Reality sets in for Emmy noms

Nonfiction p'gramming trophy added to mix

“Survivor” may get its moment in the Emmy sun after all: The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences voted Wednesday to create two new primetime categories that will reward the growing reality TV genre.

Effective this year, the academy will award a nonfiction programming (reality) trophy to “programming that depicts people and/or events in dramatic circumstances with the primary intent to entertain.”

Eligible programming for that category would include series such as Fox’s “Temptation Island,” the WB’s “Popstars” and ABC’s “Making the Band,” as well as specials such as UPN’s upcoming “When Chefs Attack: America’s Filthiest Restaurants,” none of which include gameshow, prize or contest elements.

Series like “Survivor” and “Big Brother,” both of which culminate with a cash prize winner, would fall under a second new category: nonfiction programming (special class).

Series and specials eligible for that Emmy award would not fall under the nonfiction special (informational) or series (informational) areas, or the newly created reality category listed above.

Both Emmys are “area awards,” which means programs won’t compete against each other but will receive a statuette if two-thirds of the category’s judges approve. That means more than one show could win an Emmy.

In other words, both “Survivor” and “Survivor: The Australian Outback” could walk away with trophies for nonfiction programming (special class).

“I’m delighted they’ve decided to allow awards to recognize shows that do this kind of programming,” said “Survivor” exec producer Mark Burnett.

Still, Burnett expressed disappointment that the reality categories won’t be handed out during the Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 16. Winners in both categories will instead be revealed Sept. 8 during the Creative Arts Emmy Awards at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

“It’s a little surprising that the No. 1 show won’t be awarded in primetime,” Burnett said. “But I have much bigger things on my mind — like ‘Friends’ tonight.”

While there was never any question that both of CBS’ “Survivor” installments would be eligible for an Emmy in September, it had been unclear how the TV Academy would classify this year’s TV phenom (Daily Variety, Jan. 29).

With CBS concerned that “Survivor” wouldn’t get its due at the Emmy fete, and other reality shows worried about getting shut out completely, some industry players had started to lobby for a reality program category.

Leading the charge, Eye officials sent a letter to the Academy in December suggesting a reality award. The Academy’s board of governors previously voted against launching a reality award, instead recommending that skeins like “Survivor” compete in the nonfiction program category.

Primetime gameshows such as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” aren’t affected by the new categories this year; rulemaking for the Daytime Emmy Awards, where all gameshows (day or night) are awarded, has already been approved for the year.

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