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Emmys: Too much of a good thing

Toni Collette and Colin Firth in "The Staircase."
(HBO Max)
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I’m firming up my weekend plans: First, a trip to the open house at the Bel-Air estate once owned by all-timer auteur Ernst Lubitsch. I want to see how the “Lubitsch touch” extends to home decor. Then I’m going to pop over to the best Thai food court in L.A. Nothing costs more than seven or eight dollars here, a good thing, because that Lubitsch home lists at $20 million. I need to conserve my funds!

Also: Emmy voting is underway. Will Television Academy members find something as good as a two-scoop special of mango and coconut gelato served over coconut sticky rice? That’s a tall order. “Barry,” maybe?

I’m Glenn Whipp, awards columnist for the Los Angeles Times and host of The Envelope’s Friday newsletter.
I just ate breakfast, but I’m still hungry. I can’t imagine why.

Limited series Emmy categories could use a little inflation

Here we are, six months into the year and the front-runners in the limited series categories remain the same shows we watched and loved from 2021 — HBO’s sharp satire of entitlement, “The White Lotus” (which premiered nearly a year ago) and two series from October, Netflix’s intimate drama “Maid” and Hulu’s heroic “Dopesick.” You’ve already heard “Dopesick” star Michael Keaton deliver a couple of moving speeches while accepting awards for his poignant work in the series. He’ll likely give another one at the Emmys as well.

All this is rather surprising, given the number of splashy limited series that networks and streamers dumped on audiences before the May 31 Emmys eligibility deadline. These shows boasted such A-list stars as Viola Davis, Gillian Anderson (“The First Lady”), Andrew Garfield (“Under the Banner of Heaven”) and Julia Roberts and Sean Penn (“Gaslit”). HBO gave us a terrific true-crime series starring Colin Firth (“The Staircase”). There were in-depth examinations of the rise and fall of Theranos (“The Dropout”) and WeWork (“WeCrashed”) and ... and ... and ... you get the picture.

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Maybe the reason the early favorites remain the favorites is that voters couldn’t possibly have the time, energy or (let’s be honest) the inclination to delve into all these titles that arrived around the same time.

That and those initial favorites, particularly “Maid” and “The White Lotus,” remain the best limited series of this Emmy year. These shows — and their casts — figure prominently in my Emmy predictions, which I made in a recent column. If a series near and dear to your heart — “The Dropout,” maybe — didn’t make the final cut, don’t get mad at me. Blame the TV academy, which still hasn’t bumped up the number of nominees for the limited series categories.

Murray Bartlett in "The White Lotus."
(Mario Perez / HBO)

Samuel L. Jackson has no regrets

If you want to soak in a moment of pure joy — and who doesn’t these days? — watching Samuel L. Jackson receive an honorary Oscar from Denzel Washington at this year’s Governors Awards should do the trick.

Jackson and Washington go way back to early New York theater days when Washington was an understudy on a play called “The Mighty Gents” that Jackson was doing for the Public Theater under Joseph Papp. Washington ended up going on stage opening night after the actor he was backing up was fired. And, of course, Washington killed it.

“He just showed me the review of that show not long ago,” Jackson says. He kept the review? “Of course, he did!” Jackson says, bursting out in laughter.

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I spent some time with Jackson recently, talking about his work in the well-reviewed Apple TV+ limited series “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” his recent lifetime achievement Oscar and many other things, a couple of which made the interview go viral. The main one: Jackson’s assertion that he’d rather be playing Nick Fury in Marvel blockbusters or wielding a lightsaber as Mace Windu than doing “statue-chasing movies.”

“I want to do the stuff that made me want to go to the movies when I was a kid,” Jackson told me. “I want to do that movie that people just want to see so they can get out of themselves. That’s the guy I chose to be, and I’m fine with it. I’m satisfied because that’s who I am. I’m the guy who does the lines that people see on T-shirts. There’s actors who go their whole careers and no one can quote a line they’ve said in a movie. People go to watch my movies to see how crazy I’m going to be or see how many times I say motherf—. [Laughs] Whatever gets them in the seats.”

A portrait of Samuel L. Jackson in a burgundy cap looking skyward.
Samuel L. Jackson stars in the limited series “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey.”
(Michael Tyrone Delaney / For The Times)

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Why we like stories about grifters and their downfall

Well ... I mean, they’re grifters! Who doesn’t want to see a crook get comeuppance? Unless it’s, say, Walter White or Tony Soprano or Don Vito Corleone or ... OK ... but, technically they weren’t grifters. They were criminal masterminds ... except for maybe Tony, who possessed acute instincts about people but, too often, let his insecurity and impulsiveness get the best of him.

Anyway, my old friend Bob Strauss wrote a story recently about the recent spate of docudrama series charting the rise and recent fall of three start-up unicorns — Hulu’s “The Dropout,” Apple TV+’s “WeCrashed” and Showtime’s “Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber.”

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“The combination of wish-fulfillment, envy and schadenfreude is part of human nature, and these stories give you that in heaping spoonfuls,” “WeCrashed” co-creator Drew Crevello says.

Heaping spoonfuls, huh? Makes me think of that gelato I’m going to have at the Thai food court on Saturday. Have a good weekend, everyone!

A man and woman in sunglasses walk through an office space holding hands in a scene from "WeCrashed."
Jared Leto and Anne Hathaway in the limited series “WeCrashed.”
(Apple TV+)

Feedback?

I’d love to hear from you. Email me at glenn.whipp@latimes.com.

Can’t get enough about awards season? Follow me at @glennwhipp on Twitter.

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