2019 Emmy Predictions: ‘Chernobyl’ Could Upset ‘When They See Us’

The 2019 Emmy Awards are set to go live on Sept. 22. While a slew of awards were handed out at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15, the main categories remain anyone’s game. One of the most heavily discussed categories yet to be announced is that of Oustanding Limited Series. With five superb choices on the ballot, fans are eagerly awaiting the winner. As of right now, When They See Us, a fan and critic favorite, appears to be the front-runner for the award, but HBO’s well-received documentary about Chernobyl could pull off an upset.

When They See Us is the favorite in its category

'When They See Us'
(Back Row:) Berry Welsh, Jonathan King, Freddy Miyares, Chris Chalk,Jovan Adepo, Justin Cunningham, Niecy Nash (Front Row:) Jane Rosenthal, Joshua Jackson, Michael K. Williams, Ethan Herisse, Asante Blackk and Jharrel Jerome | Photo by Handout/Getty Images for Netflix

Netflix Original, When They See Us, touched on the infamous 1989 Central Park jogger case. On April 19, 1989, Trisha Melli, an investment banker, was raped and beaten in the North Woods of Central Park. Five men, picked up by police simply because they were in the park at the time of the incident, were convicted of the crime, even though they had nothing to do with it. Odie Henderson, for RogerEbert.com, notes that the limited series touches on one of the most prolific issues in the American criminal justice system – the fact that people of color are presumed guilty at all times.

With a superb cast, vivid recreations of events, and the inclusion of the five men who were convicted than later proved innocent appearing in the series, When They See Us is an absolute front-runner for a plethora of Emmy Awards. The top prize the limited series is jockeying for is Outstanding Limited Series, and many believe it will take home the award, but Chernobyl has the opportunity to pull off an upset.

Chernobyl was a runaway success for HBO

Craig Mazin, the creator of Chernobyl, has two previous credits to his name. He worked on both sequels to the hit comedy, The Hangover. While he previously worked in comedy, Mazin was careful to give the topic of the mini-series the depth and reverence it deserved. He sat down with Voxto discuss the process of putting together the limited series. Speaking on crafting the narrative, he noted, “So when I had a choice, I went for the less dramatic version. We’re dealing with a largely oral history. There’s a lot of written material, but the written material occasionally disagrees with itself. It’s a story that took place in a closed society. There’s a lot of challenges there.”

The abandoned city of Pripyat, the focus of ‘Chernobyl’ (HBO) | Photo by: STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images

That doesn’t mean Mazin didn’t manage to anger some people. When the limited series hit HBO’s schedule, there was controversy. Russian media outlets have considered the series the scourge of their darkest moment. Not all American media outlets were enamored with the series, either, despite it being the top-rated program on IMDB. Masha Gessen of The New Yorker chastised Mazin for crafting caricatures of the people involved in the disaster.

What series is Chernobyl and When They See Us competing against?

While Chernobyl and When They See Us are among the most discussed limited series on the ballot at the 2019 Emmy Awards, they aren’t the only nominees in the category worth mentioning. The two favorites will go up against Escape at Dannemora, Fosse/Verdon, and Sharp Objects.

Escape at Dannemora took a deep dive into a 2015 prison escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York. Two convicted murderers were aided in their escape attempt by an employee. The convicted felons had an ongoing relationship with the employee.

Sharp Objects, a limited series created by Marti Noxon, utilizes the debut novel of Gillian Flynn. The novel deals with a seasoned crime reporter who returns to her hometown after being released from a psychiatric hospital. Back home, under the watchful eye of her mother, she begins investigating the mysterious death of two young girls.   

Gwen Verdon and Bob Fosse
(L-R) Actress Gwen Verdon and choreographer Bob Fosse | Photo by Martha Holmes/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images

The final contender in the category, Fosse/Verdon, aired on FX in April 2019 in eight parts. The limited series deals with the partnership between Bob Fosse, a choreographer, and Gwen Verdon, an acclaimed Broadway dancer. Their troubled romantic relationship is explored in-depth, behind the backdrop of the entertainment industry.