It's been just under a year since The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story cleaned up at the Emmys, taking home just about every Limited Series prize going for a total of nine awards. This year, Ryan Murphy has a different anthology series in the running with Feud: Bette and Joan, but it's HBO's Big Little Lies that looks more likely to sweep the board.
Starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley as three moms in a seemingly perfect, secretly vicious beachfront community in Monterey, California, Big Little Lies was a thrilling, juicy, cinematic treat that also boasted some of the most complex, compelling female leads of the year. Directed by Oscar nominee Jean-Marc Vallée, the show represented a perfect blend of big and small-screen talent, and in a seemingly positive indication for things to come, it already picked up three awards at the Creative Arts Emmys last weekend, for its casting, music supervision, and contemporary costumes.
So, just how many Emmys is Big Little Lies likely to snap up this weekend? Let's take a look at the categories it's nominated in.
Outstanding Limited Series
Chances of winning: Almost certain.
Okay, there's some stiff competition in FX's Feud: Bette and Joan and Fargo, plus HBO's The Night Of. But the latter aired so long ago that recency bias probably counts it out, Fargo feels like it's lost some momentum in its third season, and though Feud was generally acclaimed it didn't quite strike the zeitgeist in the same way OJ Simpson—or Big Little Lies—did.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
(Nicole Kidman as Celeste Wright; Reese Witherspoon as Madeline Martha Mackenzie)
Chances of winning: High, especially for Kidman.
While the distinction between "movie people" and "TV people" means way less than it used to, there's still a general perception that Emmy voters like it when A-listers come to play on the small screen. You can't count out Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange's performances as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but once again Feud just hasn't gathered the same buzz. Unless the dual nomination end up splitting the BLL vote, my money's on Kidman, whose performance as a victim of domestic abuse was consistently so devastating and nuanced.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
(Alexander Skarsgård as Perry Wright)
Chances of winning: 50/50
David Thewlis deservedly got a lot of attention for his mesmerizing turn as Fargo's devil incarnate this season, and he's probably the one to beat here. Then again, if Feud: Bette and Joan is passed over in the major categories, Alfred Molina or Stanley Tucci are exactly the kind of industry faves who could pick up a consolation prize. Skarsgård's role is less three-dimensional than most of the BLL players, but he still imbued a monster with just enough humanity to be chilling, and if voters really go all in on BLL, he's got a shot.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
(Laura Dern as Renata Klein; Shailene Woodley as Jane Chapman)
Chances of winning: High, especially for Dern.
Woodley's performance as Jane, the meek new mom in town with a dark past, was less showy and more internal than a lot of BLL. Dern's role was smaller, but contained a couple of spectacularly memorable screaming flip-outs, which could give her the edge. Plus if Emmy voters are anywhere near as enamored with Twin Peaks: The Return as critics, there's a good chance they'll give this to Dern as a kind of year achievement award for her work on that show, even though Peaks isn't eligible until the 2018 Emmys.
Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series, Movie, or a Dramatic Special
Chances of winning: 50/50
Vallée's an Oscar nominee and directed every ravishing frame of BLL to perfection. On the other hand, he's an unknown quantity in television, and he's up against established faves like Ryan Murphy for Feud, and Ron Howard for Genius.
Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or a Dramatic Special
(David E. Kelley)
Chances of winning: High.
Kelley has a long, long history of recognition at the Emmys, dating back through LA Law, Ally McBeal, The Practice, etc. and his work on BLL felt like a major, successful shift in format for a longtime network guy. Unless Emmy voters really turn out for Charlie Brooker's exceptional script for Black Mirror: San Junipero, this one's looking good.