Emmys 2016 post mortem: Did new voting system make or break the Emmy Awards?

This year’s Emmys saw a shift in the way winners were decided. In the past, TV academy members ranked all the nominees in a given category and the winner was the one with the lowest overall score as calculated by assigning a value of 1 to a first place vote, 2 to a second place, and so on. Now, voters check off just one nominee per category. Thus, in a race with six nominees, it would be possible to win with just 17% of the vote if the other five get 16.5% apiece.

So, what happened under this new system of counting?

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We still had a slew of repeat winners in marquee categories, with Best Drama and Comedy Series going to “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” for the second year running. Likewise, Jeffrey Tambor (“Transparent”) claimed a consecutive Comedy Actor award while Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”) took home a fifth straight Comedy Actress trophy.

But there were plenty of surprises.

Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) has always been the critics’ darling but her show was too out there for most Emmy voters. Under the new system, she just needed the votes of  a few of them to prevail as Best Drama Actress over, among others, reigning champ Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”) and perennial also-ran Robin Wright (“House of Cards”).

Indeed, Wright and her co-star Kevin Spacey were predicted to finally prevail for the fourth season of this political drama. But breakout star Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”)  was the one who took home Drama Actor.

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While Malek had jockeyed back and forth with Spacey for first place, all Emmy season long, the four supporting series winners were all surprises. The victories of Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”) and Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey”) on the drama side and those of Louie Anderson (“Baskets”) and Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”) over in comedy are down to the needing only a sliver of support from voters.

Last year, Regina King pulled off an upset in Movie/Mini Supporting Actress for the first season of “American Crime.” We explained that away by saying she was a TV vet who was being rewarded for her longevity. She repeated this year, edging out overwhelming frontrunner Jean Smart (“Fargo”), another TV favorite. One wonders just how close the vote was.

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Did the majority of voters watch the submitted episodes of the nominees on the Emmy portal? With ballots cast online, it would be easy for the TV academy to require that the link for each episode be clicked before allowing a vote to be cast in that category.

More problematic is the removal of the cap on the number of categories in which a TV academy member can vote. That happened last year, thus allowing someone in the acting branch to weigh in on a staggering 97 performances. Who would have the time to watch all those episodes, which run just under 60 hours!

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