FX’s American Horror Story struck out in the best movie or miniseries category at the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday night. Though American Horror Story co-star Jessica Lange took home an award for best supporting actress in a miniseries, the scary acclaimed drama lost to HBO’s Game Change in the main category. American Horror Story also faced Sherlock (PBS), Hatfields & McCoys (History), Hemingway & Gellhorn (HBO), Luther (BBC America).
Emmy voters clearly loved the freshman FX program – it was nominated for a whopping 17 nominations overall. But the network endured some criticism and more than a little second guessing after entering the show in the miniseries category rather than go up against shows like AMC’s Mad Men and Showtime’s Homeland in the main drama series category. American Horror Story returns for a second season on Oct. 17, but with a different storyline and new characters (though with some of the same actors). As the Los Angeles Times noted last week, the horror show’s “Emmy tactics have some critics screaming, and not in a good way.”
FX president and general manager John Landgraf defended the choice last July at the Television Critics Association’s semi-annual press tour. “We always knew that American Horror Story was going to be a miniseries in the sense that we knew that it was a close‑ended show that had no continuing story lines or characters between the 13 episodes that were produced and aired and subsequent seasons,” Landgraf said. “And, you know, that’s the definition of a miniseries. A miniseries is a show that has no continuing story elements or narrative elements between one group of episodes and another.”
But could the criticism have weakened the show’s chances of pulling off the top category? Or was HBO’s acclaimed election drama Game Change – the type of film that would normally be considered a lock to win this category – simply the better project?