Emmys 2024: With ‘Shōgun’ now a drama, limited series is open

“Shōgun” began its life as a limited series, a new 10-part adaptation of James Clavell‘s novel. But audiences loved it (critics too), and FX decided to bring it back by popular demand, renewing the series for what looks to be two additional seasons.

Some naysayers think this is a bad idea, saying “Shōgun” told Clavell’s story from beginning to end and stuck the landing. Moving ahead would mean messing with perfection.

Me? I don’t hold these things sacred. I’m fine, for instance, that Francis Ford Coppola made “The Godfather Part III.” I wish that Winona Ryder hadn’t dropped out of the movie, and I’ve only watched it once since its 1990 premiere. But its imperfections in no way sully the two masterpieces that came before.

To put it another way: I’m still waiting for that second season of “Mare of Easttown.” If I love something, I want more. So bring back Lord Toranaga and John Blackthorne. A flashback episode with Lady Mariko? Risky. But it could work. And if it all crashes and burns, it’ll be years from now — perfect timing to rewatch Season 1.

But the renewal of “Shōgun” did throw a wrench into the 2024 Emmys. Instead of competing as a limited series, “Shōgun” now will annihilate any and all comers in the drama categories. That’s bad news for “The Crown” but an encouraging development for all the limited-series contenders in what looks, for the moment, to be a wide-open race.

Kali Reis, left, and Jodie Foster in “True Detective: Night Country.”

(Michele K. Short/HBO)

LIMITED SERIES

Let’s start with the franchises. After a disappointing fourth season, “Fargo” returned with a new sense of purpose and a back-to-basics story that tapped into the tension present in America right now. “True Detective: Night Country” likewise returned to form, delivering a taut, trippy mystery that deftly wove in observations on misogyny, corporate pollution and racism. Its six-episode run should be the standard for a format that too often feels padded with storylines that exist only to boost streaming numbers.

Some thought “Ripley” was a bit too methodical (OK … slow) in its approach, though I’d argue that, in its meticulous attention to detail, it heightened the stakes and the tension and also made the title character’s resourcefulness all the more delicious. If you’ve watched it, you know that Robert Elswit‘s gorgeous black-and-white cinematography was magnificent. Is anyone offering Italian staircase tours these days? They should.

“Baby Reindeer” was a lot, but in a good way. It began as a stalker story and then grew deeper and more complex as it explored its main character’s neediness and shame. It’s the most-viewed contender, for what that’s worth. “Masters of the Air” found an audience too with its detailed look at the American air campaign against Nazi Germany. Maybe it wasn’t quite as good as “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific,” but I didn’t hear too many history dads complaining.

Really, after a couple of down years for limited series, no one should be complaining, as this category boasts so many worthy contenders that you could spend the rest of the summer watching them. “Lessons in Chemistry,” “Fellow Travelers,” “A Gentleman in Moscow,” “Mary & George,” parts of “The Sympathizer,” all of Lulu Wang’s artful “Expats,” a series all the more powerful for its lack of tidy resolution. One certainty: With this depth, you can’t argue for any “snubs” when the nominations are announced in July.

A woman sitting in a chair looks serious in "Griselda."

Sofia Vergara’s steely turn as Colombian drug kingpin Griselda Blanco in “Griselda” could lead to a nomination.

(Elizabeth Morris / Netflix)

LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE ACTRESS

First a trio of women who elevated their series: Sofia Vergaras steely turn as Colombian drug kingpin Griselda Blanco in “Griselda,” Naomi Watts’ heartbreaking work in “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans” and Kate Winslet’s mad genius in “The Regime.” They all might earn nominations without their series being recognized. That’s star power.

Jodie Foster has got it too, and her work in the finale of “True Detective: Night Country” was gut-wrenching. Between this and “Nyad,” it’s been a very good year for this legend. Then there’s Juno Temple, far removed from her playful “Ted Lasso” character, taking on a Minnesota housewife with a mysterious past — and a skill for setting booby traps — in “Fargo.”

There are also three Oscar-winning women continuing to challenge themselves and viewers — Nicole Kidman (“Expats”), Brie Larson (“Lessons in Chemistry”) and Julianne Moore (“Mary & George”). And for voters with a long memory, “Painkiller” couldn’t escape the long shadow of “Dopesick,” but Uzo Aduba’s rage against the Sackler pharma family was a wonder to behold.

A man in a cowboy hat rides a horse in "Fargo" Season 5.

Jon Hamm plays “Fargo’s” Sheriff Roy Tillman, a modern Marlboro Man who loves militias, hates women and believes he is above the law.

(Michelle Faye / FX)

LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE ACTOR

If you thought Don Draper was a jerk, Jon Hamm would like to introduce you to “Fargo’s” Sheriff Roy Tillman, a modern Marlboro Man who loves militias, hates women (even if they know their place) and believes he is above the law because he is the law. I can’t remember hating a character more, which I suppose is a tribute to Hamm’s talent for conveying delusional hubris.

This category doesn’t boast the depth of the lead actress side, and voters could easily check the box next to Hamm’s name, along with Tom Hollander for his magic act in “Capote,” Richard Gadd and his self-lacerating bravery in “Baby Reindeer,” the brilliant Andrew Scott (“Ripley”) and Matt Bomer’s career-best performance in “Fellow Travelers,” and call it a day.

But I’d also hope that people caught Ewan McGregor playing a charming, exiled nobleman holding onto optimism in “A Gentleman in Moscow” and Hoa Xuandes impressive work as the double agent in “The Sympathizer.” And if this is indeed “Mr. Monk’s Last Case,” I’d give Tony Shalhoub, who has won three Emmys for playing the detective tormented by obsessive-compulsive disorder, a chance to prevail. Or at least secure a nomination.

An elegant woman sits in a chair, turning to look over its back in "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans."

In “Feud,” Diane Lane brought a bitchy severity to her Slim Keith.

(Pari Dukovic / FX)

LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE SUPPORTING ACTRESS

You can’t nominate Foster for “True Detective” without also recognizing her partner in (solving) crime, Kali Reis, just as Jessica Gunning’s empathetic, terrifying turn as the stalker in “Baby Reindeer” must be rewarded alongside Gadd. Sticking with the latter series, “Baby Reindeer” would not have worked without Nava Mau’s raw openness as the trans therapist. She personified compassion.

Among the “Swans” shunning Capote, Diane Lane brought a bitchy severity to her portrayal of Slim Keith. Ignore her at your peril. Jennifer Jason Leigh, likewise, played an intimidating woman not accustomed to hearing the word “no” in “Fargo.” Her transatlantic accent played like music. And I loved the way her character came around to Juno Temple’s Dot, culminating in a hug that couldn’t feel more earned.

A man in a restaurant wearing sunglasses in "The Sympathizer."

Robert Downey Jr. turns up in multiple roles in “The Sympathizer.”

(Hopper Stone / HBO)

LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE SUPPORTING ACTOR

Robert Downey Jr. turning up in multiple roles in “The Sympathizer” was fun and also a bit of a distraction. It’s a gimmick that probably guarantees him an Emmy win just a few months after he took the Oscar for “Oppenheimer.” But maybe I’m underestimating “Fellow Travelers.” If you watched the series through to its devastating finale, you know that Jonathan Bailey might be the actor most deserving of the prize.

Months after many of these shows aired, I’m still a bit nervous about spoiling things. Which brings me to Lewis Pullman, playing a brilliant researcher blinded by science (and Brie Larson) in “Lessons in Chemistry.” His two episodes with Larson constituted my favorite rom-com of the year.

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