TV academy changes Emmy award rules on comedies and other shows

Emmy rule changes may shake up TV industry award show

The Emmys are changing award rules on comedies and other categories — and some producers might find the new process nothing to laugh about.

In a switch that set the TV industry abuzz Friday, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences ruled that for the purposes of the Primetime Emmys, it will now consider comedies to be 30 minutes long, while dramas will be presumed to have one-hour episodes.

This could have a big impact on shows like "Orange Is the New Black" and "Shameless," which have competed in the comedy category even though they are 60 minutes long.

Bruce Rosenblum, chairman of the television academy, emphasized in an interview that the change didn't necessarily mean no more hourlong comedies up for Emmy consideration. Producers can still petition the academy to waive the rule on a case-by-case basis.

"They can absolutely do that," Rosenblum said. "That triggers our industry panel" that will then take up the case. All the rule change does is formalize the process, he added. (This is not a new issue: "Ally McBeal," a one-hour series, won the best comedy series Emmy back in 1999.)

In another change, one that could end up having a big impact on who actually wins an award, the academy greatly expanded the number of members who can vote in the final round. That is where the winner is chosen from a pool of nominees.

In the past, the winner was voted on by a "blue-ribbon panel" of members. But now any member who voted in the nominating round can vote online in the finals, provided that person watches all the submitted material and can vouch that he or she has no personal conflicts of interest.

That could make the final voting process more democratic and potentially lead to fewer "how did that happen?" upsets.

The best comedy and drama series categories, which now are capped at six nominees apiece, will get bumped up to seven. The academy says the move was necessary "due to the dramatic increase in series production."

"That was an easy decision due to the quality and quantity" of current series, Rosenblum said.

The miniseries category will be changed to "limited series," defined as "programs of two or more episodes ... that tell a complete, non-recurring story, and do not have an ongoing storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons." (FX's "American Horror Story" was criticized for pushing an Emmy miniseries bid in 2012.)

The variety series category, which has covered everything from "Saturday Night Live" to "The Daily Show," will be split into two sub-categories, sketch and talk.

Meanwhile, the academy closed a loophole in the "guest actor" category. Now performers must appear in fewer than half the episodes to be eligible.

Some content providers were withholding judgment on the academy's steps. A spokesman for Netflix, which makes "Orange Is the New Black," said it had no comment.

But others hailed the moves.

"Today's announcement reflects the Academy's acknowledgment of the changing landscape of television," Michael Lombardo, president of HBO programming, wrote in a statement. "We applaud their outstanding leadership and initiative in taking these bold steps."

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

4:30 p.m.: This post has been updated with a statement from Michael Lombardo, president of HBO programming.

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