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The television movie category at the Emmys, through the years, has honored such landmark projects as ABC’s “Brian’s Song,” NBC’s “Roe v. Wade,” as well as HBO’s “And the Band Played On,” “Wit” and “The Normal Heart.” It’s probably time that the category be retired.
This year’s category is historically weak. Several of the nominees fall short of the bar of Emmy-worthiness (“Paterno’s” Al Pacino is substantially better than the film itself; “Fahrenheit 451,” driven by worthy impulses, is deeply misbegotten; “USS Callister” is an episode of the TV show “Black Mirror” and not a movie). And it follows two years in which episodes of TV series that snuck their way into the race — PBS’ “Sherlock” in 2016, Netflix’s “Black Mirror” in 2017 — claimed the top prize over insubstantial competition.
Way - Time - Movie - Category - Weakness
It wasn’t always this way. The last time the movie category fell away, it was due to the weakness of an entirely different field; the category merged with limited series at the 2011 Emmys thanks to a dearth of miniseries. But the limited-series form was only just beginning its vogue; at the first ceremony at which movies and miniseries competed against one another, “Downton Abbey” trounced the movies “Cinema Verite” and “Too Big to Fail”; the next year, the movie “Game Change” pulled out a victory over “Hatfields and McCoys” and the first season of “American Horror Story,” the show that kicked off miniseries’ current period as TV’s dominant form. The categories split up in time for the 2014 Emmys — by which time the question of which genre was stronger seemed surprisingly settled.
As limited series have taken over the tube, movies have receded. It’s hardly a surprise: The current more-is-more TV aesthetic, in which generating content to keep viewers subscribing and watching is the ultimate goal, means that a...
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