EMMYS: Movies/Mini Category Spiked With Controversial Entries

The Emmys‘ Outstanding Miniseries or Movie category featured many of the expected contenders. HBO’s Game Change and Hemingway And Gellhorn made the cut along with History Channel’s highly rated mini The Hatfields & McCoys, which made a big splash with 16 nominations, and BBC’s Luther and PBS’ Sherlock: A Scandal In Belgravia adding serious gravitas — if not shows that had many viewers compared to the marquee categories.

The most interesting nomination came for FX’s American Horror Storywhich managed to tie Mad Men for the most overall nominations this year with 17. This show, which offers a different storyline each season with cast members taking on different roles, is a somewhat controversial entry. It is designed as a continuing “series” that could go on for many seasons. In fact, it had to get special treatment from the Academy board in order to be even eligible as a miniseries, where it obviously had a much easier time getting nominated than it would have in the Best Drama Series category where many think this weekly series belongs. Executive producer Ryan Murphy brought it to the Academy and asked that it be considered as a mini rather than regular series — he’s no dummy. At the Primetime Awards Committee meeting the issue was brought up and someone asked if the show initially had a pilot — it did. The committee deadlocked 19-19 on whether to recommend the Board of Governors approve Murphy’s request. The board eventually caved, and Murphy got his way, resulting in the truly impressive Emmy haul this morning. FX sent DVD screeners to the Academy and one of the episodes was clearly labeled “Pilot”. What movie or miniseries has ever had a pilot? Obviously the Academy is twisting the definition of what makes a movie or mini in order to give this category new blood that doesn’t come from HBO or niche networks and cable.

Related: EMMYS: FX’s ‘American Horror Story’ To Compete In Miniseries Category

The most curious nomination in Movies/Minis however comes in Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. Ashley Judd was nominated for ABC’s flop series Missingwhich to my knowledge was not initially designed to be or ever labeled as a miniseries. Certainly the network’s intention was to keep it going as a series, except ratings and poor reviews dictated otherwise. Yet here is Judd  nominated against Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Emma Thompson for genuine movies or minis. The fifth nominee, American Horror Story’s Connie Britton, similarly benefited from the Academy’s liberal interpretation of eligibility here.  But Judd’s eye-popping nomination could really set a precedent. Can you imagine actors in future short-run failed network series suddenly defining their work as a miniseries to get an Emmy nomination? It’s sad to see this happening in the movie and mini category and may just be a reflection of the diminishing form itself.

Related: EMMYS: Longform Shakeup Sign Of Times

The one area where the Emmys have an opportunity to offer fresh faces, big names and something a little different each year is definitely in the Movie/Miniseries categories. It’s the one place Emmys can actually rival the Oscars in terms of prestige projects, but it remains an endangered species at the Academy due to the Big Four networks’ basic snub of the form in recent years, leaving the contest open mostly to HBO, Showtime, PBS and the BBC. So you have to give ABC credit for finding a way into the arena with Missing. Obviously they were able to prove something to the Academy that wasn’t obvious to TV viewers or even critics who may have been under the impression that Missing was just another drama series.

In what could be just the beginning of a retreat from the category on the primetime telecast, the Academy announced that the Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress in a Movie or Mini categories will be jettisoned beginning in 2013, an indication to me that we are on a slippery slope here. This means some of this year’s name nominees like Jessica Lange and Ed Harris would not be considered separately next year meaning they will have to , unfairly, compete with leads in their programs. What’s next to go? When I was on the Academy’s Board of Governors there was a real attempt to move the entire movie/mini categories off to the much-less-visible Creative Arts awards show or even spin it off into its own show and try to sell it to a cable network. That thankfully didn’t happen as it would deprive the Primetime Emmys of a long-held tradtion of honoring this kind of prestige show in a proper way. But after combining the Movie and Miniseries category last year and now tinkering with the very definition of what makes a movie or miniseries live up to their name, the Academy is cheapening this once proud category. Last year’s winner Downton Abbey morphed into a full-fledged drama series sometime after its first “season” and the Academy clearly determined it would need to be considered as such in Season 2. It was, and today it was nominated for 16 Emmys as a drama series where it rightfully belongs. The Academy should continue to carefully try to separate what might be defined as a series or limited series from the kind of one-time events that should normally define the Outstanding Miniseries or Movie category.

Related: EMMYS: ‘Downton Abbey’ Makes Successful Leap With Drama Series Nomination

  1. “This means some of this year’s name nominees like Jessica Lange and Ed Harris would not be considered next year. ”

    But I imagine Lange will move to the leading actress category for season two since Ryan Murphy is already referring to it as The Jessica Lange Show.

