Why the Creative Arts Emmys Matter (Analysis)

 Jonathan Hession/Showtime

In one of the most sensational snubs of the year, Showtime's The Borgias was overlooked for the drama series Emmy. This could be because -- as its Oscar-nominated director Neil Jordan told The Hollywood Reporter last spring -- the splashiest, goriest stories of the Renaissance pope's scandalous reign were being saved for the show's second season. Borgias' biggest rival, HBO's Game of Thrones, wisely did the opposite and plunged into its still-more complicated story, frontloading the gore. It stole Borgias' costume-epic thunder and earned 13 Emmy noms, including best drama series.

But thanks to the Creative Arts ceremony, this year's Emmy game isn't over for Borgias.

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The show received six crafts nominations: costumes, cinematography, direction, art direction, visual effects and title theme. And like nine of Thrones' 13 noms, five of Borgias' six potential Emmys will be handed out at the Creative Arts Awards on Sept. 10 and telecast on ReelzChannel on Sept. 17, a day before the main Primetime Emmy Awards telecast on Fox -- reinforcing that Emmy's redheaded stepchild might not be as sexy, but she's just as important.

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Speaking of redheads, it was Emmy reality winner and former Creative Arts host Kathy Griffin who famously nicknamed them "the Schmemmys." But the black-tie event carries much more weight for contenders than most imagine. It basically exists to shorten the main Emmy telecast to a workable length by awarding less-glamorous, arguably more-talented talents on another night (with a soupcon of celebs thrown in so it's not just a nongorgeous gaggle of drab geniuses with sensible shoes, like the Directors Guild Awards).

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Focused on tech categories but also including guest actors and reality hosts, Creative Arts is where a vast majority of Emmys are awarded. For example, of the 104 noms this year that allow HBO to remain Emmy's biggest hog, 75 are in categories that will be awarded during the Creative Arts telecast; only 29 are on Fox's more-watched Primetime Emmy telecast.

Take away her Creative Arts Emmys, and HBO president of documentary programming Sheila Nevins would not be the world's biggest Emmy winner (22 and counting, according to the academy).

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"The primetime awards give out 26 awards in three hours," says Spike Jones Jr., producer of the Creative Arts ceremony for 17 years. "We give out 76 awards in three hours and 15 minutes. And this year, we have big-name nominees." That's for sure: Lady Gaga (variety special for her HBO concert "Monster Ball"), Justin Timberlake (guest star for Saturday Night Live) and Gwyneth Paltrow (guest actress for Glee) are just three. In addition to his nomination for directing the pilot of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Martin Scorsese is for up for a Creative Arts Emmy for nonfiction directing (PBS' A Letter to Elia/Reflecting on Kazan).

If nominated, will they come? "If they're willing, we'll send a bus!" says Jones.

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