Slim competish in longform Emmy race

Given this year’s dearth of nominees, the fate of Emmy’s miniseries category may once again be called into question.

Just seven miniseries were submitted this year for Emmy consideration. And because of the TV Academy’s “one-third” rule — under which the number of nominations in a category can’t exceed one-third the number of entries — just two noms were handed out (to HBO’s “Generation Kill” and PBS’ “Little Dorrit”).

Past attempts inside the TV Academy to merge the miniseries and TV movie categories have been met with fierce resistance by producers. But the pressure from the broadcast networks — which are mostly out of the movies and minis game — to downsize the longform competish has been just as strong.

Already, movie and mini actors compete in the same categories. Now, this year’s downsized miniseries category may give more credence to arguments that there should be just one longform award.

Producer Stanley M. Brooks, whose Lifetime telepic “Prayers for Bobby” scored a movie nom, called such a possibility “horrible.”

“The problem would be that you would be taking two very different forms and asking them to compete against each other,” he said. “The budgets are significantly higher for miniseries. The networks invest (large) amounts of money in miniseries because they are event programming. (And) there’s a very different creative exercise in creating an 88-90-minute movie and creating a story that’s going to have the expanse of four, six, eight, 10 hours.”

Brooks said he believes the miniseries drought is temporary. Indeed, minis on tap for next year include HBO’s highly anticipated “The Pacific.”

“We are going to be seeing more miniseries get made,” he said. “The format is coming back.”

But even if movies and miniseries remain separate categories, it’s looking more likely that at least some of the longform awards will be pushed outside the Primetime Emmys telecast.

The Big Four nets, which air the Emmys on a rotating basis, have been itching for years to shave the number of awards handed out during the three-hour telecast. With the broadcasters mostly out of that game, the longform categories have long been seen as the most vulnerable.

The TV Academy’s powerful peer groups have prevented that from happening in the past. But the org and CBS have been kicking around plans this year to move some categories out of the show, much as the Grammys pick and choose which awards to showcase every year.

In the case of the Emmys, one plan floated would have a handful of categories handed out before the show, with mentions of the winners during the telecast.

Not surprisingly, that also steams Brooks.

“I think it’s embarrassing for the Academy that it’s even being discussed, much less contemplated,” Brooks said. “The problem isn’t that the show has too many awards; it’s that the show is not relevant and well produced. They’re not going to solve the problem of having reality hosts and a show that gets horribly reviewed by taking the writing and directing categories of longform onto another night. That’s not the solution. The solution is making the show feel like it’s relevant again.”

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