far behind with 18. But the nominations revealed another credible contender to win: AMC’s “The Night Manager,” which is up for an impressive 12 awards. Could it pull off an upset?

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“The People v. O.J. Simpson” exceeded our already-high expectations across the board, earning six acting nominations – for leads Sarah Paulson, Courtney B. Vance and Cuba Gooding Jr., and supporting players Sterling K. Brown, David Schwimmer and John Travolta – along with three writing noms, three directing noms, three editing noms and and casting nom – if it could have been nominated three times in that race it probably would have been.

“Fargo” is the only other limited series nominated in all five fields – acting, writing, directing, editing and casting – though it’s not quite as dominant in those categories. It has four acting bids – for lead Kirsten Dunst and supporting actors Jesse Plemons, Bokeem Woodbine and Jean Smart – along with a bid for casting, two for writing, two for directing and two for editing. In fact, “Fargo” and “People v. O.J.” are the only two shows nominated for Best Movie/Mini Editing.

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Those writing and directing nominations are especially key. No miniseries has won the top prize without a nomination in at least one of those categories since “The Lost Prince” in 2005. Before that “Taken” won in 2003 without a writing or directing nominations, but none of its rivals were nominated for writing or directing either.

Because “Fargo” and “O.J.” were so dominant in writing and directing categories, only one other limited series is nominated in those categories, “The Night Manager,” so if an upset comes from anywhere on Emmy night, it might be from there, especially because the Emmys often love British productions like these. Consider past champs “Elizabeth I” (2006), “Little Dorrit” (2009), “Downton Abbey” (2011) and the aforementioned “Lost Prince.” In a close race it often pays to bet on the Brits, but is this race really that close or are “Fargo” and “O.J.” too far ahead?

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The last two Limited Series nominees under-performed relative to our expectations. ABC’s anthology “American Crime” earned four nominations, down from 10 last year. That includes three acting bids – for leading ladies Felicity Huffman and Lili Taylor and defending Movie/Mini Supporting Actress champ Regina King – but nothing else. Last year the show was also nommed for writing, casting and editing.

Roots” has seven nominations, including for its casting and for Laurence Fishburne‘s voice-over narration, but it’s not in the running for writing or directing, and its large cast was shut out of acting categories.

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