Summer is officially over, and for entertainment writers such as myself, it's not the fall equinox that marks the end of the dog days, but the start of awards season with the Emmy Awards in late September. The 67th Annual Emmys air this Sunday, Sept. 20, and while there are plenty of shows you might be rooting for in the comedy and drama categories (let's go, Jon Hamm! I have a feeling this could be your year), the Limited Series and Television Movie categories also have some quality programming that you might have missed. This year the Emmys mixed it up, splitting the Limited Series and TV Movie categories in two, to make room for 11 worthy programs across the board and allowing for some interesting newcomers. If you haven't seen any of the nominated shows, here's a ranking of which series are worth watching.
These rankings are split among their own categories: it would be unfair to pit the miniseries Olive Kitteridge against the TV movie Bessie, since they are both great in their own right. But it speaks to the wise decision of the Emmys to split the categories into two, although for what it's worth, I think they could have found some more worthy contenders in the Best TV Movie category. If you're all out of shows to marathon, here are a few to put on your next line-up:
Best Limited Series:
1. Olive Kitteridge (HBO)
The incomparable Frances McDormand stars as the titular Olive in this HBO mini-series, which NPR called "the best depiction of marriage on TV." I can't speak personally to that, but the four-episode mini-series is subtle and intense, like a novel that plays out on-screen. If you like Mad Men, you'll like Olive Kitteridge; it's fiercely character-driven, and McDormand is the favorite to take home the statue for her performance.
2. The Honourable Woman (SundanceTV)
Maggie Gyllenhaal shines in this mini-series from the BBC and Sundance that's set against the backdrop of the Israeli-Palestine conflict. It's smart and fast-paced, and requires some effort to watch, but it's a good marriage of political and personal and the intersection of the two.
3. American Crime (ABC)
Leads Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton were nominated for their roles as Russ and Barb in American Crime, the 11-episode ABC mini-series whose Season 1 plot centered on a racially-charged crime in Modesto, California. Throughout its run, the show explored not only racial tension but family dynamics, grief and tragedy. If you liked the first season of True Detective, you'll love American Crime, which was written by 12 Years A Slave writer John Ridley. It's a little heavy-handed, but it works.
4. Wolf Hall (PBS)
Damian Lewis, Homeland alum, stars in the mini-series adaptation of Hilary Mantel's historical fiction novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies about Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in 16th century England. It's one of the nerdier contenders, and the most British series of them all. The costume drama will satisfy history lovers and stage lovers alike, since the series feels like a theatrical production.
5. American Horror Story: Freak Show (FX Networks)
AHS is an Emmy darling: throughout the four series, AHS has won a total of 18 Emmys. Among the nominees for the mini-series, though, AHS is nothing spectacular —not that Jessica Lange's performance wasn't astounding, but I think if you've seen one season of AHS, you've seen them all.
Best TV Movies:
1. Bessie (HBO)
Queen Latifah absolutely personifies Bessie Smith in this HBO biopic. It doesn't hurt that Latifah has a beautiful song in her own voice and brings the singer's life to the screen with an inspiring vibrancy, and that she was so committed to the role that she even did a nude scene. Latifah deserves the win for the this one.
2. Nightingale (HBO)
HBO is impressive in the category this year. David Oyelowo is equally impressive as both the star and the executive producer in Nightingale, in which he is the only character on-screen. It's a disturbing and thrilling tale about isolation and could win Oyelowo the prize for Best Actor in A TV Movie.
3. Agatha Christie's Poirot: Curtain, Poirot's Last Case (Acorn TV)
This is a sweet nomination and could be a symbolic win: the long-running series starring David Suchet as Poirot has never been nominated for an Emmy Award. So it would be nice to see Suchet honored for his portrayal of Christie's iconic detective, whom he has been playing for 25 years.
4. Grace Of Monaco (Lifetime)
Unfortunately, Grace Of Monaco faced so many issues with production that it became a Lifetime movie in lieu of having a theatrical release. Ouch. Though the cinematography and costumes are beautiful to the eye, the film received incredibly negative reviews across the board, and even the usually brilliant Nicole Kidman was panned for her waxy performance as princess Grace Kelly. Womp womp.
5. Hello Ladies: The Movie (HBO)
Because of the rule change this year, Stephen Moffat's Hello Ladies: The Movie was able to sneak into the race, but it shouldn't be here, IMHO. It might be trying to prove a point about sexism and misogyny, but it doesn't break any new ground.
6. Killing Jesus (National Geographic)
I wish I could understand why Ridley Scott paired up with Bill O'Reilly to make this National Geographic TV movie based on the pundit's book, but it's about as mysterious to me as the fact that Rupert Murdoch just bought National Geographic. It's a wacky world, kids! You won't be lacking if you never see Killing Jesus.
Happy watching, Emmy nerds!
Images: HBO (4), The Weinstein Company (1), Sundance TV (1), ABC (1), FX (1), PBS (2), National Geographic (1).