The 2011 Primetime Emmy Awards are on Sunday, September 18th, and Fienberg and I are going to spend much of the next week and a half talking about who we think should win the major categories, and predicting who will. (Keep in mind that neither of us has an especially impressive track record at the latter, so please do not risk any of your actual money based on our guesses.)

First up: Outstanding Miniseries or Movie, the first time that miniseries and made-for-TV movies have been combined into one big category. (Acting, writing, directing, etc. for the two have been combined for years, and so few of either are made anymore that the Emmys just gave up the ghost on presenting two separate awards.)

Where HBO dominated the movie category for the last decade (in the last 10 years, the only non-HBO film to win was TNT's "Door to Door" back in 2003), while the minis category has been a bit more up-for-grabs, with both PBS and AMC winning in recent years. Your nominees:

"Cinema Verite" (HBO)
"Downton Abbey" (PBS)
"The Kennedy" (ReelzChannel)
"Mildred Pierce" (HBO)
"The Pillars of the Earth" (Starz)
"Too Big to Fail" (HBO)

 

What Should Win

Alan's Pick: I have to confess that, like the rest of the America, my enthusiasm for either the made-for-TV movie or the miniseries has waned considerably, and I've only seen 4 of these 6 nominees. (No "Kennedys" nor "Pillars.") Of the other 4, I was not a fan of "Mildred Pierce" and found "Cinema Verite" to be an underwhelming take on a great story. I probably enjoyed "Too Big to Fail" consistently the most, whereas I loved half of "Downton" (downstairs) and was bored by the other half (upstairs), but the material with the servants was so strong, and the overall scope, ambition and execution so impressive (really, my issue with the lords and ladies has more to do with disinterest in the subject than anything Julian Fellowes and company did), that it's my favorite.

Dan's Pick: Failing to watch and review "Downton Abbey" should be a point of shame for me and Sepinwall. Julian Fellowes' nuanced portrait of the British gentry on the eve of World War I was the best written, acted and directed movie or miniseries of the year, alternatingly heartbreaking and hilarious and consistently smart and gripping. I'd actually place Starz' surprisingly adequate "Pillars of the Earth" as my second choice, despite some struggles in its final installments. Otherwise, you're looking at two so-so HBO movies, one suffocatingly over-literal HBO miniseries and ReelzChannel's utterly laughable "The Kennedys." Really, for me, there's no competition here at all, though if Emmy voters had nominated "Carlos," we could have had a spirited debate.

 

What Will Win:

Alan's Pick: Given that Emmy voters tend to subscribe to a "bigger=better" theory, my guess is that the two movies don't really stand a chance against the minis, and of the minis, it's clearly a battle between "Downton" and "Mildred." Both are lavish period pieces, both feature award-friendly stars (Maggie Smith for "Downton," Kate Winslet for "Mildred"), and both are old-fashioned in that way that the older-skewing Academy membership gravitates towards. Gun to my head, I pick "Downton" to win, but I would not be surprised in the least if the money (and movie stars) on-screen for "Mildred" impresses more voters.

Dan's Pick: I agree with Alan that there are really only two choices here. "Cinema Verite" and "Too Big To Fail" are solid, but slight. "Pillars" and "Kennedys" are on fringe networks that won't have the power to sway Emmy voters. That leaves "Downton Abbey" and "Mildred Pierce" as the only plausible winners, as both have the scope and production values to overwhelm the competition. Gun to my head, I'm taking "Mildred Pierce," which has passionate defenders to counteract the collective lack of interest displayed by HitFix's critics. The number of ridiculous fringe acting and tech nominations "Mildred Piece scored suggest it has deep support in the TV Academy. When in doubt, with Emmy voters, figure the American-produced large-scale ensemble will trump the British-produced large-scale ensemble.

 

What do you think?