'Homeless' up against HBO, TNT in made-for category

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HOLLYWOOD — Lifetime’s telefilms, best known for their heartstring-tugging core, may finally be choking up Emmy.

“Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story,” a rags-to-riches story of a girl who goes from neglect and poverty to Harvard grad, will compete against longform heavyweights HBO and TNT in the made-for category.

While the women’s cabler is no stranger to scooping up acting noms — most recently for Sissy Spacek, Blythe Danner and Beau Bridges — the net hasn’t competed in the made-for arena since 1996’s “Almost Golden: The Jessica Savitch Story.”

“At the script stage, ‘Homeless’ was already singled out by the Lifetime executives,” exec VP of entertainment Barbara Fisher said. “When you’re a cable network, you have to figure out what to put your bucks behind, because there aren’t endless dollars. I actually remember the meeting where we decided to put everything we had behind this because it was such an unbelievable story.”

“Homeless” reps this season’s move away from the icon-centered and sweeping-epic telepics traditionally favored by Emmy. Last year’s contenders — James Dean, President Lyndon Johnson, Winston Churchill — fit that bill.

Followed by a tremendous push from both the programming and marketing departments — “The teams really made the movie a standout event,” Fisher said — “Homeless” became the cabler’s top-rated film and the No. 1 film on basic cable among women.

Pic scored Lifetime yet another acting nod for its star, first-time nominee Thora Birch, who said the net was very careful in its handling of the real-life story. “Lifetime was very protective of Liz as an inspiring person, instead of Liz as a conduit to good numbers. And I think that really resonated with viewers.”

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