One of the bigger challenges facing the Television Academy’s Emmy Awards the past few years is keeping up with the constantly shifting TV landscape. In fact, in March the organization announced it was dropping the formal name by which it always has been known, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The powers that be chose to unload all that “arts and sciences” stuff and even considered dropping “television” altogether until it was decided the word can be used as a brand name to encompass all the delivery systems that are part of modern entertainment. Change is good and the TV Academy has a primetime awards committee working year round to address the latest needs and trends of the medium it represents.
One of the biggest changes this year is that the miniseries/movie category has been split in two, though the mini/movie acting, writing and directing contests will remain combined. It recognizes the renewed interest in the miniseries format thanks to such hits as History’s juggernauts Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible, among many others. “We had a situation where there was a lack of minis and so we had a consolidation. But then the Board (of Governors) decided there would be a split in 2014 since it looks right now like they are solidly back,” says the TV Academy’s senior vp of awards John Leverence, who adds that this year the number of minis well exceeds the TV Academy’s “Rule of 14” (the number required to trigger a category).
Another change this year concerns the voiceover performer category that is handed out at the Creative Arts ceremony. Lily Tomlin won the award last year for narrating a documentary even though she was primarily competing against a group of actors who performed voiceover work in animation. The Board decided to OK a split here with two categories, one for voiceover performers and another for voiceover narration. Among those Tomlin beat was Bob Bergen, who was nominated for voicing the famed cartoon character Porky Pig. It should be noted that both Tomlin and Bergen are on the Board representing actors, so they were instrumental in getting through this change.
And yet another split has occurred within the reality program category, which now will be divided between two disciplines, structured and unstructured. Shows such as Duck Dynasty or Real Housewives fall into the latter camp as sort of “docusoaps,” while structured shows have more of a distinct format (think Antiques Roadshow or MythBusters).
Perhaps one of the biggest tweaks this year is that the “2 percent rule” is being applied to the comedy and drama series categories. In the past, when there were just five nominee slots, a sixth could be added if its vote count came within 2 percent of the last nominee. The TV Academy considers such occurrences a statistical tie. “We had not applied that (rule) to our marquee categories, such as drama and comedy series, and for acting because we already had six nominees,” Leverence says. “But then the Board said we should go ahead and apply the 2 percent rule to them as well because if you have a statistical tie for sixth place you might as well go ahead and take the seventh, too.” This means that in the uber competitive drama series and acting categories there well could be seven nominees this year.
The TV Academy originally increased the comedy and drama series categories from five to six nominees in 2010. In 2011 it did the same for miniseries/movie (now split), variety series, reality programming and reality competition (also split). This year the directing, writing and supporting acting in a miniseries/movie categories are getting the bump to six slots. For the mini/movie supporting actors this is a real reversal of fortune since their categories were on the brink of extinction just last season. What a difference a year makes.