Tuesday’s Emmy nominations contained a smaller batch of competing television shows than usual, as the COVID-19 pandemic delayed production on the newest seasons of many acclaimed shows, including HBO’s “Succession,” last year’s winner for Best Drama Series. However, one area of competition that, in the last few years, has never run out of possible contenders is the limited series race.
HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” and “I May Destroy You,” Netflix’s “The Queen’s Gambit,” Amazon’s “The Underground Railroad” and Disney+’s “WandaVision” were nominated Tuesday morning. All were incredibly deserving. And plenty of other shows were in the running, including the “Small Axe” anthology, “The Undoing,” “It’s a Sin,” “Genius: Aretha” and “The Good Lord Bird” (though several of those were recognized in the acting categories).
The stacked race is a reminder that it’s time for the TV academy to consider some big changes to the limited series categories. The Emmys could expand the number of nominees beyond five, or even split it into separate comedy and drama sections to give more shows their due.
The overcrowded and unpredictable limited series race represents some of the larger shifts happening in TV right now. The limited series format works well for streaming platforms looking for new original content because they can launch high-quality shows in a shorter time frame. Sometimes, working on a limited series gives TV creators more room to experiment and break conventions, since they don’t necessarily have to consider how to sustain the show for a full-length season or multiple seasons. And for big stars, many of whom now move between movies and television more frequently (and the lines between them become increasingly blurred), it’s easier to commit to a limited series.
As a result, each year, many of the most celebrated and acclaimed shows increasingly tend to fall under the limited series umbrella, like “Chernobyl,” “When They See Us,” “Watchmen,” “Unorthodox” and “Unbelievable,” just to name a few from the last two years. For every deserving winner or nominee, there are many more that sadly get left off of the list, simply because there are not enough slots. So overhauling the limited series race would help give more shows the recognition they deserve.
If there comes a time when the limited series boom starts to wane, the TV academy can always change it back. But judging from these last few years, and with Hollywood’s never-ending firehose of new content and streaming services, it seems fairly certain that the limited series will continue to dominate the TV landscape.