Emmys rename Competition Program category as ‘The Amazing Race’ sits out

The 2019 Emmy rule book revealed that the “Outstanding Reality-Competition Program” category is now called “Outstanding Competition Program,” marking the highest-level renaming since “Miniseries” reverted to “Limited Series” in 2015. Three “Reality-Competition” Creative Arts races (for Editing, Host and Production Design) are being simplified accordingly.

The TV academy differentiated competition programs from nonfiction programming in 2003 with the introduction of the “Outstanding Reality/Competition Program” category, which split into the standalone “Outstanding Reality Program” and “Outstanding Reality-Competition Program” categories the following year. “The Amazing Race” won both inaugural awards — and eight since then. This will be the first year after 16 consecutive nominations that “The Amazing Race” will not be nominated, as it is taking an extended hiatus and will not qualify for 2019 Emmy eligibility.

“The Amazing Race” typically airs two seasons per year, in the spring and fall, but the 30th cycle became the first cycle to air in January or February, which it did in 2018 after filming in October 2017. The 31st installment will not premiere until May 22, 2019, after filming from June to July 2018, making this the longest that CBS has ever held a cycle of “The Amazing Race” from airing after filming. (The shortest gap between the end of filming and the broadcast premiere was 25 days in 2002 for the third cycle.) Season 31 will presumably air through July, making it the first cycle to air in the summer since the fifth, in 2004. With the majority of its episodes airing after the May 31 eligibility cut-off, this cycle will qualify for the 2020 Emmys, presumably alongside the 32nd installment, which filmed from November to December 2018.

The absence of “The Amazing Race” guarantees a shake-up in the single Emmy race that is most ruled by inertia. “Project Runway” has been nominated alongside “The Amazing Race” the last 14 years, with “Top Chef” there for the last 12 and “The Voice” now at seven. This will be only the seventh year in 17 that the category drops a competition program that was nominated the previous year; the category has never dropped multiple simultaneously.

The beneficiary might be “The Masked Singer,” which debuted on Fox in January and is the highest-rated series of the television season so far. Netflix’s “The Final Table” is another newbie that is making a splash; it won the Directors Guild of America Award for Best Reality Directing, head-to-head with previous two-time winner “The Amazing Race.” If “The Amazing Race” clears the path at the Emmys for a pre-existing show, “America’s Got Talent” is a good bet, even though it has only been nominated for one Emmy since it debuted in 2006: Best Multi-Camera Hairstyling in 2011. It broke through this year with a Best Competition Program nomination at the Producers Guild of America Awards, which have never nominated a competition program that was not nominated at either the preceding or following Emmys for Best Competition Program since the category began, largely because the Emmys have more nomination slots. The Producers Guild bumped “American Ninja Warrior” for “America’s Got Talent” and previously dropped perennial Emmy nominee “Project Runway” three years ago after 10 consecutive nominations.

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