Remember the title of that last episode of “Feud: Bette and Joan” — “You Mean All This Time We Could Have Been Friends?” It served as rueful comment on how the two titular Hollywood legends — Bette Davis and Joan Crawford — shoulda-coulda-would have been simpatico if not for the studios, gossips and, yes, their own insecurities and egos.
“Feud” earned 18 Emmy nominations. “Big Little Lies” was right on its heels, pulling in 16. It’s tempting to pit these two worthy limited series against each other, lauding one at the expense of the other, instead of celebrating just how magical and entertaining both of them were.
So even though I’m landing squarely on the side of “Big Little Lies” in these Emmy predictions, know that I’m torn and frayed. Mamacita, where are you with that drink when I need you?
“Big Little Lies”
“The Night Of”
Winner: “Big Little Lies”
Analysis: If “Feud” lamented the friendship that might have been, “Big Little Lies” reveled in the power of female solidarity, combining the pure pleasures of escapist fare (and real estate porn!) with a nuanced, superbly acted look at the challenges of being a mother, a wife, a woman. It was addictive. You can understand why (almost) everyone involved wants a second season. We’ve never seen anything quite like it on TV before.
LEAD ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE
Carrie Coon, “Fargo”
Felicity Huffman, “American Crime”
Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”
Jessica Lange, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Susan Sarandon, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Reese Witherspoon, “Big Little Lies”
Analysis: As “Feud” progressed, it became more of a showcase for Lange, showing Crawford attempting to come to terms with her life and legacy and failing in a way that was almost unbearable to watch. She broke our hearts.
But Kidman went even deeper in “Big Little Lies.” Playing an abused wife at war with her husband and herself, Kidman gave an extraordinary performance — the year’s best — aching and anguished, a master class of subtlety and control.
LEAD ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE
Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
Robert De Niro, “The Wizard of Lies”
Ewan McGregor, “Fargo”
Geoffrey Rush, “Genius”
John Turturro, “The Night Of”
Analysis: We should be well past the point where a great movie actor, in this case De Niro, wins for the novelty of doing a television project. “The Wizard of Lies” dutifully recapped the much-tilled ground of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme and scandal without adding any new insight. De Niro’s charmless turn was purposeful, but that didn’t mean it was engaging — or particularly good. He has a prominent role in David O. Russell’s upcoming Amazon series. If he delivers there, give him the Emmy.
Meanwhile, Turturro and Ahmed were so terrific in “The Night Of” that there’s a legitimate concern they could split the vote from the show’s admirers. That could well happen. But Ahmed’s transformative performance from innocence to hardened prisoner stands as the kind of work that voters love to reward. Give him the slight edge in a category that could go any number of ways.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE
Judy Davis, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”
Jackie Hoffman, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Regina King, “American Crime”
Michelle Pfeiffer, “The Wizard of Lies”
Shailene Woodley, “Big Little Lies”
Analysis: Dern’s Renata appears, at first glance, an absolute horror of a human being — she’s yelling at a child! — but, by the end, the popular actress succeeds in making you empathize with the character’s plight. The six-time Emmy nominee has several big, standout scenes that will stick in voters’ minds. Plus, she rocks an eye patch! What more do you want, people?
SUPPORTING ACTOR, LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE
Bill Camp, “The Night Of”
Alfred Molina, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Alexander Skarsgard, “Big Little Lies”
David Thewlis, “Fargo”
Stanley Tucci, “Feud: Bette and Joan”
Michael Kenneth Williams, “The Night Of”
Analysis: Three strong possibilities here. Molina was splendid playing long-suffering director Robert Aldrich, the man caught in the crossfire between Davis and Crawford. He had much more screen time than Tucci, but Tucci is a longstanding favorite with Emmy voters, owning eight nominations and three wins. And Tucci gave a delicious bite to his portrayal of studio head Jack Warner. But neither role required as much as what Skarsgard brought to the possessive, ashamed domestic abuser in “Big Little Lies.” What a revelation.
“Christmas of Many Colors”
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”
“Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
“The Wizard of Lies”
Winner: “Sherlock: The Lying Detective”
Analysis: “Sherlock” won this Emmy last year, a rare victory in a category that HBO dominates. “Wizard of Lies” probably represents HBO’s best bet this year, as “Henrietta Lacks” couldn’t manage a nomination for its star, Oprah Winfrey.
But as I’ve already discussed, “Wizard” was lackluster. That doesn’t mean it can’t win. But I think voters will rally behind either time-hopping standout “Black Mirror” or “The Lying Detective,” which contained everything — suspense, unease, a great villain — viewers want from “Sherlock.” Give it the slightest of edges.
VARIETY SKETCH SERIES
“Billy on the Street”
“Saturday Night Live”
“Tracey Ullman’s Show”
Winner: “Saturday Night Live”
Analysis: It has been almost a quarter-century since “SNL” won a series Emmy. Twenty-two nominations, tied with “Westworld” for most nods this year, should take care of that.
VARIETY TALK SERIES
“Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”
“Jimmy Kimmel Live”
“Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”
“The Late Late Show With James Corden”
“The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
“Real Time With Bill Maher”
Winner: “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”
Analysis: John Oliver could well repeat last year’s win. And Samantha Bee deservedly broke through with seven nominations, including a nod for variety special, which she could well win for “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.”
But Colbert has been on fire since the 2016 political conventions, and his celebrated “Russia Week” segments aired shortly before voting began. Plus, he’s on every night. That exposure, not to mention the challenge of the daily grind, could be the deciding factor.