Ray Richmond is an AwardsLine contributor
It’s difficult to keep track of exactly what’s what in the outstanding made-for-TV movie/miniseries category, and this year offers a couple of prime examples.
Three of the six nominees this time–FX’s American Horror Story, PBS’ Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia, and BBC America’s Luther–are hardly what one would call standard-issue longform contenders. Horror Story was a 12-parter that began with a pilot episode. Luther was the second season of a continuing series. And the Sherlock film was a movie-length episode of a series operating under the Masterpiece banner. Emmy rules were stretched a bit to allow all three to qualify in the movie/mini area, yet they fit the current criteria as limited-run projects that tell a single story with a beginning, middle and end that is resolved within the piece.
One could also argue, however, that Horror Story, Luther, and Sherlock are, in fact, ongoing drama series that belong in the drama category. At the TCA gathering in July, someone did make that very argument to Academy of Television Arts & Sciences chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum. He reasoned that he didn’t necessarily agree that all three were drama series. “But it is a category that we watch carefully and one that we have to evaluate year by year,” he said. “You raised the right point.”
What this might mean is that the TV Academy is also grappling with how to define longform programming. To be sure, none of the three nominated projects would likely have had any shot in landing similar nods among the drama series categories. But Horror Story was able to use the rules to its advantage to haul in 17 nominations, tying it with Mad Men for the most of any project. That included four acting noms–for Connie Britton as a lead, and Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy and Daniel O’Hare for supporting.
Blame the changing economics of television and the fact that series episode orders aren’t what they once were. And there is likely to be more where this came from. Next year, when the Showtime comedy The Big C has its final season, it will wrap things up with four hour-long installments–below the six episodes needed to qualify for series, but just right for a miniseries.