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Categories smooth nonfiction friction

Org settles on three series prizes

Having juggled its categories several years ago to adapt to TV’s explosion of reality and nonfiction programs, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences seems settled on its unscripted categories.

There are three series prizes: The nonfiction series trophy is given to traditional documentary-style shows; “Outstanding Reality Series” includes “Petri-dish” style reality shows lacking gamelike competitived elements; and “Outstanding Reality Competition” covers series in which contestants get voted off the island, fired from the boardroom, cut down by Cowell, or otherwise banned from the scene (this doesn’t include gameshows). There’s also the “Outstanding Nonfiction Special” trophy, which mainly covers nonserialized documentaries.

As for all the individual awards, all that is unscripted is lumped together. That means whether they work on “American Idol” or “American Masters,” directors, cinematographers, sound editors and sound mixers are pooled together. For example, 2005’s best nonfiction director, James Miller, who helmed the heavy-hitting HBO doc “Death in Gaza,” was up against directors of reality-competish shows “American Idol” and “The Apprentice,” as well as “Outstanding Reality Series” denizen “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

It’s the Academy’s way of limiting the number of award categories. “In a world in which it would be OK to have 500 Emmy categories, you would have a nonfiction sound editor subgroup for nonfiction, reality, etc.” explains Academy senior VP of awards John Leverence.

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