Will awards confusion hurt ‘Orange is the New Black’?

When Netflix recently changed its mind and decided to submit “Orange is the New Black” as a drama series instead of comedy at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, the deadline had already passed at the Writers Guild of America, so the hit prison dramedy will compete there as a laffer.

Such inconsistency is an awards rarity, but there are other schizophrenic examples. “American Horror Story” was advertised as a drama series in its first season in an effort to limit spoilers, but is now recognized as an anthology series with a new cast and story for each season. Because it aired in the fall, FX was able to submit it as a miniseries for the Emmys many months later, but entered its first season a drama with SAG while the season was airing. Despite FX’s protests, SAG now precludes it from entering as a miniseries and continues to honor it as a drama.

Category confusion surrounding a TV series may be perceived as hurting its award hopes, but history suggests otherwise.

It used to be that programs could flip-flop with SAG. “Boston Legal” received much recognition from the Emmys as a drama, but its 2005 episodes led the SAG Awards that year with four nominations — as a comedy. It contended as a drama for its remaining three years, reaping seven further bids. In that time, the directing on the show was recognized with three Emmy nominations, as well as a lone Directors Guild of America bid — as a comedy.

Perhaps the ultimate example of genre confusion is “Grey’s Anatomy,” which pulled off the impressive feat of being nominated by the DGA for 2006 as both a drama and a comedy (for different episodes), having received dual nominations as a drama the year before. Similarly, “M*A*S*H” was a WGA favorite (28 nominations, including seven wins) and received nods as both a comedy and a drama for both 1980 and 1981.

Other notable instances of nominations across genres include “Ally McBeal” (DGA drama nominee for its pilot, Emmy comedy series winner the next year) and “Northern Exposure” (1992 Emmy drama series winner, 1992 DGA drama winner, 1993 DGA comedy nominee, 1994 SAG comedy ensemble nominee). “Fame” reaped Emmy noms in drama categories for its first four years, but its final season somehow received a comedy sound mixing nomination.

If “Orange is the New Black” is skunked by the Emmys this year or not nominated in any genre-specific categories, it will not be allowed to submit as a comedy next year. A decade ago The WB was permitted to move “Gilmore Girls,” but Emmy rules are different now.


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