Emmy Comedy Clarification: TV Academy Says Rule Changes "Just a Start"

'Shameless,' 'Orange is the New Black,' and 'Jane The Virgin'

Networks plan to challenge new edicts defining a comedy as a half-hour.

This story first appeared in the March 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The head of the  Television Academy is not turning a blind eye to comedies. Despite sweeping rule changes to Emmy voting and category definitions announced Feb. 20 that left many executives scratching their heads, labeling comedy series as half-hours and dramas as anything longer is "just a starting point."

"I think the reaction is a bit misguided," academy chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum tells THR. "This has been a gray area in our rules for quite a while."

 

 

That Emmy gray area, which goes back to hourlong Ally McBeal taking the top comedy honor in 1999, was recently occupied by Netflix's similarly lengthy Orange Is the New Black, which scored a comedy series nomination in 2014. As such dramedies as Showtime's Shameless and Fox's Glee have blurred the genre lines, more hourlongs have entered the comedy race. And they still can, says Rosenblum, just as half-hours can enter as dramas. Whether they'll compete in their preferred category will now be up to a nine-person industry panel that consists of senior network execs and others picked by Rosenblum and the board of governors.

"These are not hard-and-fast rules," adds Rosenblum. "We received a call from Mark Pedowitz at The CW, and they'll be submitting Jane the Virgin as a comedy." That show is not alone. Sources say Showtime will again submit Shameless in comedy categories after its 2014 switch from drama netted star William H. Macy a nomination. And Netflix is expected to do the same with OITNB.

 

 

After last year, the TV Academy considered ditching comedy and drama labels altogether, shifting to half-hour and hour-long races. That still remains a possibility down the line. Other changes this year include upping the number of series noms from six to seven.

One change lost in the comedy furor is the expansion of the voting pool in the final round. Winners in all categories now will be chosen by all eligible voters without conflicts, ending the blue-ribbon panels of the past. Redefining minis and limited series also has eliminated the question of where anthologies such as FX's Fargo or HBO's True Detective can compete (though neither will return for 2015 Emmy eligibility). HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo is supporting the new rules, which, he says, "reflect the academy's acknowledgement of the changing landscape of television. We applaud their outstanding leadership and initiative in taking these bold steps."

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