Emmy Category Profiles: Documentary or Nonfiction Series and Special

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY OR NONFICTION SERIES

The Andy Warhol Diaries (Netflix)

Writer-director Andrew Rossi and exec producer Ryan Murphy draw from the 1989 book of the same name to offer an intimate portrait of the late artist’s public and private lives. It dropped March 9 (more recently than any competitor), is rated 97 percent on Rotten Tomatoes and landed three other noms, including directing and writing.

The Beatles: Get Back (Disney+)

The Beatles Get Back Documentary

Courtesy of Disney+

Disney+, the service behind 2021’s winner, Secrets of the Whales, returns to contention with Peter Jackson’s remarkable depiction — drawing from 57 hours of film and 140 hours of audio — of The Beatles’ prep for their final public performance on a London rooftop in 1969. Its five nominations (directing among them) are a category high.

jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy (Netflix)

Kanye ‘Ye’ West in jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy.

Courtesy of Netflix

Filmed over two decades and ultimately sold to Netflix for a reported $30 million, Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah’s three-parter looks at the rise of Kanye West, his music, his hustle, his relationship with his late mom and more. But Kanye is a divisive guy, and this project’s RT score (82 percent) and nom tally (this is its only one) are both category lows.

100 Foot Wave (HBO/HBO Max)

100 Foot Wave

Courtesy of HBO

None of this category’s nominees rolled out longer ago (July-August 2021) — or can match the reviews (100 percent on RT) — of this one, in which Chris Smith showcases big-wave surfer Garrett McNamara and his quest to conquer, well, a 100-foot wave. Recently renewed for a second season, its only other nom is for cinematography.

We Need to Talk About Cosby (Showtime)

Gloria Allred in We Need To Talk About Cosby, “Part 4”.

Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Three-time Emmy winner W. Kamau Bell examines the actions and impact of “America’s Dad,” both before and after his sexual assaults became public, in this project, which stands at 98 percent on RT and nabbed four noms (including directing and narration for Bell). Shows about crime often win (see: The Jinx and Making a Murderer).

OUTSTANDING DOCUMENTARY OR NONFICTION SPECIAL

Controlling Britney Spears (New York Times Presents) (FX)

New York Times Presents Controlling Britney Spears

Courtesy of FX

A year after Framing Britney Spears was nominated for this award, so too is this follow-up about the pop singer’s conservatorship. No competitor dropped longer ago (Sept. 24), is slighter (just 70 minutes) or landed fewer noms (just one), but voters have rewarded celeb-centric projects before (see: Leaving Neverland in 2019).

George Carlin’s American Dream (HBO/HBO Max)

George Carlin in George Carlin’s American Dream.

George Carlin’s Estate/HBO/HBO Max

Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio (who won this award for another HBO portrait of a comedian, 2018’s The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling) explore Carlin’s motivations and impact in this May 2022 release, which scored perfect reviews on RT (no nominee dropped more recently and only one rated as high). Its five noms also include directing.

Lucy and Desi (Prime Video)

Amy Poehler’s exploration of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s personal and professional relationship is this category’s most nominated contender (its tally of six also includes directing and writing). Though it’s at 94 percent on RT, the fact that it comes so soon after the film Being the Ricardos and is up against another comedy doc won’t help it.

The Tinder Swindler (Netflix)

The Tinder Swindler

Courtesy of Netflix

Felicity Morris recounts the shocking behavior of dating-app con artist Simon Leviev in a project that lacks much social consequence (this category’s winners usually have more gravitas) but was a giant hit (charting in Netflix’s top 10 in 92 countries) and racked up five noms (writing among them) en route to a formidable 97 percent RT score.

We Feed People (Disney+)

Jose Andres (front left) stirs a pot of food in San Juan, Puerto Rico in We Feed People.

National Geographic/Disney+

Don’t discount the fact that no nominee in this category is more inspirational and feel-good than Ron Howard’s documentation of the selfless work of Spanish-born chef José Andrés and his nonprofit organization World Central Kitchen, which boasts an economic run time (89 minutes), a perfect RT score and another nomination (cinematography).

This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

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