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‘True Detective’ to Submit as Drama Series, Not Miniseries, for Emmys

Imagine the soliloquy Rust Cohle could spin about the philosophical reasoning behind Emmy submission strategies.

HBO has thrown down the gauntlet, making the decision to enter “True Detective” into the Primetime Emmy drama series categories rather than the miniseries field. It’s a statement that HBO feels it has more than a fighting chance with the Matthew McConaughey-Woody Harrelson starrer in the top series category — even against such heatseekers as “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “Homeland” and its own “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire” — as well as the lead drama actor race.

True Detective” likely would have had an easy trot to victory at the Emmycast in August in the miniseries category. The series fits the objective definition of a miniseries in that it is designed to be reinvented with an entirely new cast, setting and premise each year.

But the eight-episode drama caught fire for HBO in its January-February run, spurring pop culture buzz and critical praise for stars McConaughey and Harrelson. Some pundits even suggested that the near-universal acclaim for McConaughey’s work in “True Detective” helped the actor secure his acting Oscar win earlier this month for “Dallas Buyers Club.”

There was also strong appreciation within the creative community for the unusual approach to the series taken by creator Nic Pizzolatto, who wrote all eight hours and worked with the same director, Cary Fukunaga, for the whole run. That could easily translate to writing and directing noms for the show.

McConaughey and Harrelson are likely shoo-ins for nominations, even with the strong field of other leading men in the race. But then the question becomes whether the two would split the vote in favor of another nominee, or will McConaughey’s Oscar coattails stretch all the way to late Aug. 25 when the Emmys are handed out?

HBO would not elaborate on the decision. The pay cabler let the word out subtly Tuesday in an email message to reporters listing all the shows that it intends to submit for Emmy consideration in comedy and drama categories. The cabler has not previously sent such a formal declaration to reporters, at least not in recent memory.

Other than “True Detective,” HBO’s submission list had no surprises: “Boardwalk,” “Thrones,” “The Newsroom” and “True Blood” in drama and comedy bids for “Eastbound and Down,” “Family Tree,” “Getting On,” “Girls,” “Hello Ladies,” “Looking,” “Silicon Valley” and “Veep.”

HBO knew going in that “True Detective” would garner critical attention given its stars, but the show also flexed some muscle for the channel. The episodes averaged 11 million viewers across all HBO linear and digital platforms. The premiere telecast of the March 9 finale averaged a strong 3.5 million viewers.

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