  2. Well Jessica Lange is going to be lead in AHS season 2 so the elimination of the supporting actor categories wont be a problem if she does get nominated in 2013. It sucks their getting rid of those categories though.

  3. Hemmingway and Gelhorn…. hmmm. Really? Emmy? Come oooon. Don’t make me whine.

    Heavy hitters hitting bunts that barely pass home-base and getting rewarded for it.

    That movie was horrible in every aspect, including acting.

  4. I could not agree more – the Emmy’s are showing their bias toward the politics of the business.

  5. ‘American Horror Story’ is good, but it is not a mini-series. It’s in the wrong category and no amount of politicking by RM can disguise that. Like comparing apples to onions.

    Ashley Judd? Lame-o move too. She seems smart but not in that show.

  6. Great commentary. With all due respect to Ashley Judd, a bad series doesn’t get to be re-branded “miniseries” just because nobody watched and it got cancelled after a few episodes. Something at the Academy got greased good. Just sayin’ . .. .

  7. I don’t understand why Missing was able to submit as a mini-series, but Luck was not. Was it because Luck had begun filming a second season? If that’s the case, it’s no different from Luther or Sherlock.

  8. “This show, which offers a different storyline each season with cast members taking on different roles, is a somewhat controversial entry.”

    Am I missing something? There has only been one season so far. The article reads as if there have been multiple seasons? Is Mr. Hammond referring to the plan for the series?

  9. The River (of all series!) also managed to get a nomination in the miniseries categories, which is just as wrong as the Ashley Judd nom.

  10. I like AHS, but now that I have looked at the Emmy nominations, the decision to put AHS in the tv movie / mini-series category makes no sense. What is the criteria for a series and Mini-Series?

    Some shows like Sherlock have multiple seasons, but only a few episodes. [And interestingly, Benedict Cumberbatch — who should easily win the Emmy for best actor — is only nominated for one particular episode of the series.]

    A true mini-series should not have multiple seasons by design. Most cable TV series have 10 to 12 shows per season. I can’t understand why AHS would be considered a mini-series when it is really no different from Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, the Killing, etc. Interestingly, The Walking Dead and the Killing was shut out in the nominations. I firmly believe that if AHS was properly placed in to the drama series category, it too would have been shut out.

    The losers in the decision to put AHS in the mini-series category are shows such as “The Hour” — which truly is a mini-series. The Hour wasn’t nominated for best mini-series, nor were any of the actors. (I believe the only nomination is for the writing). But the acting in that show was amazing and deserving of several nominations, notably Dominic West, Ben Whishaw and Anna Chancellor.

    1. The Hour is not a mini series. It has a second season coming out later this year. It’s a shame how inferior shows that submit under mini get nominations and then shows like Awake and Luck get nothing. I bet next year every show that was cancelled in its first year submits under mini series.

  11. It’s bullshit.

    Nothing that has a season 2 is a fucking MINI-SERIES.

    No Luther, no Sherlock, no American Horror Story.

    A mini-series is closed-ended story, over multiple nights, period.

    Quality movies were shut out because of gaming the Emmy system. At least Downton Abbey had the balls to go up against MAD MEN. And guesss what? Both were nominated.

    I swear, Academy voters hear a British accent and they get all weak in the knees. It’s disgusting.

  12. For those wondering, “Sherlock” isn’t really submitting as a miniseries. It is submitting as a TV Movie. That is why only one episode of it got all 13 nominations. It was the *only* episode they submitted. The Movie and Miniseries categories have been combined, which might be where the confusion is coming from.

    “Sherlock” could never submit as a Drama Series. There are only 3 episodes per season. That fails to meet the minimum qualification for Drama Series. So Miniseries/Movie is the only place it is eligible.

    “American Horror Story” on the other hand is indeed a Drama Series and should in no way be allowed to compete in this category.

    Also, the situation with Ashley Judd is not unique. The Academy isn’t setting a precedent here. That precedent was already set a few years ago when “Thief” was allowed to compete as a minieries. Which allowed Andre Braugher to be nominated.

  13. happy for all the AHS nominees. but really. this show was never once described as a mini while filming the first SEASON. if it’s a mini, then why did all the call sheets refer to which SEASON and EPISODE we were filming. sad how murphy will do anything to feed his grotesque narcissism. lol. why brad keeps carrying him i will never comprehend. dante is more understandable. without murphy he would be home collecting social security. but brad? way too talented to keep riding bitch.

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