I like to fancy myself pretty informed about the comings and goings of television programming, so I usually feel I have a pretty good grip on Emmy nominations when they are announced. The 2015 Emmy announcements threw me for a loop, however, with Olive Kitteridge‘s whopping 13 nominations.
Who is this Olive Kitteridge the Emmys speak of? Is she an actress? Is it a made-for-TV movie? A single-camera sitcom? How is it that she/it managed to stay so far off my radar despite, judging by the sheer number of noms, being so awesome?
Turns out Olive Kitteridge isn’t an actor or a movie or a primetime comedy. In fact, it’s not even TV, it’s HBO — an HBO four-hour miniseries, to be exact.
Here’s a crash course on Olive Kitteridge, just in case you are as underinformed as I was.
1. Frances McDormand already won a SAG Award for her performance
For her role as the retired schoolteacher living in Maine, McDormand took home the award for Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January, which makes it that much more hard to believe that the series slipped by unnoticed. She’s up for an Emmy in the same category.
2. Richard Jenkins is nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series
Image: Alberto Reyes
Jenkins is also up for an award for his role of Henry Kitteridge, a small-town pharmacist and Olive’s long-suffering husband.
3. Bill freakin’ Murray
Image: Brian To/WENN
Murray plays Jack Kennison, a local widower who bonds with Olive over shared grief. Murray is up for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series for his portrayal of the character.
4. Its IMDB tagline doesn’t do it justice
“A middle-school math teacher Olive and her relationship with Henry which spans 25 years,” reads the opening description on the popular website. While it’s not inaccurate, it doesn’t really lend much to the imagination, and though the story of Olive and Henry is described as low-key by critics, it’s also extremely nuanced. The tale is told over a 25-year period, and it’s filled with love, loss, sorrow and joy, according to the official HBO site.
5. It’s based on a 2008 novel
If you’re looking for some good summer reading, the intriguing story of Olive was pulled from a novel by the same name by Elizabeth Strout. It won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and was a finalist for the 2008 National Books Critics Circle Award.
6. The character of Olive is no walk in the park
Olive is gruff, but somehow she manages to be a sympathetic character. According to New York Times critic Alessandra Stanley, Olive is “no day at the beach. Plenty of shows focus on women who are unlikely heroines; Olive is an unlikely heroine who is at first almost comically unlikeable.”
7. It’s been hailed as a true-to-life depiction of marriage
NPR’s Eric Deggans called Olive Kitteridge “the best depiction of marriage on TV” for documenting the “most quietly troubled marriage” in the fictional town in Maine where they live, noting that both Olive and Henry have wandering eyes but are compelled to stay in their relationship because the marriage has come to “define their lives so deeply.”
“Frances McDormand’s no-nonsense middle school math teacher Olive tortures almost everyone in her life with a blunt, unsparing attitude,” Deggans says.
Check out the trailer for Olive Kitteridge below.