HBO feels the heat in one of its stronger categories

The streamlining that has turned Emmy’s made-for-TV movie category into a pretaped segment for this year’s broadcast, for better or worse, reflects the changing times for the genre.

In 1994, Fox alone had 60 movies and miniseries in development, including a Madonna mini. This year, it had zero. ABC occasionally sticks a toe into the water with an original film like “A Raisin in the Sun,” and NBC tosses out an acquired movie with international distribution like “Meteor.” But the movie-of-the-week platform has long been on life-support on broadcast television, its legacy only acknowledged with the occasional special-event film or mini.

HBO produced the first premium channel made-for pic, “The Terry Fox Story,” in 1983 and quickly became the prime supplier of quality television movies. In the past few years, basic cable has stepped up with offerings that have included AMC’s 2006 Emmy winner “Broken Trail.”

Lifetime, like other cable channels, has upped its quality quotient in recent years, resulting in two nods this year, while HBO had three.

COCO CHANEL
Network: Lifetime
Exec producer:
Danielle Passani
Highlight:
Though Barbora Bobulova captured the essence of Chanel, marquee performer Shirley MacLaine’s scene as the older Chanel telling business partner Marc (Malcolm McDowell) how the little black dress came about reveals why MacLaine snagged an Emmy nom.
Why it might win: Biopics have always been very popular with Emmy voters, who also love period settings and fashion. The production values were impressive.
Maybe not: Lifetime doesn’t have much history of winning in this category.

GREY GARDENS
Network: HBO
Exec producers: Lucy Barzun Donnelly, Rachael Horovitz, Michael Sucsy
 Highlight: The visit by Jackie Kennedy Onassis after the press frenzy over the revelation that her relatives were living in squalor. Stunningly played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, the interaction between Jessica Lange as Big Edie and Drew Barrymore as Little Edie was mesmerizing.
Why it might win: The film has been much talked-about in the past year. HBO did a magnificent job of bringing the story to the screen with strong performances and top production values.
Maybe not: The story has been told in other ways, from the original documentary on which this was based to the hit Broadway play. This film didn’t break a great deal of new ground.

INTO THE STORM
Network: HBO
Exec producers: Frank Doelger, Tracey Scoffield, Julie Payne, Ann Wingate
Highlight: Almost any scene in which Churchill engages in verbal fencing fascinated. But the moments with Janet McTeer, in which we see a disintegrating marriage in the face of Churchill’s dogged political ambitions, cannot be forgotten.
Why it might win: This sequel to the lauded 2002 HBO film “The Gathering Storm” is the kind of movie you brag about watching. Both Brendan Gleeson, who gives a stunning portrait of Churchill, and McTeer as his wife Clemmie, are up for honors.
Maybe not: The film is a little too something-that’s-good-for-you, like a high-fiber, low-salt diet.

PRAYERS FOR BOBBY
Network: Lifetime
Exec producers: Stanley M. Brooks, David Permut, Daniel Sladek, Chris Taaffe
Highlight: Sigourney Weaver’s spot-on performance as the righteous mother who turned her back on her son because of his sexual orientation was a heartbreaker. Her epiphany that he would not have taken his own life if she had accepted him could melt even the coldest of hearts.
Why it might win: This movie was very powerful, important and might have changed attitudes, making it easier for gay teenagers come out to their parents.
Maybe not: Despite some fine performances and a solid message, it was a small movie. With bigger and showier competition surrounding it,it will be hard for this film to be the first Lifetime movie to win the category.

TAKING CHANCE
Network: HBO
Exec producers: Brad Krevoy, Ross Katz, Cathy Wischner-Sola
Highlight: The repeated use of flashbacks showing the careful handling of the soldier’s body and his personal effects, from his bloody dog tags to his watch, kept a not-so-gentle reminder flowing of the tragedy of war.
Why it might win: The subtle performance by Kevin Bacon and the understated current of emotion spoke loudly about the personal tragedy of war. It tapped into the antiwar feeling while maintaining a respect for the soldiers.
Maybe not: Not as splashy as “Grey Gardens,” the film may suffer from flying too far under the radar.

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