Press Tour: Emmy chief will look at category problem, do nothing

Senior Television Writer
07.13.14 21 Comments

Showtime

NBC's press tour panel for the 2014 Emmy telecast was a chance for Seth Meyers and his “Late Night” producer Mike Shoemaker to talk about their approach to Seth hosting the show. Mainly, though, it was an opportunity for TV critics to complain to Television Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum about the broken Emmy category system – and for Rosenblum to smile, talk about his desire to examine the problem, and then make clear that he has no real plans to do anything to fix it.

In fact, Rosenblum mainly seemed to think that the category issue – where dramatic shows are submitted as comedies, where miniseries are submitted as ongoing series (and, in the case of shows like “Tremé” and “Luther,” vice versa), where series regulars are submitted as guest stars – was a good thing, because it suggested a healthy state of the industry.

“There's far more terrific programming today,” he noted. “The top shows this year are all terrific, and our members voted. We'll get criticism for one or two shows not getting nominated.”

He said that in the last five years, they had 40 percent more dramas submitted than previously, and 60 percent more comedies.

But each and every time he was asked if there were plans to fix things, he seemed unconcerned.

Asked if the Academy can do a better job policing category fraud, for instance, he said,
“I wouldn't refer to it as policing, and it's not a situation where they can go wherever they want. We have a defined set of rules. There are some subtle rules that, as an organization, we should take a look at, that has enabled the shows to move into the categories they're in.

“This isn't a new issue for the Academy to face,” he added, recalling shows like “Desperate Housewives” generating controversy for their categorization. “As an organization, should we look and maybe define the rules more carefully? It's probably something we should take a look at.”

I asked whether he felt that, given all of this year's shenanigans – including “Shameless” being allowed to hop from drama to comedy despite its darkest and most serious season ever, the final season of “Tremé” having to be submitted as a miniseries because it didn't produce enough episodes to qualify elsewhere, “True Detective” being considered a drama while “Fargo” was considered a miniseries, etc. – the rules had become too fluid, and too easy for the industry to exploit.

“I think it's less that the rules have become more fluid,” he insisted. “What's happened is that our industry has evolved. If you look at the kind of shows that are being produced, and the networks that are ordering shows – we didn't have Netflix doing shows, or HBO ordering eight episodes of a series like 'True Detective.' We need to be responsive to the way that the industry is evolving, to be reflective of the kinds of shows that are being produced. I do think it's incumbent on us to step back, take a look at the rules, and not respond to criticism, but respond to the evolution that's taking place in our business. And this is good news. It's good news that there is so much more production going on around town, and the kinds of productions are unique and they're varying and they don't fit into nice and cleanly defined boxes.”

He said the Academy would look at the idea of allowing for more nominees, given the sheer tonnage of quality programming on right now, but had no interest in adding new categories to deal with shows like “Orange,” “Shameless” and “Nurse Jackie” that fall somewhere in between drama and comedy.

“New categories is always challenging, because the (awards) show will run five hours long, and that's not something anybody wants,” he said. “We also want to maintain the sheen of what the award is. As you expand categories unnecessarily, you diffuse what that brand is.”

Over and over, Rosenblum used the phrase “we don't want to respond to criticism, but we will respond to issues.”

Don Mischer, producer of this year's Emmy telecast, admitted, “There is a blurring of the content now, with all of the shows airing on all the platforms. It's really difficult to have straight iron-clad procedures that delineate where every show falls. It's really tough. The solution is not to add more and more awards. We just have to do the best we can.”

So, basically, expect more of the same – especially since the abundant opportunities for category fraud are so good for the Academy's many members and partners. HBO benefited from being able to submit “True Detective” as a drama (and FX benefited in turn by having more slots open for “Fargo” on the miniseries end). Showtime got an extra “Shameless” nomination for William H. Macy by pretending it's now a comedy. “Orange Is the New Black” got more acting nominees because half its cast had the ability to submit as guest actors.

This is an industry award, and this dumb situation is currently beneficial to that industry, so don't expect Rosenblum's unconcerned smile to go away anytime soon.

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