For four years, Ryan Murphy's FX anthology series American Horror Story was an Emmy darling, racking up nominations and trophies season after season. (Last year, Freak Show was the single most-nominated program at the Primetime Emmy ceremony with an impressive eight nods, including six for its all-star cast.) But this year, AHS was dethroned… by another Ryan Murphy FX anthology series: American Crime Story. How many Primetime Emmy nominations did The People v. O.J. Simpson receive?
Quite a few, and that's no surprise, given that ACS was one of the most critically acclaimed programs of the year, earning a whopping 97 percent approval rating on RottenTomatoes. When the nominations announcement was done, the show ended up with 13 nods — enough to be the most-nominated program of the year.
Of course, this is only taking into account the Primetime Emmy categories (Series, Acting, Writing, Directing); when you start tallying up the technical categories over at the Creative Arts Emmys, Game Of Thrones emerges victorious this year, with 23 total nominations between the two, compared to ACS' 22 total nods. But putting aside those technical categories for a moment, let's tally all the well-deserved nominations The People v. O.J. Simpson received at the Primetime Emmys this year:
1. Outstanding Limited Series
This one was a no-brainer. If it's the most-nominated program of the whole year, it's also probably one of the five best Limited Series of the year.
2. Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie: Sarah Paulson
This nomination was clinched ever since the episode "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia," which found Paulson's prosecutor withering under the glaring spotlight of the media. (This is one of two nominations for the actress this year, in addition to her Supporting nod for American Horror Story: Hotel.)
3. Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: Courtney B. Vance
If it doesn't fit, you must acquit. And if Vance delivered one of the most dynamic performances of the year (which he did), then you must nominate (which they did). Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but it's still true.
4. Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: Cuba Gooding, Jr.
Some viewers took issue with the fact that Cuba Gooding, Jr. bore little physical resemblance to O.J. Simpson — but the Television Academy clearly didn't care, and now the Oscar winner can add Emmy nominee to his list of superlatives.
5. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: Sterling K. Brown
As co-prosecutor Christopher Darden, Brown delivered some of the quietest, most subtle work of this oftentimes very flashy series. Thank god the Emmy voters still noticed his terrific work nonetheless.
6. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: David Schwimmer
Schwimmer is a former Emmy nominee for his work on Friends. He successfully shed his Ross persona to play the befuddled Robert Kardashian — and earned his first Emmy nomination since that sitcom ended for it.
7. Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie: John Travolta
Travolta's performance — and his eyebrows — leaned more into the hammy side of Ryan Murphy's tendencies than the rest of the cast; but as the series went on, his outsized personality started showing the vulnerabilities and insecurities that make Robert Shapiro such a fascinating figure.
8./9./10. Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series or Movie
What really rocketed ACS to the top of this year's Emmy heap was its multiple nominations for both Writing and Directing. In this category, the show was honored for its pilot ("From The Ashes Of Tragedy"), the episode in which the trial officialy begins ("The Race Card"), and the hour focused on Paulson's Marcia Clark ("Marcia, Marcia, Marcia").
11./12./13. Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series or Movie
Three directors worked on ACS: creator Ryan Murphy, Academy Award nominee John Singleton (Boyz N The Hood), and TV director Anthony Hemingway. All three received nominations from the Television Academy for "From The Ashes Of Tragedy," "The Race Card," and "Manna From Heaven" (the episode about the Fuhrman tapes), respectively.
How many of these 13 nominations will The People v. O.J. Simpson win? Unfortunately, the show is competing against itself in most of its categories, so the answer won't be "all of them." But it still stands a good chance of being the most-awarded program of the year. Tune in to the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 18 to find out.
Images: Ray Mickshaw (4), Byron Cohen (3), Prashant Gupta (2)/FX