Tim Goodman on Emmy Nomination Process: Take the Final Step to Fix It

Emmy statues new image - H 2014
Associated Press

On July 10, 2014, I believed the Emmys had hit its nadir and that the Television Academy, which oversees them, needed to do something about it. In the July 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter, I called the just announced nominations “atrocious” and, for good measure, added this:

“I mean, even by the low bar of Emmy standards, 2014 is a real omnishambles.”

And they were. And I was extremely annoyed.

So, I outlined some fixes that I thought were easy, pretty obvious and very necessary: the expansion of categories. While I didn’t think the Television Academy would adjust the numbers to 10 – from six – it was clear the creative content of the industry could handle it. The most important thing was merely to take action.

“Perhaps the biggest gripe generated by so many oversights this year,” I wrote then, “is that it didn't need to happen but will most assuredly happen again if something isn't done — and fast — to fix it. With Netflix and Amazon and Hulu generating content from their platforms and niche cable channels delivering quality dramas and comedies and the acting performances to go with them, it's glaringly obvious that the Emmys have been caught flat-footed at the evolution of their own industry.”

To the credit of the Television Academy, they did make those changes, or at least took some baby steps in that direction, increasing by one the number of series entries and changing the performance categories to have “a minimum of six nominees in each category.”

It helped. As I noted in my analysis of Thursday’s nominations, despite some lingering and embarrassing snubs, the increase in numbers cut down the overall complaints.

And yet, it wasn’t nearly enough. There’s a difference between making things better and making them right. Now the Television Academy needs to judge the improved results of its tinkering and realize that more needs to be done.

The fix is, once again, easy and obvious: A simple, across the board adjustment giving every category 10 nominees.

There – fixed.

If that rule was in place – as it should and needs to be starting now – then the amount of “snub” story outrage would be dramatically reduced. Not eliminated, mind you – we are a culture that wants to argue and, let’s be honest, some people just don’t realize the show they love isn’t very good in comparison.

But it would solve the vast majority of snubs – and certainly the most obvious ones (The Americans and its actors for starters; Jane the Virgin and its actors not far behind, plus other notables). And there’s no compelling reason not to have 10 nominees in the major categories. Not only is the breadth and depth of television content that good – and has been for a decade at least – but the rule changes made this year to increase nominees, as I’ll point out, are a jumbled mess of percentages that don’t add up.

For example, why does the supporting actress in a comedy category have eight nominees while there are only six in all the other actor and actress categories?

Because the Television Academy has something called “The 2% Rule.” It states that if one or more shows or one or more performers get “at least 98 percent of the votes” as the seventh-place nominee in the series category or the sixth-place nominee in the performance categories, then those shows and performers also get included.

How this only came into effect in the comedy supporting actress category is a weird anomaly. And it also means some cruel person didn’t give Jordan Peele enough votes to join partner Keegan-Michael Key in the comedy supporting actor category. Imagine the voice of Key screaming this for his partner’s sake: There was room!

Hell, if you can go to eight for the women, you can go to seven for the men.

And yet, why does it have to be this murky? Clearly “The 2% Rule” only helped once, with no logic for why it wouldn’t crop up in other races – something avoided in a flat-10 category rule.

Ah, but it gets more twisted and less logical – and here’s why: The Television Academy added an asterisk to “The 2% Rule” with this declaration: “However, in no event will there be more than nine (9) nominees in any of the categories, e.g. if there are two (2) or more entries with a 2% proximity to the seventh-place nominations, the nominations will be capped at nine (9)” – and eight for performers.

So, for starters, you’re willing to go to nine series and eight performers in a category. Noted. But in the event that the numerical formula you created produces two or more other shows or performers, it doesn’t matter – you’re going to stick to nine series or eight actors regardless, yet don’t outline the process for eliminating those extras who would have made it under your own rules. Hmmm.

Here’s an idea – scrap that whole thing and set the nominations at 10.

You’re welcome.

Here’s the part of the rules I can’t fathom – is there some kind of assumption that there are not 10 dramas or 10 comedies or 10 actors in the respective categories worthy of the nominations? That seven series and six performers — increased only this very year — represent the best and every slot after that waters down the achievements of the others or constitutes charity? What kind of self-loathing is that?

And has anyone on the Primetime Emmy Awards Committee bothered to study the industry landscape? Because research done by FX concluded there were more than 1,700 series currently on television (broadcast, cable and online services) – and that’s in primetime only. Of those series, 371 were scripted.

Take a look at those numbers again. They are staggering. The Renaissance we critics keep touting (and have been for years) is amazingly robust. Think of all the actors on those scripted shows. Do you think they can fill 10 slots – and still leave out a large number of very deserving others? Do you think that 10 out of 371 scripted series are worthy enough to battle for the right to be the lone show to take home an Emmy?

You’re damn right. So take some pride in your own beautifully creative industry and adjust the number of nominees in each category to 10 for 2016. It would be nice not to have to write this again next year.

Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com

Twitter: @BastardMachine