‘Archer’ takes aim at Emmy comedy target

When the Emmy ballots were published last week, one of the biggest shockers was the sly, unannounced move of “Archer” into the race for Best Comedy Series.

Why did the show opt to submit in a category where its status as an animated show could be something that works against it? And why go into a category that has a much more crowded field of contenders?

A FX press rep informs Gold Derby that the decision to move was made by show creator Adam Reed and it was endorsed by FX execs. “Archer’s” Emmy history – or lack thereof – inspired the switch.

“Archer” premiered in January of 2010 to critical acclaim and decent ratings, but it failed to score an Emmy nomination for Best Animated Program. Its consolation prize was a bid for Best Voice-Over Performance for H. Jon Benjamin as the voice of the title character.

Since then, the show has not made a single mark at the Emmys even though its ratings have grown impressively over its four TV seasons. It’s now FX’s highest rated comedy, higher even than “Louie” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”

Now there seems to be growing hope that “Archer” may be coming an awards target at last. For the second year in a row, “Archer” won the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Animated Series. Last year it was also nominated for Best Comedy, but it lost to “Modern Family.”

At the Emmys, animated shows have not traditionally done well when submitted outside of the animation categories. Only “The Flintstones” in 1961 and “Family Guy” in 2009 managed to get nominated. “The Flintstones” lost  to “The Jack Benny Show” and “Family Guy” got crushed by “30 Rock.”

This same bias exists at other awards, too, of course. 

It caused the Oscars to create a separate category for Best Animated Picture in 2001. Since then, two animated films also scored bids for the top Best Picture race, but only after the category was expanded beyond five nominees: “Up” (2009)  and “Toy Story 3” (2010).

While a film may compete for Best Picture and Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, an animated TV series may only enter one program race at the Emmys and deciding on which one may be strategically tricky. This year “Archer” would have taken on 26 rivals for Best Animated Program, but it’s taking on more competition for Best Comedy, a race with 69 entries.

FX is backing up its Emmy campaign for “Archer” with a full push. FX has sent DVDs of the complete fourth season to every member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. FX is confident that if enough voters actually watch some of those episodes, they will like what they see (or be reminded of how much they like it) and will remember to put it on their ballots to be nominated. 

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