Emmy Awards’ Limited Series Race Gets a Shakeup in the Wake of the Coronavirus

When HBO officially classified “Watchmen” as a limited series, the pay cabler’s competitors groaned. That’s because it made what was already a jam-packed and competitive limited series category even more stuffed this Emmy season.

But then came the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, which has impacted production and post-production on countless TV projects, including episodes of programs that were originally slated to premiere in April and May.

In some cases, those airdates were part of a strategy to launch Emmy contenders just under the wire before the May 31 eligibility cutoff — keeping them top of mind at the height of Emmy For Your Consideration season.

Most late-premiering streaming shows are produced with a long enough lead-time that they’re still set to premiere over the next several weeks. But for linear networks, most of the Emmy contenders left to launch are of the shorter, “limited series” nature — and now, that also means that shows that haven’t already been locked must now face moving out of this year’s Emmy eligibility frame.

Already, FX’s next installment of “Fargo” and HBO’s “The Undoing” have been pushed to later in the year. National Geographic’s “Genius: Aretha” also shut down production, and it’s unclear whether it can now make its original May 25 premiere date. Other projects are likely waiting until the Television Academy decides whether to shift this year’s campaign window.

The org is expected to announce a ruling next week on if it will shift the Emmy voting calendar — and if that May 31 cutoff might also be moved to accommodate productions that have shut down due to the pandemic.

Year 4 of “Fargo” was originally slated to premiere on April 19, and was expected to be an Emmy frontrunner in several longform categories. That includes star Chris Rock, and potential nods for showrunner Noah Hawley, who wrote and directed the season premiere, “Welcome to the Alternate Economy.”

“Fargo” has been an Emmy nomination juggernaut, having won the outstanding limited series category in 2014, followed by nods in 2016 and 2017 for previous editions. FX said “a new premiere date will be determined once production resumes.”

Meanwhile, “The Undoing,” based on the novel “You Should Have Known,” was originally slated to debut May 10 on HBO, and will now launch in the fall, per the network. The program was also expected to be a big contender in the limited series race and other individual categories for stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, as well as for director Susanne Bier and writer David E. Kelley.

Kidman and Kelley will still be in the Emmy hunt this year, however, as the second season of “Big Little Lies” is a contender in drama categories.

With “Fargo” and “The Undoing” out of the way, and perhaps others as well, that might open the door for limited series that might have otherwise just missed a nom in such a crowded category. Besides “Watchmen,” other series aiming for nods in that race include Netflix’s “Unbelievable,” “Hollywood” and “The Eddy”; FX’s “Mrs. America,” “Devs” and “American Horror Story: 1984”; HBO’s “The Plot Against America,” “I Know This Much is True” and “Years and Years”; Hulu’s “Little Fires Everywhere” and “Castle Rock”; Showtime’s “The Loudest Voice”; AMC’s “The Terror,” “Quiz” and “Dispatches from Elsewhere”; Amazon Prime Video’s “Too Old to Die Young” and “Tales from the Loop”; Apple TV Plus’ “Defending Jacob”; Epix’s “Belgravia”; USA’s “Briarpatch”; and TBS’ “Miracle Workers.”

[Photo: Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant in HBO’s “The Undoing.”]

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