After three years in which TV movies and miniseries were lumped together in one ungainly category, the television academy believes there's enough programming to again warrant a separation. (The acting awards remain combo affairs, however.) Were they right? Let's take a look at these newly independent categories and, while we're at it, an early peek at the variety and reality races.
FOR THE RECORD
In the variety series category, the wrong show is listed for Jimmy Fallon. NBC says it is submitting "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” for possible nomination and not "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."
"American Horror Story: Coven" (FX)
"The Hollow Crown" (PBS)
"Luther" (BBC America)
"The White Queen" (Starz)
Prime contenders: "Dancing on the Edge" (Starz), "Bonnie & Clyde" (Lifetime)
Bubbling under: "Treme" (HBO), "Under the Dome" (CBS), "The Red Road" (Sundance)
Analysis: With the War of the Roses-era "White Queen" and the jazz-driven "Dancing," Starz might find itself a big winner with two nominations. The spoiler could be "The Hollow Crown," PBS' "Great Performances" offering of "Richard II," "Henry IV" and "Henry V." It's a lot of Shakespeare — varied in presentation, uniform in its excellent quality, which, in any normal world, would be beyond reproach. But some voters might be a bit daunted at the prospect at viewing all this, though "Crown" is just the kind of high-minded project the Emmys should celebrate.
"The Normal Heart" (HBO)
"The Trip to Bountiful" (Lifetime)
"Sherlock: His Last Vow" (PBS)
"Return to Zero" (Lifetime)
"Killing Kennedy" (National Geographic)
Prime contenders: "Burton and Taylor" (BBC America), "Clear History" (HBO)
Bubbling under: "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" (HBO), "A Day Late and a Dollar Short" (Lifetime)
Analysis: Larry David's "Clear History" was a delight, playing like an extended, all-star edition of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." But comedy nearly always draws the short straw, so voters will likely nominate the watchable, forgettable history lesson "Killing Kennedy" in its place.
Billy Bob Thornton, "Fargo"
Martin Freeman, "Fargo"
Mark Ruffalo, "The Normal Heart"
Benedict Cumberbatch, "Sherlock: The Last Vow"
Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Dancing on the Edge"
Idris Elba, "Luther"
Prime contenders: Jeremy Irons, "The Hollow Crown"
Bubbling under: Christopher Plummer, "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight"; Tom Hiddleston and Ben Winshaw, "The Hollow Crown"; Rob Lowe, "Killing Kennedy"; Dylan McDermott, "Hostages"; Emile Hirsch, "Bonnie & Clyde"; Dominic West, "Burton and Taylor"
Analysis: Unless the category has a disproportionate number of Shakespeare enthusiasts who go for one of "Crown's" standouts, the nominees should be those first six listed, all of whom have made indelible impressions in both film and television. It will be a race almost impossible to call with the "Fargo" antiheroes going up against Ruffalo's ferocious turn in the high-profile "Heart," the likely TV movie Emmy winner.
Cicely Tyson, "The Trip to Bountiful"
Jessica Lange, "American Horror Story: Coven"
Helena Bonham Carter, "Burton and Taylor"
Minnie Driver, "Return to Zero"
Rebecca Ferguson, "The White Queen"
Whoopi Goldberg, "A Day Late and a Dollar Short"
Prime contenders: Toni Collette, "Hostages"; Sarah Paulson, "American Horror Story: Coven"
Bubbling under: Mary-Louise Parker, "Christmas in Conway"; Julianne Nicholson, "The Red Road"; Kristen Wiig, "The Spoils of Babylon"
Analysis: Tyson won the Tony for the Broadway revival of "Bountiful," and the Emmy's probably in the bag too. And in case you're wondering, Allison Tolman, playing "Fargo's" decent and determined deputy sheriff, is being campaigned for supporting. It's a curious decision, given that she has as much screen time as Freeman and quite a bit more than Thornton. She could have easily landed a well-deserved nomination here.
"The Colbert Report" (Comedy Central)
"The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" (Comedy Central)
"Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" (NBC)
"Jimmy Kimmel Live" (ABC)
"Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" (HBO)
"Saturday Night Live" (NBC)
Prime contenders: "Real Time With Bill Maher" (HBO), "Portlandia" (IFC)
Bubbling under: "Inside Amy Schumer" (Comedy Central), "Late Show With David Letterman" (CBS), "Conan" (TBS), "Key and Peele" (Comedy Central)
Analysis: Last year, voters rubber-stamped the same six shows — "Colbert," "Daily Show," "Fallon," "Kimmel," "SNL" and Maher" — as were nominated in 2012, an indefensible act in a category with so many great contenders. There's no way that will happen again, right? Right? Oliver has been fantastic out of the gate; his rant against telecom companies' attempt to end net neutrality should earn a nom in and of itself. (After it went viral, viewers crashed the FCC's comment system. That, friends, is democracy in action.) In a perfect world, Oliver and "Portlandia" (much, much funnier than "SNL" these days) make it in this year.
REALITY COMPETITION SHOW
"The Voice" (NBC)
"The Amazing Race" (CBS)
"Project Runway" (Lifetime)
"Top Chef" (Bravo)
"Dancing With the Stars" (ABC)
"So You Think You Can Dance" (Fox)
Prime contenders: "American Idol" (Fox), "Shark Tank" (ABC)
Bubbling under: "Hollywood Game Night" (NBC), "Survivor" (CBS), "RuPaul's Drag Race" (Logo), "The Taste" (ABC)
Analysis: With no notable premieres, last year's class figures to return intact, even though each series has dropped in the ratings. "Shark Tank" was the only reality show to actually gain viewers this year, and the Television Critics Assn. named it the best reality show. Now in its fifth season, you'd think that it would have enough juice to trip up one of the dance shows.
Heidi Klum & Tim Gunn, "Project Runway"
Tom Bergeron, "Dancing With the Stars"
Betty White, "Betty White's Off Their Rockers"
Cat Deely, "So You Think You Can Dance"
Anthony Bourdain, "The Taste"
Prime contenders: Ryan Seacrest, "American Idol"; Phil Keogan, "The Amazing Race"
Bubbling under: Jeff Probst, "Survivor"; Jane Lynch, "Hollywood Game Night"; RuPaul, "RuPaul's Drag Race"; Padma Lakshmi, "Top Chef"; Carson Daly, "The Voice"
Analysis: Let's be honest here: Voters' thought process in this category, created in 2008, can best be described as cryptic. Probst won four years running and hasn't even been nominated since. Bergeron and Seacrest have been recognized every year, though with "Idol's" very public decline, that may finally change. Probably the only sure thing: Betty White will be nominated ... because she's Betty White. And that's the kind of reality we can heartily endorse.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun