Cloris Leachman today landed her 22nd career Emmy nomination for her role on Fox’s freshman comedy Raising Hope and may add to her haul of eight Emmy Awards, which is already a record for a female performer. But, despite being featured in the main credits of the show before the title card, listed as a cast member on Fox’s website and included on panels for the series, Leachman, who appeared in 20 of Raising Hope‘s 22 episodes, was nominated not as a supporting actress in a comedy series but as a guest star. The move probably helped the Oscar winner to snag a nomination in the less-crowded guest star field, but it also raises the issue of what really constitutes a guest star on a TV series as the line between a guest and supporting actor has blurred in recent Emmy races.
According to Emmy’s rulebook, “Comedy/Drama series guest performers with ‘guest star’ billing, or who are contracted as such, are eligible in the guest performer categories without regard to the number of episodes he/she appeared in.” The definition was originally limited to a single episode but was later expanded to three episodes and eventually the limit on the number of episodes was lifted altogether. Per 20th Century Fox TV, which produces Raising Hope, Leachman was technically a guest star on the first season of the show despite appearing in virtually every episode, so she was eligible for the guest starring category, something she won’t be next year as she is being promoted to a regular for Season 2.
Leachman’s guest starring nomination is part of a growing trend of the TV Academy moving away from the traditional guest starring stints involving a splashy performance in a single episode and awarding nominations for playing characters built over the course of one or more seasons that often feel like supporting roles. Not a single actor from a primetime series nominated in the guest starring categories this year has done only one episode of the show they got nominated for. (more…)