The ill-timed consolidation of the best TV movie and miniseries Emmy categories will likely be short lived. The TV Academy has started a procedure for the two longform categories to be restored for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, putting an end to the category’s two-year merger. “The recommendation has been made to split Outstanding Miniseries or Movie into separate program categories,” a TV Academy spokesperson said in a statement. “This is on the agenda to be discussed at the February 4th Awards Committee meeting.” The move, first reported by TVLine, is the first in a two-step process, with a recommendation first going to the awards committee and then to the Board of Governors for a vote. It was triggered by the so-called “rule of 14” where more than 14 submissions in a category prompts a discussion of creating a new category and fewer than 14 opens a consolidation conversation. The dramatic drop in miniseries production at the end of the last decade — which resulted in only 2 getting nominated in the best miniseries Emmy category in both 2009 and 2010 — invoked the rule of 14, leading to the February 2011 vote to merge the best TV movie and miniseries categories.
One can argue that when made, that decision was already outdated because by early 2011 the miniseries genre was already coming out of the collapse with a number of solid Emmy contenders that year, including the opening installments of PBS’ Downton Abbey, which started off as a limited series; PBS’ Sherlock and BBC America’s Luther; as well as HBO’s Mildred Pierce, ReelzChannel’s The Kennedys, Sundance Channel’s Carlos and Starz’s The Pillars Of The Earth. But the TV Academy continued combining longform categories.
In one of the worst-timed decisions, a day after the conclusion of History’s Hatfields & McCoys, which shattered ratings records in May 2012 to usher in a new golden age of miniseries and limited series, the TV Academy voted to consolidate the lead and supporting longform acting categories. That decision was reversed last April before it had gone in effect, just days after History’s blockbuster mini The Bible cemented the genre’s Renaissance.
Now the TV Academy will likely also restore the stand-alone best miniseries and TV movie categories. What’s more, the longform categories’ staunchest opponents, the broadcast networks, will likely embrace the breakup. After getting out of the longform business several years ago, broadcasters, who carry the Primetime Emmys, had been lobbying for paring down the categories they have no presence in. Now all major broadcast networks are back in the field in a big way, with a slew of event series and miniseries in the works, including NBC’s Rosemary’s Baby and The Bible sequel A.D., Fox’s 24: Live Another Day, Gracepoint and Wayward Pines and CBS’ The Dovekeeper. The first in the bunch, Live Another Day, will premiere in early May, and it is unclear if it would qualify for this year’s Emmys. But FX’s first miniseries, Fargo, will, as will Discovery’s first mini, Klondike, History/Lifetime’s Bonnie & Clyde and a number of others joining perennial favorites American Horror Story, Luther and Sherlock. Even HBO’s big new drama, True Detective, is a limited series, whose creator said he was inspired to pursue the format by FX’s hit anthology/miniseries American Horror Story.
With all major networks aggressively greenlighting event and miniseries, a best miniseries category could soon be bursting at the seams while best TV movies may be at risk. Every year HBO supplies 1-2 big contenders, with Ryan Murphy’s The Normal Heart likely to be one this season, and Lifetime and Hallmark churn out enough volume to keep the category alive, with occasional contributions by other cable networks like National Geographic with its Killing franchise, but the field where the biggest competition seems to be is on the miniseries side.