Ties deep-six usual number of contenders

As the presenters unseal their envelopes and the nominees’ anticipation peaks, producers of this year’s Emmy telecast will have a much more difficult time fitting all the potential winners onscreen at once.

In eight of the most prominent categories and 21 overall, Emmy voters managed to nominate more than the usual five finalists. Lead actress, supporting actor, supporting actress and guest actor in drama, along with supporting actress and director in comedy, offer six nominees each — as does the race for variety, music or comedy special. And the drama director category has seven nominees.

A year ago, two major categories and 10 overall had more than five noms.

The nominations list has swelled to such a degree that more cynical observers might think the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences relaxed its cutoff rules — that having friends in high places could get you on the list if you were within shouting distance.

However, TV Academy awards senior VP John Leverence states that in the race for the final spot in these six- or seven-nom categories, ties were simply rampant.

“It’s just a situation in which you have very, very tight races,” Leverence says. “The accountants told me there were all kinds of additional races that were determined by one or two votes. It was not so much a matter of, ‘You have a lot of ties’ — it was how amazing it was that (we) didn’t have a lot more.”

Although one’s image of the vote might include thousands upon thousands of ballots cascading into Emmy HQ, the aggregate vote total is actually rather small and spread among dozens of contenders. As a result, point totals for the leading candidates don’t differ by much.

“It really is a situation in which every single vote counts, and every voter can make a difference,” Leverence says. “If one voter had changed a vote in a lot of those categories, it would not look the same.”

Given how the Academy accommodates the expanded nominations list without blinking an eye — and given the omnipresent desire in Hollywood to stroke as many egos as possible — is it possible instead of being the exception, six or seven nominees per category could become the norm?

Leverence says he does get suggestions to raise the number of nominees — as well as calls to reduce them down to three. The Academy is content with the happy medium.

“Five seems to be the tradition in most awards areas,” Leverence says.

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