Midway through the fourth season of CBS’ “FBI: Most Wanted,” the Fugitive Task Force is in hot pursuit of a reverend who kidnapped two teenagers to perform a ritualistic rebuke of the antichrist.
The reverend’s car is veering wildly on a winding New Hampshire road when it goes airborne over an embankment and lands in a shattering crash. At the same time across town, another agent is in the basement of a derelict church trying to disarm the reverend’s equally sadistic brother in hand-to-hand combat.
The stunts that punctuate the episode’s final act, titled “Black Mirror,” earned Chad Hessler an Emmy nomination in the stunt performance category. The series also earned a nomination for stunt coordination for a drama series, limited or anthology series/movie under stunt coordinator Declan Mulvey.
Two Emmy nominations for any broadcast procedural in 2023 is already an accomplishment, but what’s even more impressive is that “FBI: Most Wanted” isn’t the only network series nominated.
Three of the five nominees for stunt coordination are broadcast shows, including ABC’s “The Rookie” and CBS’ “S.W.A.T.” The other two nominees are Disney+’s “The Mandalorian” and Amazon Prime Video’s “The Boys” — both streaming series previously nominated for best drama. At a time when broadcast representation is nearly nonexistent in awards race, the stunt categories are leveling the playing field.
The stunts in “FBI: Most Wanted” and its fellow broadcast nominees are simply a different beast than their streaming counterparts, says Anastasia Puglisi, a co-executive producer on “Most Wanted,” and exec VP and co-executive producer for Wolf Entertainment.
“The stunts we were nominated for were all done practically and in one take,” says Puglisi. “Because of the time it takes to safely set up a stunt, you have one shot at this. And in this case, you’re flipping a van. We can only buy so many vans!”
Puglisi’s point speaks more broadly to broadcast than just Dick Wolf’s “FBI” universe, since these shows tend to have tighter schedules, smaller budgets and less time to do multiple times than some bigger streaming counterparts. It is quite different for a Netflix show such as “Stranger Things,” which received two stunt performance nominations. The show quite famously takes years to produce between seasons.
“FBI: Most Wanted” shoots 22 episodes a season, each following a nine-day schedule. The setup for a stunt can take hours and must be executed perfectly so as not to derail everything else.
“We are constantly up against the gun with airdates,” Puglisi says. “We can’t just add a couple days because we need it or the van didn’t flip right. We have a very tight filming schedule we have to meet, and our crews are fantastic at facing that challenge.”
How, though, is broadcast keeping pace in an industry constantly searching for the next stunt-heavy action epic? Stunt people voting in the category certainly help recognize technically ambitious work no matter the platform. But Puglisi says audiences also respond to the practicality of series like the “FBI: Most Wanted.”
“Our shows, since the early days of ‘Law & Order,’ have been about showing the real cities,” she says. “Not the glamorized or wish fulfillment version. It is truly showing the stakes of our first responders and the danger that a lot of our characters, who are representing those real people, are faced with every day.”
Broadcast still faces an uphill battle to court awards attention in the streaming era, but Puglisi is encouraged to see stunts bridge the gulf between linear and streaming.
Says Puglisi: “We are doing two completely different things and it’s nice to know the Academy can recognize the value in both.”
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