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Movies, miniseries dwindling in number

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Although they were once the bread and butter of network sweeps, TV movies and miniseries have seen their numbers dwindle over the past decade. That means fewer cultural events for viewers, but perhaps more importantly, it results in a list of Emmy submissions that barely cracks double digits.

While that has given miniseries producers in particular close to a 50/50 chance of landing a nomination due to the sheer lack of qualifying programs, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Board of Governors made a bold decision this year that has further limited the likely nominees -- not necessarily a move that would aid the ailing genre.

In an effort to prevent what the Television Academy saw as "sneaking into" the miniseries category, the governing body chose to exclude programs that are deemed "limited-run" series from the miniseries category. Previously, producers with limited-run series had a gray area that allowed series like Showtime's "Sleeper Cell" to enter as a miniseries, thus giving it a better shot at an Emmy.

As a result, Showtime's entertainment president Robert Greenblatt, among others, is calling the new rule "the most cockamamie thing I've ever heard." Greenblatt is upset that his multiparter "Sleeper Cell: American Terror," which qualified and received a nomination in 2006 under the miniseries banner, has now been relegated to the 800-pound gorilla known as the outstanding drama series category after being retagged as a limited-run series.

"The (Television Academy) just decided to make this change unilaterally through its producers committee, and I never heard a word about it until it was done," Greenblatt charges. "They decided for some reason to make the drama series category even bigger and the miniseries smaller. I mean, it's hard to come up with miniseries nominations as it is -- and yet they decide to place even greater restrictions on it."

The Television Academy's senior vp awards John Leverence explains that the organization wasn't looking to punish "Sleeper Cell" or any other program but simply to find an objective means of distinguishing between a longform miniseries and a limited-run drama series.

"It was a gray area that clearly needed a definitive qualifier," Leverence says. "In our research, we found that the (Writers Guild of America) used the 'created by' credit to mark a project as exclusive to a limited-run drama series. We decided that was an effective way to designate a project as such, rather like a DNA marker, and separate it from a conventional longform mini."