Emmy's New Rules: 7 Winners and Losers

'Orange Is the New Black' suffers a major blow as comedy becomes half-hours only and the definition of guest actor shuts out many recurring players.
'Orange is the New Black,' John Oliver and 'Shameless'

The Television Academy announced some of its biggest changes in years to the Emmys on Friday morning, tweaking how it defines key categories in an effort to curb the strategic genre switches seen in recent kudos.

You'd think recasting miniseries as "limited series" — and carefully defining what qualifies as an anthology — would be the biggest development, but it's not. Dubbing a comedy as any show running 30 minutes or less, regardless of how humorous the content might be, is a bold move in telling networks and studios where their shows will (and won't) compete.

Read More Emmys Change Rules: 7 Series Nominees, Comedy Defined as Half-Hours

The consolation prize for many will be the slightly larger field of nominees. Races for comedy and drama can now include seven series a piece, up from six. But just as these moves might be good news for some, they're awful news for others. Here's a rundown of the series most affected by the Academy's new developments.

Loser: Orange Is the New Black
The biggest impact, at least upon first glance, is Netflix darling Orange Is the New Black. Submitted as a comedy last year, it seems almost targeted by the new rules. It will now move to the drama category, going head-to-head with some of the most formidable players in TV (Mad Men, Game of Thrones) and its own corporate sibling, House of Cards. Many of the Orange is the New Black actresses have been upped to regular status since the show's second season, but none of last year's many guest nominees (including winner Uzo Aduba) would be allowed back in the category since they all appear in more than half of the episodes.

Winner: Transparent
In its first year of eligibility, and on the heels of a key win at the Golden Globes, Amazon critical favorite Transparent is now infinitely more likely to score a comedy nomination thanks to (1) the absence of Orange and (2) the extra slot. Its only setback at this point is how much time will have passed since the streamer unleashed the first ten episodes.  

Loser: Shameless
In a similar boat as Orange is Showtime underdog Shameless. The hour-long was largely ignored by Academy voters during its first three years of eligibility, likely because it was submitting as a drama. 2014 saw Shameless shift to comedy, scoring key nominations (star William H. Macy was up for lead actor) in the process. Macy went on to win the SAG Award for the first time in January. A move back to drama could derail that momentum.

Winner: Portlandia & Saturday Night Live
Splitting the Variety category into sketch and talk means that a sketch show will actually win for a change. The sub-genre has been shut out since Tracy Takes On ... last took the top prize in 1997. Sketch has been on the sidelined by David Letterman, Jon Stewart and eventually Stephen Colbert for the better part of the last 20 years. Saturday Night Live, almost always a nominee, now stands a chance of winning the Variety race the first time since 1993. And Portlandia, for which IFC always wages a hard campaign, could finally score a nomination in the field.

Loser: British Imports
So many short order U.K. series have been lumped into the miniseries races over the years — see recent nominee Luther or the earliest iteration of Sherlock — but anything with recurring characters/actors and running more than 150 minutes a season (basically anything nearly three hours) is now deemed a series.

Winner: John Oliver
Not all Brits are hurting today. Another likely victor of the Variety category split? HBO's Last Week Tonight. Despite a wildly buzzy first season, John Oliver did not break through in the Variety race last year. Now facing zero competition from sketch, becoming an even bigger part of the zeitgeist, Oliver seems like a lock as a first-time nominee in the Variety Talk race. This is also good news for upstart Larry Wilmore and, if things go well, maybe even CBS' new Late Late host James Corden.

To Be Determined: Fargo
The FX darling from 2014 is sitting this year out, on account of it not returning until the fall. But when it does return, the limited series landscape will likely be altered considerably. Most notably: True Detective is now no longer allowed to be submitted as a drama series, upping the anthology prestige in the limited race. And that's not even taking into consideration the slew of similarly structured efforts popping up now and over the course of the next year (ABC's American Crime, FX's American Crime Story, NBC's The Slap and Fox's Scream Queens).

 

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