Emmys upheaval: Rule changes bounce ‘Orange is the New Black,’ ‘Glee,’ ‘Shameless’ from comedy

On Friday, the Emmys announced an extensive overhaul of categories and voting that will see series switching genres, recurring performers becoming permanent players (at least in the eyes of the TV academy) and the pool of potential voters expanded tenfold. 

As per TV academy chair Bruce Rosenblum, “As our growing membership creates and produces more content for ever-changing platforms, today’s changes in the rules and procedures are vital. We’re sure that in coming years we will continue to evolve our rules as our dynamic industry grows.”

Let’s break these down as per text of the official press release. After reading our take on these be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of this post. 

Expansion of Final Round Voting
In an effort to increase member participation in the voting process, and to take advantage of the Academy’s extension of online voting to both rounds, all voters eligible to vote in a category’s nominating round are now eligible to vote in that category’s final round, so long as they meet two additional requirements: much like the former Blue Ribbon panel process, voters must watch the required submitted material online and attest to no specific conflicts of interest with the nominees.

What this means: The limited number of voters on the viewing panels (some number just several dozen) are replaced by a potentially much bigger pool. This could result in more populist picks prevailing. 

Expansion of Nominees for “Comedy” and “Drama” Series Categories
Due to the dramatic increase in series production, the number of nominees for “Comedy” and “Drama” series has been increased from six to seven.

What this means: Last year, there would have been a seventh nominee had a program come within 2% of the sixth place finisher. This year, this seventh slot is guaranteed which is good news for those shows on the bubble. 

Definition of a “Comedy” and “Drama” Series
To clarify the difference between the “Comedy” and “Drama” series categories, series with episodes of 30 minutes or less are defined as a “Comedy”; those with episodes of more than 30 minutes are presumed to be a “Drama.”

Producers may formally petition a new Academy industry panel to consider their series’ eligibility in the alternative category. This nine-member panel will include five industry leaders appointed by the Television Academy Chairman and four appointees from the Board of Governors. A two-thirds vote of this Industry Panel is required for petition approval.

All programs entering the competition this year will be grouped according to these new definitions.

What this means: Say so long to the likes of “Glee,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Shameless” from the comedy side unless they can convince the panel that there are more laughs than tears in their 60 minutes. And what of newcomer “Jane the Virgin,” which won the TV Comedy Actress Golden Globe for Gina Rodriguez? Ditto. 

Definition of “Series” and “Limited Series”
“Mini-Series” will be changed to “Limited Series” and defined as programs of two or more episodes with a total running time of at least 150 program minutes that tell a complete, non-recurring story, and do not have an ongoing storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons. 

“Comedy” and “Drama” Series will continue to be defined as programs with a minimum of six episodes which have an ongoing storyline, theme and main characters presented under the same title and with continuity of production supervision.

Producers may formally petition for review by the aforementioned industry panel to change category eligibility.

What this means: The upcoming second season “True Detective” will be a Limited Series, not a Drama contender as was the first. And the “Sherlock” franchise, which produces three telefilms a year, is neither a Limited or Drama Series

Definition of “Guest Actor”
Only performers appearing in less than 50% of a program’s episodes are now eligible to submit in the “Guest Actor” category.

What this means: It replaces the rule that dictated placement based on billing. Of last year’s four guest acting winners, three — Uzo Aduba (“OITNB”), Allison Janney (“Masters of Sex“) and Joe Morton (“Scandal“)  — would have been ineligible under this new rule. 

Split of Variety Series category
The Variety Series category is now split – Outstanding Variety Talk, to be awarded during the Primetime Emmy telecast, and Outstanding Variety Sketch, to be included in the Creative Arts Emmy program.

What this means: Look for Comedy Central hits “Broad City,” “Inside Amy Schumer” and “Key and Peele” as well as IFC’s “Portlandia” to finally be taken seriously by the Emmys. 

And while you are mulling over these changes to the Emmys, have you made your Oscars predictions yet? 

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