Emmys merit many more categories than Oscars

Do the Emmys have too many categories? That’s what Riley Chow thinks, especially after the TV academy announced it was splitting or expanding several current categories. To an extent I agree, but is the solution to trim them to Oscars’ size?

No, because there’s far more variety in TV than there is in movies.

That’s not a comment on the quality of either medium, simply an observation of greater homogeneity on the big-screen. Yes, there are many different kinds of movies covering many different subjects, but we can mostly agree that a movie will generally be a stand-alone story between 90 and 180 minutes. There are movie franchises that tell continuous stories, but at most we’ll get one installment of those per year (“The Hobbit,” “The Hunger Games,” etc.).

Where there are more significant differences, the Oscars do have separate categories: for animated films, documentaries, foreign films, and shorts.

But compare that to TV, where the formats are far more diverse. Some shows are continuous or finite. Some air 22 hour-long episodes per year (like “The Good Wife“), while others might air three 90-minute episodes (“Sherlock“), or eight 30-minute episodes (“Looking“).

In addition to those programs are variety shows like “The Daily Show,” the likes of which we don’t see in movie theaters. And programs like that are vastly different from live events such as the Kennedy Center Honors, Tony Awards, or Olympics opening ceremonies.

Then come the reality shows such as “Deadliest Catch,” which are different from competition shows like “American Idol,” and they’re both dissimilar to nonfiction programs like “When the Levees Broke.”

Even within TV shows we agree are similar – half-hour comedies, for instance – there are differences in format. A single-camera series like “Louie” has different stylistic and technical requirements than a multi-camera show like “The Big Bang Theory.”

That doesn’t even factor in the internet, where broadcast formats need not apply at all. Sure, there are web programs that adhere to a more traditional TV model (“House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black“), but there are several more that don’t, like Funny or Die’s “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galafianakis,” or Crackle’s Jerry Seinfeld series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Where do you put them?

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The Emmys are evolving far more than the Oscars are, even in places where the Oscars should consider change. Should the virtual cinematography of “Gravity” really be considered side-by-side with the more traditional photography of a film like “Inside Llewyn Davis“? Animation designers are routinely rejected from Oscar’s Production Design category, even though several live-action winners already use plenty of CGI to build their worlds (“Avatar,” “Hugo“). Might we be aided by an adapted score category so films like “There Will Be Blood” or “Black Swan” aren’t disqualified out of hand? How about new categories like stunts (Emmys and SAG both have categories for that)?

I don’t know if all of those would be good for the film academy, but discussions are hardly even entertained, and discussion is precisely what makes awards meaningful.

We shouldn’t assume that fewer categories automatically indicates prestige. Because fewer actors, directors, writers, and technicians are awarded, does that make them more special? If “The Blind Side” had premiered on TV, I don’t think Sandra Bullock would have beaten any of the last 10 Emmy winners for Best Movie/Mini Actress. And I doubt Jean Dujardin (“The Artist“) would have survived a head-to-head against Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad“).

But is the solution for the Emmys just to keep adding more categories? Probably not. It does get to the point where an embarrassment of riches just becomes an embarrassment. Like the Grammys, which in recent years have reevaluated their awards and trimmed several categories, the Emmys should try to consolidate as well as expand. For instance, though movies like “Behind the Candelabra” and series like “Game of Thrones” should be considered separately in the top categories, we probably don’t need separate awards for their art directors, cinematographers, or costume designers.

Are this year’s specific Emmy changes the right ones? Maybe, maybe not. Character performers do vastly different voice-over work than narrators, so splitting that category makes logical sense. However, splitting the reality category is probably unnecessary. Better to move the “unstructured” reality shows into the now-redundant Nonfiction Series category.

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But even then, comparisons are dubious. Is “Duck Dynasty” really the same kind of show as “American Masters” or a Ken Burns documentary?

It’s hard to say. There are so many different kinds of TV that the most we can ask is for the TV academy to keep trying to change with the times. That’s more than the Oscars do.

We will be adding both Best Miniseries and Best TV Movie to our prediction center in the coming weeks. In the meantime, get started with your Emmy predictions now by forecasting what will win Best Drama Series by using our easy drag-and-drop menu below. And join in our fierce forum debate about the merits of this move here

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