HBO’s “The Wizard of Lies” is the frontrunner to win the Emmy for Best TV Movie. That’s according to 14 experts we’ve polled from top media outlets, and it’s no wonder why they’re bullish about its chances. HBO has long been an awards juggernaut when it comes to telefilms, and this true-crime financial drama about con artist Bernie Madoff has a remarkable pedigree, directed by Oscar winner Barry Levinson and starring Oscar winner Robert De Niro, along with Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer and Emmy winner Hank Azaria. And it premieres on May 20, which will keep it fresh in the minds of Emmy voters as the mark their ballots this summer.
Nine out of 14 experts are forecasting a win for “Lies”: Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Eric Deggans (NPR), Joyce Eng (TV Guide), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby), Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Adnan Virk and Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed).
The TV academy loves HBO originals. The premium cable network won Best TV Movie seven times in row from 2004 to 2010. Then the Emmys consolidated its Best Movie and Best Miniseries categories from 2011-2013 and HBO films won twice (“Game Change” in 2012, “Behind the Candelabra” in 2013). When Best TV Movie was separated again from Best Miniseries, HBO took the prize two more times (2014-2015).
However, HBO was upset last ear. Though “All the Way” was considered the frontrunner to win, Emmy voters picked the PBS Masterpiece mystery “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride” instead. “Sherlock” is competing again this year with its episode “The Lying Detective,” and history shows that we shouldn’t underestimate it. But only two of our experts are currently predicting it: Kerr Lordygan (Rotten Tomatoes) and Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine). To date, the modern-day “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role, has won nine Emmys, so watch out for it.
Even if “Wizard of Lies” doesn’t take the prize, HBO has another chance of winning for a fact-based drama: “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which starsOprah Winfrey as a woman searching for the truth about her mother, the title character, whose cells were harvested without her knowledge for medical research. Winfrey is also a producer of the film, and she has won this category once before as a producer, for “Tuesdays with Morrie” in 2000. Two experts are predicting “Immortal Life” to prevail: Lynette Rice (Entertainment Weekly) and Ken Tucker (Yahoo).
Robert Rorke (New York Post) is currently the only expert predicting “Churchill’s Secret,” another British film from PBS Masterpiece, starring Michael Gambon as Winston Churchill during the period when the British prime minister hid his life-threatening stroke from the world. It aired last September, but it may be remembered at Emmy time because Gambon is a revered, two-time Emmy nominated actor, and because this period of Churchill’s life was also address by the high-profile Netflix drama “The Crown,” in which John Lithgow plays Churchill.
None of our experts are currently predicting any other films to win, but seven of them expect a nomination for Netflix’s “Black Mirror,” an anthology series that will be entering one episode for consideration in this category. This would be the second nomination in this category for the streaming service, following its breakthrough nom last year for “A Very Murray Christmas.”
Four experts say Lifetime’s “Custody” will be nominated. That female-targeted network was most recently nominated in this category for “The Trip to Bountiful” (2014) and “Grace of Monaco” (2015), and this film has the benefit of starring a pair of Oscar winning actresses: Viola Davis and Ellen Burstyn, both of whom are also Emmy winning favorites of the TV academy.
Three experts are predicting National Geographic’s “Killing Reagan,” based on the book about the assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan and based on a book co-written by recently disgraced Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly. The film stars Emmy nominee Tim Matheson as Ronald and Emmy winner Cynthia Nixon as First Lady Nancy Reagan.
Acorn’s “The Witness for the Prosecution” will be nominated according to two experts. It’s based on a short story by Agatha Christie and stars Emmy nominee Toby Jones and Emmy winner Kim Cattrall. Jones could actually earn a pair of nominations this year, one for “Witness” and one for “Sherlock” as the diabolical villain of “The Lying Detective.”
PBS’s literary adaptation “Anne of Green Gables” is predicted for a nomination by just one expert. The Canadian telefilm stars Emmy winner Martin Sheen.
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions. Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our Emmy odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before nominees are announced on July 13. And join in the fierce debate over the 2017 Emmys taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our TV forums.