Why can’t Emmys be more like Oscars?

That television has surpassed film as the home for quality, grown-up entertainment is not a rare sentiment these days. It seems near impossible to bring up “Breaking Bad” in conversation these days without the phrase “best ever” coming up at some point.

RELATEDEmmys merit many more categories than Oscars

Why then, are the Emmys not the big deal that the Oscars are? Why do relatively few media outlets cover them?

The Emmys are known to have much more rigorous and accountable voting processes and are comparatively unfazed by external factors, such as campaigns. There are many reasons for the lack of respect, but one of them is that no matter the quality of the work that is being judged, the Primetime Emmy award itself can only ever be so prestigious because so damn many of them are given out.

According to the Academy Awards, there are about two dozen aspects of filmmaking in which one can make an outstanding achievement. These categories are easily distinguishable from one another for the most part, acting being a key exception, where there are not one, but four categories. Still, that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominates 20 performances per year pales in comparison to the minimum 96 (usually more because the Emmys allow nominating “ties”) that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will nominate this year. 

Without even counting other performance categories, like voiceover and hosting, the Emmys have fourteen categories — most with six slots –to award the best acting on television. That they have so many categories to fill means that the Emmys have nominated performances with under a minute of screen time multiple times in the last two years.

The problem extends beyond acting: the Emmys variably differentiate between (combinations of) comedy or drama, fiction or nonfiction, hour-long or half-hour, single-camera or multi-camera setup, series or special, among others. There are eight categories (about forty nominations annually) for best sound! Last year, the academy introduced an award for “Outstanding Stunt Coordination for a Comedy Series or a Variety Program,” which was no better than the year before when they introduced “Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role” to recognize excellent use of visual effects by shows that do not use visual effects.

The TV academy has just announced a number of changes that include additional categories for reality shows and voiceovers, less stringency over what constitutes a “tie,” more nominees in various miniseries/movie categories and the unmerging of the top miniseries/movies category.  This is a sharp turn from last year when the academy actually ruled to combine the four movie/mini acting categories into two (actor and actress) by no longer differentiating between lead and supporting.  That decision was reversed before nominations.

The whole point of awards is that large groups of work are whittled down until the best is selected, so that it may be properly celebrated.  Giving everyone a trophy not only inherently devalues trophies, but also goes completely against the intention of a trophy in the first place.

Get started with your Emmy predictions now by forecasting what will win Best Comedy Series by using our easy drag-and-drop menu below. And join in our fierce forum debate about the merits of this split here

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