Animated show aims for twice the categories

They’re animated series, but they’re also half-hour comedies. Shows like “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” have long been forced to choose a side each Emmy season, leaving no one satisfied.

Until now. The folks behind “Family Guy” have figured out a way around their Emmy conundrum, entering the hit laffer for the first time in the comedy series category — and at the same time submitting its hourlong season opener, the “Star Wars” parody “Family Guy: Blue Harvest,” in the animated program category.

“Family Guy” is able to do so by classifying “Blue Harvest” as a special rather than a regular episode of the show. That may rankle some of the show’s rival animated skeins — which have struggled for years over the Emmy eligibility question — but it’s a legitimate classification.

A handful of shows, including “The Simpsons,” have attempted to break the live-action barrier in the comedy category but, failing to do so, have ultimately returned to the animated competish.

Decision to switch from the animated to laffer categories is also controversial within productions, as a show’s animators — who obviously play a large role in its production — aren’t eligible for an award if the show is up for a comedy Emmy.

On the flip side, when skeins like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” enter in the animated categories, they’re not able to compete in the comedy writing categories. That’s not a popular move for scribes, who believe they should be competing against their brethren who work at live-action shows like “The Office.”

“It always seemed a little odd that we were up against ‘The Powderpuff Girls,’ ” said “Family Guy” exec producer Chris Sheridan. “Our true creative competition is other half-hour shows, like ‘Two and a Half Men’ and ‘My Name Is Earl.’ We considered in the past switching from the animation category to the regular comedy series category, but we didn’t do it. The only way our animated people could be recognized was to stick with that.”

Because the animation category looks at individual episodes or specials, “Family Guy” was able to exploit that loophole this year and attempt to make a splash in both categories. Sheridan admits it’s a longshot — Emmy voters have so far declined to nominate an animated half-hour in the live-action dominated comedy competish.

But if hourlong series can invade — and win — in the comedy category (once the exclusive domain of sitcoms), why not an animated half-hour?

“We thought we’d give it a shot,” he said. “We feel the show deserves some recognition. It’s one of the highest-rated half-hour scripted shows. It seems like a wonderful opportunity for everyone to get the recognition they worked so hard for.”

If it doesn’t work, there’s always next year: “Family Guy” is prepping its parody of “The Empire Strikes Back,” which will once again be classified as a special.

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