Emmy widens welcome mat with six subgroups

Emmy shut “The Tonight Show” out of this year’s kudofest — but thanks to an influx of new, slightly bizarre categories, Jay Leno can still break out his tuxedo.

Leno’s webcast, “Jay Leno’s Garage,” has been nominated in the outstanding special class category for “short-format nonfiction programs” — alongside a History Channel VOD piece and a Discovery.com video from “Deadliest Catch.”

After years of cramming indefinable programs into one catchall category — and pitting broadband programming up against regular TV fare — the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences has split its default “special class” category into six hyper-specific subgroups.

“This is the first year we’ve formally subdivided special class into various sectors,” notes TV Acad awards chief John Leverence.

Decision to spread it out came after the org’s Anomalies Committee (yes, there really is such a thing, deep inside the TV Academy bureaucracy) realized there were too many programs that didn’t have a place in any other category.

Because categories are limited to five nominees (except in the case of a tie), that meant strange bedfellows: Classical music/dance programs, awards shows programs and events like the “Super Bowl Halftime Show” all vied for one of those spots. Many others were simply squeezed out.

Hence the decision to give classical music/dance its own category as well as give awards shows their own field. In the newly created awards program category, both the 80th Annual Academy Awards and the 61st Annual Tony Awards are up for the Emmy — but the 50th Annual Grammy Awards didn’t make the cut.

The special class expansion is also how the TV Academy wound up with the head-scratching category “Outstanding Special Class –Not-Exclusively-Made-for-Television Variety, Music, Comedy Event Programs.”

That award refers to events that weren’t staged for TV but happened to be televised. Just one entrant qualified this year: PBS’ “Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival Chicago.”

As for broadband, nominees originally were allowed to compete in regular categories against their broadcast and cable counterparts. But last year that led to just one nominee: the Fox.com clip of “Drive,” which earned a nod in the special visual effects category for miniseries, movies and specials.

In an effort to expand the field, this year the Acad opened up special class categories for short-format live action, short-format animated and short-form nonfiction (the Leno category). The live-action and nonfiction entrants all came from the broadband arena.

But don’t call it a competition. Because special class categories remain catchalls and sometimes lump together apples-and-oranges entrants (like Leno and “Deadliest Catch,” for example), the nominees aren’t actually going up against each other. Each are voted on their own merits, so several, one or no winners could result in a special class field.

The TV Academy considers some of these new special class areas to be incubators for future, full-fledged competitive categories — particularly the broadband arenas. Per Emmy guidelines, once there are more than 14 potential entrants, the org can break out a brand-new category.

The Academy isn’t shy about expanding its nomination roster. The org, after all, approved another mouthful of a category this year: “Outstanding Picture Editing of Clip Packages for Talk, Performance, Award or a Reality-Competition Program.”

Yes, even clip packages get their day in the Emmy sun. And just in time for fans of raunchy humor: Both “I’m F–ing Matt Damon” and “I’m F–ing Ben Affleck,” which premiered on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” are up for that award.

Who says the Emmys aren’t current?

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