Writing dilemma leads producers to real-life showdown

Hank Hill, meet your new competition: Frasier Crane, Carrie Bradshaw and Raymond Barone.

The producers of Fox’s long-running animated hit “King of the Hill” have decided to enter the show in the live-action comedy categories this Emmy season, meaning the laffer will compete for the outstanding comedy series nod alongside shows like “Frasier,” “Sex and the City” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

“King of the Hill” exec producers John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky said they hoped the shift would help recognize the show’s top-notch writing.

Under the TV academy rules, shows entering the animated series category can’t also compete in the comedy series writing categories.

“It’s the basic principle of playing cards — you follow suit,” said TV academy awards VP John Leverence. “The general rule of the competition is the placement of the program determines which individual achievement categories you can be nominated in.”

But the animated division doesn’t award a separate writing Emmy — and there’s a limit on the number of writers and producers allowed to take home a trophy when the show wins the award for animated program (for the record, four directors, three writers and 14 producers).

With no individual animation writing nod, and a limit to the number of scribes who are included if “King” wins the big series prize, the show’s producers said they finally decided to compete with the big boys.

“We feel we’re doing high-level work, and we want to be judged by our peers,” Altschuler said. “We’ve always wanted to compete in that category.”

Giving the decision some credence, the producers note that “King of the Hill” sticks to a real-life template. Unlike other animated shows, which frequently give way to flights of fancy, “King’s” storylines and characters remain grounded as they confront real-life scenarios — much more than even some live-action shows.

“That’s the world we’re living in,” Altschuler said. “We’re so meticulous about making it real, we feel strongly we should be in the comedy category. If any show is to enter the live-action competition, we make the most sense.”

The “King of the Hill” decision comes with some precedent: Early in its life, “The Simpsons” was submitted for competition in Emmy’s comedy categories. But after being shut out, the show ultimately moved to the safer confines of the animation categories, where it has scored several Emmys since then.

As “The Simpsons” found out, the move to live-action may actually make it tougher to score an Emmy in the short run, Altschuler and Krinsky admit — particularly this year, when several shows are ending their runs and riding an emotional wave.

But the duo see it as groundwork for future seasons, as the Emmy old guard get used to the idea of an animated show competing for a live-action trophy.

The exec producers also admit that the move isn’t a popular one with the show’s animators, who would prefer the show stick with the status quo. “King of the Hill,” after all, has a solid track record in the field, including a 1999 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.

And losing out on a shot at an Emmy are the show’s animation directors, who aren’t eligible to compete in the live-action directing category.

“But they completely understood what the playing field is,” Krinsky said. “Our goal is to make sure there eventually will be no cracks to fall through.”

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