Friday, March 13, 2015
EMMYS SNEAK IN RULE CHANGES, and THEY'RE MOSTLY GOOD. Some thoughts on the newly-defined TELEVISION LANDSCAPE!
Some of you readers, who have been paying particular attention to this blog over the last couple will not that I have discussed, even before it was a point of commentaries and editorials of most entertainment news sources that the confusion and maneuvering of the Primetime Emmys and the practice of placing television shows in particular categories should be reformed. How often have I made this point?
Here's my article about what the definition of a miniseries is/should be:
Here's my Mixed Bag Blog that included a section involving the Golden Globes decision to alter the Miniseries Category to "Limited Series":
Here's my letter to the Television Academy where I insisted they make guidelines in order to stop TV shows from being able to randomly switch categories at will:
Here's my post...-, well, you kinda get the idea at this point; this has been a subject I've discussed in one way, shape or form for awhile. I do it, because, while I think it's difficult to say that the Emmys are the be-all and end-all of television prestige, they are in essence an authority in how we distinguish television shows and series. They are representative of the entire television landscape and a way that we define that landscape is based partly on the way the Academy defines that landscape. So it disturbed me when shows the Academy was really, more letting the shows define themselves instead of taking control and defining the landscape itself. So when, right in the middle of the Oscars was going on, and nobody was paying attention except me and a few people at Gold Derby when this happened, but the Emmys finally got their act together and did what I've been telling them to do. Have them be in charge of defining exactly what category a show should be put into, plus a few other category rules and awards were changes, as per usual with these shows. Plus they also expanded their round of voting, as well as an the amount of voters per round as well, that's something that might come more into effect later, but let's take a look at the award they made.
First off, the 30-Minute vs. One-Hour rule. Basically, they're drawing a line, in that, if a show is 30 minutes long, then it's in the Comedy Series categories, and if it's an hour long, than it's in the drama series categories. I know some have complained about this, as the length of show shouldn't be the determining factor between what the genre, but it's not technically. What they did, ironically, what I said they should do, create a panel that, if a show really wants/feels like they belong in a different category then the one their placed into because of their time-length, then they can appeal to this nine-person committee selected upon from industry leaders appointed by the Academy Chairman and the Board of Governors. If the show can convince a 2/3 vote to allow a show to switch categories, then the show can officially enter in the other genre.
For those wondering, only once has an hour-long show won the Best Comedy Series Emmy, and that was "Ally McBeal" back in '99, I believe, maybe 2000, so there's precedent for it to win, but it is rare and these dramedy shows that fit somewhere in between, they have a decision to make. And we haven't seen a show yet that we know of, has filed an appeal to the body, so we're keeping a close eye on this. That said, since there's a few shows with precedents like "Orange is the New Black" and "Shameless" that have been able to jump or choose a genre against their natural time fit before, they will likely, if they choose to appeal probably get grandfathered, I suspect anyway. That's the only part of this that's up in the air and who knows how controversial or not some of these choices, both by which shows choose to appeal and what the appeals would end up being we'll have to dissect, especially in the next few months, but I gotta be honest, this is such an improvement that I am not bothered at all. What we needed was what we got, a system put in place where the Academy has top control over it's award show, alright there's flaws in the 30-minutes, 60-hour divide concept, but it wrote in an out, it didn't make it too easy for shows to switch but it made it possible and it made a show have to prove it's case that it is something outside of either the simple comedy or drama that it's labeled; I'm greatly in favor of this. Who knows how it'll play out, but that's gonna make this Emmy season interesting. It's already intriguing and it's only March right now.
And let's get to the other controversy, the Drama Series vs. Miniseries ruling. Well, first of all, there's no Miniseries anymore, they've eliminated that and brought back the delineation, "Limited Series", which used to be what they were called, but strangely those traditional miniseries that we tend to think about with that delineation, they aren't around anymore and have been by these series that are these one-year-long anthologies. Now, besides that, the big key here is that they defined "Limited Series" more clearly. They define a "Limited Series" as: "programs of two or more episodes with a total running time of at least 150 program minutes that tell a complete, non-recurring story, and do not have an ongoing storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons.So, basically, "True Blood", "American Horror Story", those shows are Limited Series now, "Luther" and "Downton Abbey" is in the Drama Series category now/permanently, no last season "The Big C" or "Treme" finally miniseries anymore, although producers may petition, just like for Drama and Comedy Series. This could also hopefully eliminate "The Starter Wife" or "Political Animals" scenarios where canceled series would then submit as miniseries, that's happened the last couple years as well, hypothetically anyway. Although, what happens when a show starts as a miniseries but then the next season becomes a regular series, like a "Downton Abbey" did? Eh, we'll see, but overall good rule. Stops shows from submitting where, they probably shouldn't, leaves it open for some wiggle room and interpretations.
