Black Mirror, Netflix’s acclaimed anthology series from the mind of Charlie Brooker, has been caught in something of a spider web this Emmy season.
The Hollywood Reporter has learned that, contrary to prior published reports, Smithereens, the second and standout installment of the show’s three-episode fifth season, will not receive special permission to compete in the TV movie category. Instead, all three episodes will collectively compete in the best drama series category.
The runtime of Smithereens is 70 minutes. A recent rule change — rumored to have been implemented specifically to block Black Mirror episodes from continuing to compete in and dominate the TV movie category, which one has won in each of the last three years — mandates that a program must run a minimum of 75 minutes to be eligible in that category. But the TV Academy initially issued a waiver allowing Smithereens to compete in there, ostensibly because there wasn’t another place for it.
Indeed, there was no prospect of moving the entire Black Mirror season into the limited series category, since it doesn’t tell a full story from beginning to end in two or more episodes, as is required by the rules of that category; instead, each episode tells a full story from beginning to end. And moving the entire season into the drama series category didn’t seem like an option, either, in light of the current requirement that a season be comprised of at least six episodes to compete in that category.
But the decision to allow Smithereens to compete in the TV movie category reportedly prompted considerable backlash from Netflix’s competitors — and the TV Academy to re-evaluate its options, which led to another solution.
“Because Black Mirror was eligible to enter the Drama Series category in previous years,” a TV Academy spokesperson tells THR, “the shortened season rule (rule 14b) applies to Black Mirror‘s eligibility this year: ‘Once a show is established as a series, if additional shortened seasons are added (fewer than six episodes), it would still be considered a series, unless it was limited to one or two episodes (which would categorize it as a movie and a limited series respectively).'”
In other words, Smithereens will not be competing as a TV movie; instead, the entire fifth season of Black Mirror will be competing as a drama series.
Where does this leave the performers who did standout work on the Smithereens episode, namely Andrew Scott, Damson Idris and Topher Grace? Or others who stood out in other episodes this season, such as Miley Cyrus, star of Black Mirror: Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too?
At first glance, it would appear that they can no longer compete in the limited series or TV movie acting categories — lead or supporting — because they are in neither a limited series nor a TV movie; and that they also cannot compete in the series acting categories, since they appear in only one-third of their season’s episodes. The requirement to compete in the guest acting categories is appearing in less than 50 percent of a season’s episodes, so that’s where they’re now headed, right?
Not so fast. Performers who appear in less than 50 percent of a season’s episodes are eligible but not obligated to enter in the guest acting categories. They may instead choose the category they feel is most appropriate, meaning lead, supporting or guest. So these folks have some thinking to do.
Clearly, the TV Academy has not yet figured out a perfect solution to anthology series’ recent resurgence. Even though there are already more Emmy categories than anyone knows what to do with, perhaps it is time to create a few more specifically for this edgy genre and the work done within it.
Netflix, which updated its FYC site to reflect this development ahead of an email blast to TV Academy members on Wednesday, declined to comment for this story.