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Emmy Predictions: Non-Fiction, Informational, Writing, Directing and Exceptional Merit

I continue my series of Emmy predictions with the programs eligible in the categories for Best Documentary of Non-Fiction Series, Best Documentary or Non-Fiction Special, Best Informational Series or Special, Best Writing and Directing in Non-Fiction, and Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. Let’s take a look at the categories…

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The Abolitionists (American Experience)
American Masters
North America
Pioneers of Television

*I’m not sure why, but the category title has changed. For the last 10 years the category has been known as Best Non-Fiction Series. They’ve know added Documentary to the title and created a new category called Best Informational Series or Special. There’s not a huge distinction between each category. Focusing on this one, American Masters is a safe bet. American Experience also does well here. Pioneers of Television was nominated here two years ago and should be good for another one. North America is another one of those Discovery documentary programs along the lines of Planet Earth, Life and Frozen Planet. It should be expected to make the lineup. For the last spot I’m going with Vice, which is a newsmagazine show that aired on HBO after Real Time with Bill Maher. The HBO factor should help push it ahead of the other possible contenders. Watch out for possible spoilers with Locked Up Abroad and Witness.*

[ALSO IN CONTENTION: Beyond Scared Straight, Locked Up Abroad, NY Med, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, Shakespeare Uncovered, Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman, Witness

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Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream
The Dust Bowl
Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic

*These special categories are tough to prediction. Obviously the shows change every year and the competition is different. What could be a sure thing one year, can be an also-ran another year. This year is tougher and it wouldn’t surprise me if all of these predictions were left off in favor of five others in the ‘Also In Contention’ list I have. The Dust Bowl is another Ken Burns presentation, which always do well at the Emmys. Presidential/political documentaries have been nominated frequently the last few years. The HBO documentaries about Ethel Kennedy and George H.W. Bush are pushed to the front of the line. The categories also lends to favor more popular specials that have aired. Beyonce’s documentary was probably the most watched one in the contenders list and that’s always helpful. I’m guessing Richard Pryor gets the last slot. It aired the most recently and got positive reviews.*

[ALSO IN CONTENTION: All the President’s Men Revisited, Bad 25, Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy (Great Performances), Broadway or Bust, Crossfire Hurricane, Deadliest Catch Revelations, Death and the Civil War (American Experience), The Godfather Legacy, History of the Eagles, It Gets Better 2, Magical Mystery Tour Revisited (Great Performances), Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden, Pioneers of Television: Lucy Carol & Betty, The World According to Dick Cheney, The Zen of Bennett]

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Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
The ’80s: The Decade That Made Us
Inside the Actors Studio
Oprah’s Master Class
Stand Up to Cancer

*We are in unchartered territory with this new category. The Emmys added it this year so it’s tough to say what will be nominated when this category never existed before this year. Anthony Bourdain’s previous series received numerous nominations of the years. I expect his new one will do the same. The annual Stand Up to Cancer special has also been nominated a few times before. Inside the Actors Studio has been nominated for 15 Emmys and has never won at all. Maybe the new category will finally get it a win (even though it’s way past its prime). The ’80s was a three-part series that aired on National Geographic that got pretty decent ratings for the network. And OWN has a few shows in the category. I’m guessing that Oprah’s Master Class is the one that breaks through.*

[ALSO IN CONTENTION: Iconoclasts, Inside Comedy, Megastunts: Highwire Over Niagara Falls Live, Michael Feinstein’s American Songbook, Oprah’s Next Chapter, Our America with Lisa Ling, Serious Jibber-Jabber with Conan O’Brien]

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The Abolitionists (American Experience) – “Part 1” – Rob Rapley
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown – “Libya” – Anthony Bourdain
The Dust Bowl – “The Great Plow Up” – Dayton Duncan
41 – Stephen Beck & Jeffrey Roth
Silicon Valley (American Experience) – Michelle Ferrari & Randall MacLowry

*Anthony Bourdain has been nominated the last three years, American Experience gets a couple of nominations here, and you can never bet against a Ken Burns series.*

[ALSO IN CONTENTION: An Apology to Elephants, Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy (Great Performances), Crossfire Hurricane, Death and the Civil War (American Experience), Ethel, The Godfather Legacy, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, North America, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic, The Weight of the Nation for Kids: Quiz Ed!, The World According to Dick Cheney

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The Amazing Race – “Be Safe and Don’t Hit a Cow” – Bertram van Munster
American Masters – “Invention David Geffen” – Susan Lacy
The Dust Bowl – “The Great Plow Up” – Ken Burns
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God – Alex Gibney
Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic – Marina Zenovich

*Another tough category to predict. The Amazing Race always gets nominated here. And then I’m splitting the category with two documentaries and two PBS specials. But once again, this is hard to predict and I could see all five of these being replaced with some of the programs/directions mentioned in the ‘Also In Contention’ category.*

[ALSO IN CONTENTION: The Abolitionists (American Experience), American Masters (“The Day Carl Sandburg Died”, “Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance”, “Mel Brooks: Make a Noise” or “Philip Roth: Unmasked”), Beyonce: Life Is But a Dream, Crossfire Hurricane, Death and the Civil War (American Experience), Ethel, 41, Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Bin Laden, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, Project Runway, Top Chef, Witness, The World According to Dick Cheney]

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Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Henry Ford (American Experience)
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream (Independent Lens)

*I think I’ve said this for every category in this post, but this is tough to predict. This one especially because the ballots were not released online. The only two predictions here I know for sure are on the ballot are Half the Sky and Mea Maxima Culpa, and that’s based on FYC material. The only other program I know is eligible here is Earth From Space (NOVA). The other predictions and contenders are based on documentaries that were submitted in technical categories but not in non-fiction or informational special categories. Also, docs that aired on PBS but might not be eligible.*

[ALSO IN CONTENTION: Detropia (Independent Lens), Earth From Space (NOVA), Electoral Dysfunction, Glory Hounds, The House I Live In (Independent Lens), The Invisible War (Independent Lens), Lunarcy!, Silicon Valley (American Experience)]