Winds of Change

The Emmys -- and the screener process -- have certainly evolved over the years

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Pitching dramas isn't the only thing that has changed in recent decades: Emmy rules have also undergone renovations.

This year, the shift is subtle: When choosing nominees, over the past few years the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has been polling nearly 14,000 voting-eligible TV Academy members (out of its 15,000-strong membership), choosing the top 10 vote getters and then submitting that list to a blue-ribbon panel.

This year, there will be no nomination panels. All TV Academy voters will choose the top six nominees each in drama and comedy series, while those in the Performer Peer Group will decide on the top six nominees in the lead and supporting acting categories. Final voting for nominees in those 10 primary series and performer categories, which determines Emmy recipients, remains unchanged. Nominations will be announced July 16.

"That was a compromise between the hybrid of popular and panel votes," says TV academy awards chief John Leverence.

Perhaps the biggest change in Emmy thinking, however, came in 1996 when Emmy hopefuls had to submit a body of work, not just one episode. "The idea was that a cluster of episodes is more representative of what's happened in a season," Leverence adds. "It was a major shift."

On the other side of the process, "Law & Order: CI" executive producer Walon Green has spent enough time in television to have gone through another kind of submission evolution. During his "Hill Street Blues" tenure, screeners didn't exist; in the early days of "Law & Order" he was told that it was "wrong and underhanded" to send out a promotional screener. When he shifted to "NYPD Blue," the winds were changing. "There was a publicity drive and thrust to winning an Emmy by then," he says -- and both he and the show won an Emmy in 1995.

By the late 1990s, while he toiled at "ER," screeners were a given for any Emmy campaign.

And a campaign is necessary today, says Green: "Taking a chance that somebody saw your show, or discussed it at the water cooler is pretty (risky) these days. So if someone will support your case and get that episode out there, you have to take every shot you can."