After 26 years off the air the groundbreaking 1990-1991 drama series “Twin Peaks” was revived by Showtime in 2017 for a special 18-episode limited series, “Twin Peaks: The Return.” Series creators Mark Frost and David Lynch wrote every episode, and Lynch directed every episode. That could give the series a crucial advantage in both the writing and directing races at the Emmys, provided the TV academy allows the revival to compete as a limited series and not as a drama series as it was previously classified.
The Emmys work differently if you’re a limited series. In the drama categories writers and directors submit individual episodes for consideration. The same is true in the movie/limited series categories — unless you’re credited with the entire series. That means Lynch and Frost could submit all 18 episodes as a whole for writing, and Lynch could submit all 18 for directing, which could boost their Emmy chances for a few reasons. First, it prevents vote-splitting, which is a risk if multiple episodes from the same series are nominated in the same category. Second, it allows voters to consider a complete story arc instead of just one episode out of context. Third, a voter might consider it a more impressive achievement overall to write or direct 18 episodes than just one.
For the last three years the Emmy for Best Movie/Limited Directing has gone to a complete limited series with a single director. In 2015 Lisa Cholodenko won for the four-hour “Olive Kitteridge.” Then in 2016 Susanne Bier won for the six-hour “The Night Manager.” And in 2017 Jean-Marc Vallee won for the seven-hour “Big Little Lies.” The case of “The Night Manager” might be especially telling since it was up against three episodes of the Emmy juggernaut “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” which ultimately won Best Limited Series; Bier’s achievement helming all six episodes might have swayed voters, and “O.J.” might also have split votes. And it doesn’t hurt that Cholodenko, Bier and Vallee, like Lynch, are primarily known for their work on the big-screen. Emmy voters love to honor highly admired movie directors, as they have also done in recent years with Mike Nichols (“Wit” in 2001, “Angels in America” in 2004), Tom Hooper (“Elizabeth I” in 2006) and Steven Soderbergh (“Behind the Candelabra,” 2013).
But the same trend hasn’t emerged in the Movie/Limited Writing category. Jane Anderson won in 2015 for writing “Olive Kitteridge” in its entirety, but in 2016 an individual episode of “People v. O.J.” (“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” by D.V. DeVincentis) beat David Farr for writing all of “Night Manager.” And in 2017 one episode of “Black Mirror” (“San Junipero” by Charlie Brooker) upset David E. Kelley for writing all episodes of “Big Little Lies” — though it’s worth noting that “Black Mirror” is an episode-by-episode anthology series, so “San Junipero” was its own complete story arc just like “Big Little Lies,” only shorter.
It’s hard to imagine that any other writers or directors will emerge this season who are able to submit a full 18 hours of a limited series for consideration. And when you combine that with the prestige of Lynch and “Twin Peaks,” that could make him hard to beat. Lynch has long been a darling of art-house cinema with four Oscar nominations under his belt, and since its short run in the 1990s “Twin Peaks” has only grown in esteem for its auteurist style, which anticipated the golden age of TV that followed a decade later with shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Mad Men” and more.
This is also an opportunity for Lynch to cash in his Emmy IOU. In its two seasons “Twin Peaks” only won two Emmys: for its costumes and editing in 1990. Lynch didn’t win any of the five nominations he himself earned that year: he was up for writing and directing the pilot, songwriting for “Into the Night,” main title theme music along with series composer Angelo Badalamenti, and Best Drama Series as a producer. “L.A. Law” won the top prize that year. So a vote for his 18 hours of work on “Twin Peaks: The Return” would give the television academy a chance to make it up to him — 18 times over.
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