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Emmy Awards Offer Sweeping Rule Changes

Remember last year when the Emmy nominations came out and True Detective landed in the Drama Series category while Fargo was considered a Miniseries? And how that generated wailing and gnashing of teeth in the television community? Well, that will not be happening in the future, as the Emmy Awards (finally) took steps to quell the category jumping the plagued the 2014 award season.

Tackling the aforementioned miniseries/drama series issue that reared its head through True Detective‘s category jump, the Television Academy has changed the name of the Miniseries category to “Limited Series,” defining a limited series as “programs of two or more episodes with a total running time of at least 150 program minutes that tell a complete, non-recurring story, and do not have an ongoing storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons.” This means that True Detective and Fargo will. presumably, compete head-to-head this year in the Limited Series category. On the flip side, a series like Sherlock, which had previously been considered a miniseries (as only three episodes are produced at a time) will now be considered a drama for Emmy purposes, due to it’ continuing storylines.

Emmy NominationsHBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

Also seeing a change is the classification of a guest star. Previously, varying contract statuses for actors to sneak into the guest star category when they appeared in a large number of episodes of a series (case in point: Uzo Aduba from Orange is the New Black won an Emmy for guest actress last year for the series, despite appearing in all episodes of the show’s first season). Now, in order to be considered a guest actor, the actor must appear in “less than 50% of a program’s episodes.”

Finally, the biggest changes are in the classification of drama and comedy series. First, in an acknowledgement of the expanding number of excellent television programs currently on the air, the number of nominees in each category has been increased to seven nominees, rather than six. In order to qualify as a comedy series under the new rule, a series must have “episodes of 30 minutes or less.” For a drama, the series must have “episodes of more than 30 minutes.” This means that Orange is the New Black and Shameless are presumed, now, to be dramas rather than comedies – the category both shows competed in last year. While this seems to be potentially eliminating true hour-long comedies, shows can still petition for consideration in one of the two categories (Jane the Virgin is expected to try to land in the comedy category, despite its hour-long run time). But this should, hopefully clear up a lot of the questions and ill-will brought on by last year’s category jumping Emmy Awards.

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TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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