There's an interesting new re-definition of Guest Actor/Actress awards, where, in order to be considered a Guest Actor, you must have appeared in less than half of the episodes of that season's shows. You see, usually a Guest Actor, was just that, a guest, somebody who shows up for maybe as little as one episode, maybe two or three and have an impact but wouldn't be heard from again. However, a few shows really started blurring the line a bit. For instance, last year a character who appeared in, most every episode of the season and was essentially a regular would be nominated for Guest Actor/Actress, in fact three of last year's winners in Guest Acting were in over half the shows' episodes they were in. It's hard to tell exactly when this practice started but I'd say "Dexter" was probably the show that started this. For a while there, each season would have a new guest actor/actress who would be in the show for the entire season, but that season only. They wouldn't be continuing on in the series as a regular, and their storylines would essentially be over, so, it's hard to call someone a regular on the series since they were only on that season, so those actors would submit in the Guest Actor/Actress categories instead. Of course, there are example of people on a show for one season and then being submitted as a regular though. Robert Downey Jr. on "Ally McBeal" or Joe Pantoliano for "The Sopranos" comes to mind for instance, and to make it even more confusing, Margo Martindale won a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for "Justified" despite only being in about half of that season; you could easily argue that she might've been better suited in the Guest Actress category, especially since her character was only in that one season. So, the rule has been change to an actor or actress requiring to be in less than half the episodes of that season's series in order to be eligible. If they are in more than half the episodes, then they are a regular, even if it is only for that season.
That's a minor shift of clarification purposes, other changes were fairly minimal. The Series categories are now guaranteed seven nominations, that's a new change, but because there's more shows out there than before. Still, up until now, these were all basically things that Emmy fans/voters/watchers were in some respects or another calling for. The last change, really kinda came out of nowhere, although in hindsight it does seem like somebody could've or should've foreseen it. The Variety Series category, well just by it's title, has often been a bit of a Variety of different kinds of programs in the past. There's never really been a need to clarify much further, even when some of the aspects that were common once upon a time in variety shows like musical and dance performances were taken up by reality and reality-competition series. Yet, there's been a huge variety lately of sketch comedy series that have taken up on the air, something that, was always apart of sketch and even talk shows, but now, there's enough distinction between them to separate Variety Sketch and Variety Tale. Variety Talk will be presented on the main show, Variety Sketch movies to the Creative Arts Emmys, (Sorry "SNL") This does sorta make sense though, there's been a slew of many sketch comedy series lately like "Key & Peele", "Inside Amy Schumer", "Little Britain", I'm sure that last one's off the air now, but there's definitely more options for sketch comics than ever before, more viable ones at that too. Plus, more than that, the Late Night Talk Show carousal, well, we'll talk about the latest goings-on with that on a future blog, I promise, but there's so much talk about the Golden Age of Dramas, but we're definitely in the Golden Age of Late Night Talk, and how it's continually transforming the television landscape. So, in a way this makes some sense. Except for the part where it's still called "Variety" though. Seriously, if this genre is still called "Variety", the catch-all word for whatever didn't fit into the other categories, then they should just be Talk and Sketch, shouldn't they?
Eh, they'll figure it out next year. The television landscape is continuous and constantly fluid; I said something like that in one of those other blogposts. The Emmys job is to stay on top of it as much as possible. If they're gonna take that mantle of being the most prestigious of the television awards, and be the organization of peers that vote on the best in their industry, then, they definitely need to be the ones proclaim and sorting out this mess of the Primetime television landscape, and you know what, they're doing it now. Maybe not perfectly, but compared to how they weren't doing it before now, this is a great improvement. Kudos to the Primetime Emmys, at least, kudos so far. Let's see how well these rules work to see the full impact, but still, so far, so good.