At the upcoming 71st Primetime Emmy Awards Sept. 22, Patricia Arquette could walk away with the award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie for her work as Tilly Mitchell on Showtime’s Escape at Dannemora, Ben Stiller’s excellent series about a 2015 prison escape. Co-star Benicio del Toro is up for Outstanding Lead Actor for the same show for his chilling performance as Richard Matt, while Paul Dano has a chance at Supporting Actor for playing Matt’s escape partner David Sweat. Arquette’s co-star in a different series is one of her competitors for the Lead Actress award: Joey King plays Gypsy Rose Blanchard in Hulu’s The Act, the true story of a mother who was murdered after keeping Gypsy confined to a wheelchair as a child, making the girl believe she had a number of serious illnesses so that the mother, Dee Dee, could be the heroic caregiver. Arquette is nominated as Supporting Actress for The Act, so she could actually take home Emmys for two different true crime parts in the same year.
While Escape at Dannemora is up for seven Emmys, a different true crime limited series has a whopping 11 nominations: When They See Us, creator and director Ava DuVernay’s four-part Netflix miniseries based on the 1989 Central Park Five case, in which five juvenile men of color were accused, convicted and sentenced for the rape of a jogger in Central Park. The boys’ railroading was exacerbated by a media frenzy spurred on by full-page ads (paid for by Donald Trump) in New York’s four major newspapers calling for reinstatement of the death penalty. With Emmy nominations for Jharrel Jerome for Outstanding Lead Actor, Niecy Nash for Outstanding Lead Actress, Asante Blackk, John Leguizamo and Michael K. Williams for Outstanding Supporting Actor, Marsha Stephanie Blake and Vera Farmiga for Outstanding Supporting Actress, and DuVernay for Directing and for Writing (with Michael Starrbury), When They See Us could eclipse Game of Thrones as the big winner this year.
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With other recent hits such as 2016’s FX drama The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story (13 Emmy nominations, five wins) and last year’s The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (nine nominations, three wins), the true crime television limited series is no longer just fodder for campy bad behavior; it has become a showcase of acting, writing and directing. Superheroes seem to be all the rage in cinema these days and dragons are still a pretty big deal on TV, but nothing is killing it quite like true crime—dramatizations of bad people doing bad things. What murders will we all be watching next year?