Who Loses Under Emmy's Rules

11:25 PM PST 05/11/2011 by Tim Appelo
NBC

What does Charlie Sheen's drama have to do with Steve Carell? Plenty when it comes to some oddball guidelines by the academy.

The TV Academy's little red Rules and Procedures book is a 176-page minefield that can claim unwitting victims who don't read the fine print. Perhaps more than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 55-page pamphlet for the 2011 Oscars, Emmy gives new meaning to the word "obscure" -- like citing April 8 as the "deadline to apply for a Hyphenate Ballot." It's tough to square rules with reality. In an era of television when the lines are blurred between comedy and drama, and lead and supporting actors, there's even greater potential for Emmy to miss the mark. Here are five contenders that might suffer under the rules.

HBO For the first time in Emmy history, the academy has merged miniseries and made-for-TV movies into one category. That's bad news for HBO, which now must pit its movies and miniseries against one another -- in this case, the Diane Lane-starring telefilm Cinema Verite and Kate Winslet's lush miniseries Mildred Pierce, among others. After back-to-back years in which only two miniseries were nominated, the rule change has no doubt invigorated the race but lessened HBO's chances, with fierce competition expected from PBS' Downton Abbey and Sundance Channel's Globe-winning Carlos.

Breaking Bad OK, so blame AMC for production delays that postponed the meth drama's season bow to July, too late for Emmy's May 31 deadline. Bryan Cranston should be peeved: The airdate rule has rendered him ineligible to contend for a record fourth consecutive best actor Emmy. It also means co-star Aaron Paul can't pick up a second supporting actor statuette and creator Vince Gilligan is ineligible for a third, and maybe final, nom for best drama.

Amy Poehler The Parks and Recreation star might be the funniest woman on TV. So what? Being funny is low on the list of criteria for winning best lead actress in a comedy. Oddly, the academy allows show creators to decide whether their series are comedies or dramas. (That's why Desperate Housewives falls into the comedy category. Why would Marc Cherry want to compete against Mad Men?) But this year it means brilliant but not-so-funny actresses such as Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) and Laura Linney (Showtime's freshman cancer "comedy" The Big C) will compete against Poehler in the comedy actress category. Last year, Poehler only had Falco to contend with -- and guess who won.

Ed O'Neill Actors and actresses on a given show ultimately decide whether they want to contend for lead or supporting Emmys. But who wants to lord over colleagues in an ensemble? Modern Family's Ed O'Neill didn't in 2010, so he agreed to let Fox submit him and all of the Family guys and gals in supporting categories. He got burned with no nomination. This year, the gang is banding together again, so not only will O'Neill see votes siphoned by his co-stars (including last year's winner, Eric Stonestreet), but he'll also be up against Glee's Golden Globe winner Chris Colfer. Back in the day, 30 Rock went a different route, entering Alec Baldwin as lead even though Rock is arguably as much an ensemble as Family. Note to Ed: Baldwin netted two Emmys in a row in 2008 and '09. Maybe ditch the nice-guy routine next year?

Steve Carell On May 9, Charlie Sheen's odds of ruining Carell's last chance to win an Emmy for The Office improved. Even though Sheen failed to submit himself for consideration by the Academy's April 29 deadline, Sheen's rep asked that the embattled actor's name be added to Two and a Half Men's Emmy ticket. Unluckily for Carell, a weird loophole means the Torpedo of Truth still could land on Men's overall contenders list because others from the show, including co-star Jon Cryer and creator Chuck Lorre, all entered on time. It's possible Sheen doesn't want to enter, or he simply forgot. "It's up to the individual [to nominate themselves]," ATAS chair John Shaffner says. Either way, last-minute additions can be fruitful: In 2010, Tony Awards host Neil Patrick Harris was mistakenly omitted from an Emmy ballot until blogger Chris Beachum wondered why he wasn't on the list. Harris slipped in just in time and thanked Beachum in his acceptance speech.  

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