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This story first appeared in the Aug. 14 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
With this year’s Emmys series contenders now in full campaign mode, it feels appropriate to ask: Did the TV Academy’s recent slew of rule changes actually improve the caliber of the field?
The expansion of the drama- and comedy-series categories from six slots to seven may have been the most buzzed-about shift. The outcome: A larger-than-usual number of new shows were nominated (AMC’s Better Call Saul, Amazon’s Transparent and Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy), and voters didn’t have room (or interest) to include TV’s highest-rated fan favorites — CBS’ The Big Bang Theory, AMC’s The Walking Dead, Fox’s Empire and ABC’s Scandal. In fact, the abysmal showing of major-network shows (only two registered on Emmy’s ballot: NBC’s Parks and Recreation and ABC’s Modern Family) has prompted some to call for yet another rule change: creating a separate category for broadcast TV series.
Still, no one can argue that this year’s noms don’t offer more variety (literally) than in previous years, with the long-problematic variety series category being split into two fields: one for talk show formats and the other for sketch series. This change means that perennial nominee (and often-bridesmaid) NBC’s Saturday Night Live is no longer competing with late-night comedians. That, combined with a snub for fellow perennial Real Time With Bill Maher (HBO), left two openings in the talk category — one filled by HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and one by CBS’ recently departed Late Show With David Letterman (its first variety nom since 2009).
But it’s the new variety sketch category that may have shaken things up the most, highlighting several shows (IFC’s Portlandia and Comedy Central’s Drunk History, Inside Amy Schumer and Key & Peele) that likely otherwise would have been relegated to writing nominations, if any. With the creation of this category naturally increasing the networks’ promotion of sketch series, some academy members speculated to THR that the rule change also helped three sketch stars (Schumer, Keegan-Michael Key and SNL‘s Kate McKinnon) land acting noms. You’re welcome, Amy Schumer!
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