Why it might win: Still going strong after a quarter-century with fantastic new profiles on Jeff Bridges, the late ’60s Southern California music scene and John Muir. The season’s focus on subjects with a strong West Coast connection should endear it to many voters.
Maybe not: Show’s perennial presence might lead some to take it for granted. Then again, it has won the category two of the past three years. Time for something new?
“Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations”
Why it might win: Bourdain took a couple of cues this season from Oscar nominees, visiting the “Winter’s Bone” Ozarks backdrop and hanging in South Boston, the setting for “The Town.” Nominated episode in Haiti movingly showcased earthquake relief efforts.
Maybe not: Bourdain visited Cuba, too, which will not be popular with everyone. Has yet to win the Emmy in the category.
Why it might win: New episodes kept the mix interesting, profiling the likes of Black Sabbath, Ellen De-Generes, Vanessa Williams and Ed O’Neill. In-depth specials on Jimi Hendrix and John Belushi added depth and detail not always present in more abbreviated format.
Maybe not: Solid programming, but rarely spectacular. Tried-and-true formula as well as brief running time conspire against finding fresh insight into the profile subjects.
“Moguls & Movie Stars”
Why it might win: Seven-part docu series took a different approach to Hollywood history, giving equal weight to the studio bosses who created Hollywood mythology. Essential viewing for anyone wanting insight into the formation of the movie business.
Maybe not: Even at seven hours, the series couldn’t completely cover the subject at hand. And classicists who believe movies were better way back when might take umbrage with the suggestion that the studio system suppressed creativity.
“Pioneers of Television”
Why it might win: Engaging four-part series spun quick histories on science fiction, crime dramas, westerns and local kids’ shows, providing nostalgia-loving boomers an opportunity to visit with the likes of Stephen J. Cannell, Peter Graves, Robert Culp and Fred Rogers one last time.
Maybe not: Generalist history that at times felt overly familiar and devoid of fresh takes. Interview subjects often didn’t help, either, telling the same anecdotes heard on countless other behind-the-scenes TV specials.
“30 for 30”
Why it might win: ESPN series gathered a host of talented filmmakers — including Peter Berg, John Singleton and Albert Maysles — to recount their favorite sports stories. Nommed episode was superb, telling the tension between NBA players Serbian Vlade Divac and Croatian Drazen Petrovic after their countries went to war.
Maybe not: Not all of the nominated episodes were winners. And many voters have absolutely no interest in sports.
Nonfiction series, specials have H’wood aura
Series | Competition series | Non-fiction series | Non-fiction special|