By Mark Pinkert
Until recently, the television miniseries seemed to be a dying artform. During the first decade of the 21st century, Band of Brothers (2002) was the only miniseries to receive broad critical and public acclaim. And by 2011, the Television Academy struggled so mightily to fill its outstanding miniseries Emmy category with worthy releases — nominating only four films in 2009 and 2010, respectively — that it eventually decided to combine it with its television movies category in 2011. Since 2011, though, the miniseries has surged back to life. Among others, BBC America’s Luther (2010-2011), HBO’s Mildred Pierce (2011) and History’s Hatfields & McCoys (2012) proved to be giant hits, garnering attention not just from critics but also from massive audiences, and helped to breathe new life into the genre.
The 2013 Primetime Emmys, which air this Sunday, includes among its nominees some of the most widely-seen and/or acclaimed miniseries of all-time: FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum, the second incarnation of Ryan Murphy‘s anthology-style frightfest that stars two-time Oscar winner Jessica Lange and scored more total noms than any other show this year; History’s The Bible, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s epic retelling of “the greatest story ever told” that drew the largest cable audience of 2013; HBO’s Parade’s End, a World War I love triangle with rising-star Benedict Cumberbatch in the middle; USA’s Political Animals, a riveting study of a Hillary Clinton-like figure played by Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver; BBC One’s Restless, a British adaptation of William Boyd’s novel of the same title; and Sundance Channel’s Top of the Lake, from Oscar-winning writer-director Jane Campion and starring Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss.