‘When They See Us’ is a good bet to nab Netflix’s inaugural series win at the Emmys

Just in time to meet the Primetime Emmy Awards deadline, Netflix is dropping all four episodes of its newest limited series “When They See Us,” directed by Academy Award nominee and Emmy winner Ava DuVernay (“13th,” “Selma”), on Friday, May 31. While Netflix has recently dominated in the nominations, even leading in total bids last year, it has yet to win a top series prize, outside of its back-to-back Best TV Movie wins for “Black Mirror: San Junipero” (2017) and “Black Mirror: USS Callister” (2018). “When They See Us” could be one of its contenders to finally get the streaming service across the finish line for a series award.

The show is about the notorious Central Park jogger case, when five teenage boys of color — four African-American and one Hispanic — were coerced into giving false confessions in the assault and rape of a white 28-year-old female jogger in Central Park in 1989. Due to the creation of false evidence by the police and prosecution, the boys were convicted and served jail time, but their convictions were vacated when the real perpetrator came forward in 2002.

“When They See Us” is an incredibly powerful show that shines a light on the corrupt American justice system and the psychological damage jail time can cause an individual, while clearly warning that racism is still alive and kicking. With many Emmy voters presumably having followed the case as it unfolded, there might be an urgency to watch it the minute it drops on Netflix. In that case, despite its late release date, it would still have time to build up enough momentum before voters mark off their ballot.

SEE Niecy Nash on the women of ‘Claws’ and the harrowing true story of ‘When They See Us’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

The true-crime genre has particularly resonated with Emmy voters in the limited series races, a recent example being two-time champ “American Crime Story,” which won for its debut season “The People v. O.J. Simpson” in 2016 and its sophomore season “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” in 2018. While “When They See Us” differs in style, structure and pace, it may satisfy voters who gravitate toward relevant, timely stories. That’s not to say that other series in the running won’t fill that void – “The Act” and “Dirty John” are other eligible true-crime series — but the Central Park Five case sent shockwaves through American households and is even taught in many schools today. The respect for bringing such a risky, difficult case to the screen, and DuVernay’s name, could put the show in a good position to take home the limited series prize.

It also helps that the show, which consists of four episodes, is the full package: the script delineates all characters superbly, DuVernay’s direction makes the case’s spine-chilling nature tangible, and the star-studded ensemble cast is filled with raw performances that are sure to catch voters’ attention. Across-the-board support is so important because all branches of the TV academy vote in the series categories.

SEE ‘When They See Us’ trailer lets us see Jharrel Jerome, Vera Farmiga and, yes, Felicity Huffman in true-crime drama

Of course, Netflix has multiple ways of winning a series prize this year, with many viable contenders in the comedy and drama series races, as well as limited series contenders “The Haunting of Hill House” and “Maniac.” That said, it could be difficult to unseat “Game of Thrones” in drama and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” or “Veep” in comedy. “When They See Us” not only has the added benefit of its relevancy that “Hill House” and “Maniac” arguably don’t have, but with so many new contenders having premiered in May, the limited series field has become much more wide open.

Currently, the show is still in eighth place in our combined Emmy odds, but that could quickly change once the show actually premieres. As of now, the projected lineup consists of “Escape at Dannemora,” “Fosse/Verdon,” “Sharp Objects,” “A Very English Scandal,” and “True Detective.”

PREDICT the Emmy nominees now; change them until July 16

In the near future, you can check out how our experts rank this year’s Emmy contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Emmy predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on July 16.

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