‘The Bible’ could pull off miracle at Emmys

Currently, the History Channel’s 10-part “The Bible” sits in only eighth place to win Best Movie/Miniseries in our prediction center with 50/1 odds. Four of our editors currently include it in their predictions of the six nominees.

Are we underestimating its chances?

Remember, last year the History Channel ambushed the Emmy race with “Hatfields and McCoys,” a period western about the famous, generations-long feud. That three-parter earned a surprising 16 nominations, including Best Movie/Miniseries. It ultimately won five, including acting wins for Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger.

Like “Hatfields,” “The Bible” had blockbuster ratings. It premiered on March 3 with 13.1 million viewers, which made it the top-rated entertainment broadcast on cable in 2013. And its finale on March 31 was not far off that number, drawing 11.7 million viewers.

Similarly sweeping, religiously themed epics have done well at the Emmys in the past, including Miniseries nominees “Moses” (1996), “Joan of Arc” (1999), “Jesus” (2000), and “The Pillars of the Earth” (2011). “Joseph” won the prize in 1995.

Possibly hindering the miniseries’s chances will be its reviews: it scored a tepid 44 on MetaCritic based on 13 critics, including Dalton Ross of Entertainment Weekly, who called it a “cheesefest,” and Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times, who described it as a “a tableau of great biblical moments that doesn’t convey why they’re great.”

Variety’s Brian Lowry was kinder, noting that the miniseries is “told with great earnesness” and “hits only a few conspicuously awkward notes.”

The reviews may not be a fatal blow to “The Bible’s” Emmy chances, however. “The Kennedys” — a 2011 miniseries initially intended for the History Channel but moved to Reelz Channel due to controversy over its depiction of the powerful political family — received so-so reviews, but nevertheless earned 10 Emmy nominations and four wins, including Best Movie/Mini Actor for Barry Pepper.

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“The Bible” is produced by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Burnett has never been an Emmy contender for scripted fare, but he did win a Special Class Emmy for “Survivor” in 2001 (before the Reality-Competition category was created). He has an additional 10 Primetime Emmy bids for reality fare, as well as a pair of Daytime Emmys for Best Lifestyle Program for “Martha.”

Downey — who also appears in “The Bible” as Jesus’s mother, Mary — has two previous Emmy nominations for Best Drama Actress in the Christian-themed “Touched By an Angel,” losing to Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) in 1997 and Christine Lahti (“Chicago Hope”) in 1998.

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