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Orange Is the New Black could be headed for gold.
Despite considerable uncertainty with regard to genre and a cast of characters rarely seen on television, Jenji Kohan’s hourlong prison dramedy picked up 12 Emmy nominations to lead the comedy category on Thursday, including top honor for best comedy series. Come August, it will be competing against Louie, Veep, Modern Family, Silicon Valley and The Big Bang Theory at the 66th annual awards show. Netflix muscled its way into the drama category as well, with House of Cards scoring its second best drama nom along with 12 others for talent including stars Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright.
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The digital service no doubt benefited from its shrewd decision to launch the critically beloved dramedy just three just days before the Emmy voting window opened on June 9. What accompanied Orange‘s all-at-once premiere was a deluge of press, a collection of Critics’ Choice Awards and a much-discussed transgender-themed Time magazine cover featuring co-star Laverne Cox. Adding to the intrigue is the Lionsgate-produced series’ prison setting and envelope-pushing characters, including those of different races, ethnicities and sexual orientation. Five of the series’ stars, including Cox and lead Taylor Schilling scored nominations.
“We don’t try to make a point of presenting series or characters that have never been seen before, but the history of our company is really rooted in film in the DVD days—and not just major studio films but independent films and foreign films and documentaries. So we have a rich tradition of loving those kinds of projects ourselves, and we have a very large subscriber base who we know appreciates those types of projects as well,” said Netflix’s vp original content Cindy Holland.
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Similarly advantageous was the decision to submit Orange as a comedy rather than a drama considering how much more competitive that latter category has been in recent years. That isn’t to say the genre ambiguity has been easy on the showrunner. In a roundtable interview with THR this spring, Kohan acknowledged the challenges of producing dramedies, which she did first with Showtime’s Weeds, noting: “I f— myself during awards season. My shows are all weird hybrids.” Whether Oranges‘ nominations will translate to awards remains to be seen; the last hourlong comedy to win was Ally McBeal in 1999.
Though digital content has been eligible for the Primetime Emmy Awards since 2008, this is only the third year that Netflix has fielded Emmy content — and 2013 was the first time it had a formidable contender with MRC’s Cards, which took home its first major win for director David Fincher. Netflix has added 31 more nominations to its tally this year, up from 14 a year earlier.
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