The Wire Knows Who Will and Who Should Win the Emmys: The Variety and Miniseries Categories

Fargo and The Normal Heart should clean up, and Stephen Colbert is poised to dominate in late night. Who should win? Who will win?

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Did you know that the Emmy Awards are this Monday? If that sounds a little weird, it is—the Emmys are strangely early this year, and while most award shows (including this one) tend to favor Sunday airtimes, the Seth Meyers-hosted TV awards are trying to avoid (preseason) football. So we get Monday Night Emmys! While we’ve already gone in-depth on the acting races and seen many trophies handed out (including the Guest Acting awards) at the Creative Arts Emmys, here’s a comprehensive look at the big show. Let’s break down every category and tell you who should win and who will win, concluding with the nominees in the Miniseries, TV movie and Variety Series categories.

Outstanding Variety Series

The Colbert Report
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Jimmy Kimmel Live

Real Time with Bill Maher
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
Saturday Night Live
[Last year: The Colbert Report]

Colbert unseated Jon Stewart from his throne in the Variety category last year (The Daily Show had won the previous TEN trophies) and there’s no real reason to think he’ll relinquish his grip, not with his name recognition at all-time highs as he prepares to assume the CBS Late Show crown from David Letterman. This is not a category that bucks tradition (before The Daily Show’s ten years, Letterman won five in a row), and Colbert is still doing some of the smartest work on TV. I’d take him over any of the other nominees, but if anyone poses a threat, it’s Colbert’s future timeslot rival Jimmy Fallon, who has assumed the Tonight Show brand as confidently as one could imagine.

Will Win: The Colbert Report
Should Win: The Colbert Report

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

The Amazing Race
Dancing With the Stars
Project Runway
So You Think You Can Dance
Top Chef

The Voice
[Last year: The Voice]

Until last year, this was The Amazing Race’s unbeatable domain (it lost only one other time in the history of this category, to Top Chef in 2010). Is The Voice the new undisputed champ, or was that a surprising blip that acknowledged NBC’s genuine hit? Well, if you’re looking for a hit, The Voice is still head-and-shoulders above everything else in this category. It’ll win. I don’t really watch any of these shows (I ONLY HAVE SO MUCH TIME) but I know who I think should win based on the very brief snippets I do catch.

Will Win: The Voice
Should Win: So You Think You Can Dance

Outstanding Miniseries

American Horror Story: Coven
Bonnie & Clyde
The White Queen

Fargo has got to be pretty darn thrilled True Detective is nowhere near this category, because it occupies similar space (supposed “miniseries” that will be back next year with a new story) but now only has the most chaotic and poorly-received season of American Horror Story as competition. If anything else wins here, I’d be staggered, even if Luther continues to build a following and Treme snuck in because of its limited final season.

Will Win: Fargo
Should Win: Fargo

Outstanding Television Movie

Killing Kennedy
Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
The Normal Heart

Sherlock: His Last Vow
The Trip to Bountiful

For some reason (perhaps the 90-minute length of the episodes) Sherlock submits as a TV movie to the Emmys, and it’d have a good shot at winning this category, once again split off from the Miniseries category after several years occupying the same space. But this is where the Academy likes stars, it likes production values, and it likes serious weighty issues. The Normal Heart has it all, and it shall have the trophy.

Will Win: The Normal Heart
Should Win: Sherlock: His Last Vow

Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock
Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dancing on the Edge
Idris Elba, Luther
Martin Freeman, Fargo
Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart  
Billy Bob Thornton, Fargo

Cumberbatch is back from last year and Elba joins him after his show took a year off, but the battle here should be between Ruffalo and Thornton, two movie stars who did different and memorable work and stick out of a very crowded pack. I am giving this to Thornton by a nose because of Fargo’s longer arc, but I would not be shocked if I was underestimating Emmy’s love of The Normal Heart.

Will Win: Billy Bob Thornton
Should Win: Billy Bob Thornton

Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Helena Bonham Carter, Burton and Taylor
Minnie Driver, Return to Zero
Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Coven
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Coven
Cicely Tyson, The Trip to Bountiful
Kristen Wiig, The Spoils of Babylon

This, on the other hand, is a total cakewalk for Tyson, who won acclaim playing the same role on Broadway and should collect her fourth career Emmy (although she hasn’t won one since 1994). The dearth of good candidates is best-indicated by Wiig’s nomination for spoofing the tropes of the limited series in the sporadically funny The Spoils of Babylon, where she was upstaged by a mannequin doll voiced by Carey Mulligan.

Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Matt Bomer, The Normal Heart
Martin Freeman, Sherlock
Colin Hanks, Fargo
Joe Mantello, The Normal Heart
Alfred Molina, The Normal Heart
Jim Parsons, The Normal Heart

Will the Normal Heart folks cancel each other out? By most accounts Bomer does the showiest work among a strong ensemble, but he may not be able to attract enough support to distinguish himself from the movie’s other three nominees. Still, I’d call him the frontrunner. There’s some support for Hanks’ nebbishy good-guy in Fargo but I’m making my personal pick Freeman, who can get a consolation prize for his dark, creepy work on Fargo with his funny, sympathetic, human work in Sherlock.

Will Win: Matt Bomer
Should Win: Martin Freeman

Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Angela Bassett, American Horror Story: Coven
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Coven
Ellen Burstyn, Flowers in the Attic
Frances Conroy, American Horror Story: Coven
Julia Roberts, The Normal Heart
Alison Tolman, Fargo

If The Normal Heart has a pile-up in the above category, the lady-centric American Horror Story: Coven has the same here, clearing the way for Tolman (who should probably be a lead, but gets bumped down due to lack of name recognition) who turned in a star-making performance. Especially impressive considering her closest analogue to the film Fargo was Frances McDormand’s Oscar-winning performance.

Will Win: Alison Tolman
Should Win: Alison Tolman

Directing for a Miniseries or Movie

Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, American Horror Story: Coven (“Bitchcraft”)
Adam Bernstein, Fargo (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma”)
Colin Bucksey, Fargo (“Buridan’s Ass”)
Stephen Frears, Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight
Nick Hurran, Sherlock: His Last Vow
Ryan Murphy, The Normal Heart

Easy: when you’re a well-known director who made the Emmy favorite for TV movie, you get this award. Congrats, Ryan! You’re not what made The Normal Heart special but you also didn’t ruin it! Stephen Frears did his usual subtle, masterly work on the otherwise pedestrian Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight, begging the question of why he so often submits to these staid TV-movie biopics.

Will Win: Ryan Murphy
Should Win: Stephen Frears

Writing for a Miniseries or Movie

Neil Cross, Luther
Noah Hawley, Fargo (“The Crocodile’s Dilemma")
Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart
Steven Moffat, Sherlock
Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk, American Horror Story: Coven (“Bitchcraft”)
David Simon & Eric Overmeyer, Treme (“…To Miss New Orleans”)

Again, this seems like an easy win for Kramer and The Normal Heart, although Fargo should at least give him a run for his money. But I sure hope he wins just for the speech he’ll give. Treme’s inclusion in this category is somewhat ridiculous, but it’s still rare for the Emmys to recognize David Simon, and the show’s finale was a special thing.

Will Win: The Normal Heart
Should Win: Treme 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.