2023 Emmy Predictions: Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series


We will update this article throughout the season, along with all our predictions, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest news from the 2023 Emmys race. The nomination round of voting takes place from June 15 to June 26, with the official Emmy nominations announced Wednesday, July 12. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be presented over two consecutive nights on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10, with an edited presentation of the ceremonies to be broadcast on FXX at a later date. Finally, the 75th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards take place on Monday, September 18, and air live on FOX at 8:00 p.m. ET/ 5:00 p.m. PT.

The State of the Race

Documentary series are all the rage now, so the Emmy category for them has become extremely competitive. Celebrated nonfiction filmmakers like Liz Gabrus (“What Happened, Miss Simone?”) and R.J. Cutler (“The September Issue”) are planting their stake in the race with the projects “Harry & Meghan” (Netflix) and “Murf the Surf” (MGM+), respectively. However, it’s “American Movie” director Chris Smith who is in the best standing with Season 2 of the HBO series “100 Foot Wave.”

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The debut season of the show, which follows world-class surfers conquering extreme waves in Portugal, managed to snag an Emmy nomination next to some of the highest profile projects the category has seen, like eventual winner “The Beatles: Get Back” from Oscar winner Peter Jackson and the long-awaited Kanye West documentary “Jeen-yuhs.” With Season 2 out this spring,“100 Foot Wave” may have found its time to shine.

In terms of other contenders, from networks and filmmakers that don’t as often make it into the Emmys category, one of Hulu’s newest collaborations with the New York Times, “The 1619 Project,” went over especially well with audiences in February. “Paul T. Goldman,” Peacock’s gonzo docuseries about a man trying to star as himself in a film based on a book he wrote is much less conventional, but has really opened the NBCUniversal-owned streaming service up to a new audience.

PBS and National Geographic, kind of the OGs of the category, also have strong contenders in “The U.S. and the Holocaust” and “Secrets of the Elephants,” respectively, from creators who have recently won the category. And there is still sure to be even more series like Netflix’s “Chimp Empire” to premiere, and find an audience, as the Emmys eligibility window starts to close at the end of May.

Current Contenders (In Alphabetical Order):
“100 Foot Wave” (HBO)
“The 1619 Project” (Hulu)
“Boys in Blue” (Showtime)
“Chimp Empire” (Netflix)
“Ed Sheeran: The Sum Of It All” (Disney+)
“Harry & Meghan” (Netflix)
“The Last Movie Stars” (HBO Max)
“Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal” (Netflix)
“Murf the Surf” (MGM+)
“Music Box” (HBO)
“Paul T. Goldman” (Peacock)
“Prehistoric Planet” (Apple TV+)
“Secrets of the Elephants” (National Geographic)
“The U.S. and the Holocaust” (PBS)
“The Vow” (HBO)

More Category Predictions:
Outstanding Animated Program
Outstanding Talk Series
Outstanding Scripted Variety Series
Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special

To see IndieWire’s full set of predictions for the 75th Emmy Awards click here.

Last Year’s Winner: “The Beatles: Get Back”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Disney TV has won this category three years in a row, with the last two years being Disney+ projects. Even if a project from the streaming service does not go all the way, Disney would be able to still count a win for Hulu or National Geographic as its own.
Notable Ineligible Series: “The New York Times Presents” (submitted individual entries as a Documentary or Nonfiction Special)

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