Leading the pack in this year’s Primetime Emmy nominations with 24 bids is “The Pacific,” a vote of confidence for the type of big-scale program that is becoming increasingly rare.
Underscoring how much “Pacific” is part of a dying breed, this marks the second year in a row when the TV Acad could only find two nominees in the miniseries category. “Pacific’s” lone competitor is PBS’ costume drama “Return to Cranford,” featuring Judi Dench. Undoubtedly, there will be a renewed call for the TV Acad to address the issue, and possibly consolidate minis into the made-for-TV movie category.
Starting in the 1970s, prestige minis became a point of pride for the broadcast networks, with “Roots,” “War and Remembrance,” “North and South,” and many others bringing in viewers and awards attention. But the broadcasters have pretty much abandoned the format.
The 10-hour “Pacific,” which was years in the making, approached a production cost of $200 million. It hailed from Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone banner and was exec produced by Steven Spielberg, which gave the project the kind of heft that is hard for other longform projects to match.
“Pacific” exec producer Goetzman understands the cost factors but argues that if anyone can pull off these events, it’s HBO.
“HBO has a real commitment to get special, intense big motion picture programming and we applaud them for that,” Goetzman said. “It really comes down to material and if the right material requires a lot of money, then they will do it and if not they won’t.”
HBO’s upcoming minis are high-profile but not as ambitious in scale. The projects include the Todd Haynes-helmed remake of “Mildred Pierce,” starring Kate Winslet.
Bruce McKenna, a scribe on “Pacific,” still sees a future for event-style minis if networks get behind them.
“I wish more networks would take a chance on these types of projects,” he says. “They allow writers like myself are able to examine more depth from the characters and actors can really dive into these characters — plus they can be profitable too.”