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Expanding the Emmy pool

Following Oscar's lead, having 10 noms might make sense

When it was announced almost a year ago that 10 films would vie for the best picture Oscar rather than five, the hue and cry of cineastes was that the increase would dilute the quality of those nominated.

“There just aren’t 10 worthy films,” many said in an uproar. “This will forever taint the prestige of being nominated,” others complained. But following the Academy Awards kudocast in March, the earth didn’t open up and the nation still stands.

So why not the same for Emmy?

It would be difficult to argue there’s a shortage of 10 top-quality drama and comedies on broadcast and cable to choose from. Every year TV critics, network execs and viewers argue about what they believe are oversights of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Some fan groups get downright apoplectic when their favorite show or actor isn’t acknowledged. Expanding the base of noms could help alleviate the anger from the hardcore viewers who feel slighted.

“No doubt about it, when you look at the volume of entries and quality programming, an argument can be made that you could accommodate 10 worthy nominations in the marquee drama and comedy categories,” says the Academy’s Emmy guru, John Leverence.

Adds one network insider: “You want to include more people and more good shows. There’s enough good work out there that you’d want to include 10.”

However, Leverence adds that the board of governors isn’t prepared to make such a move. As a matter of fact, the Acad is decreasing the amount of nominations from a year ago.

Last year, there were seven noms in the top drama and comedy series categories. While only six were planned, an extra was included because of a rule saying that if the seventh-highest voted series is within 2% of the sixth, then the No. 7 show will also receive a nomination. That rule has now been revoked.

The only possibility this year that seven series could earn a nomination for drama and comedy this year are if the sixth and seventh series are tied with exactly the same amount of votes. Chances are slim, but not impossible.

One network publicist says 10 nominees is too many. She’s content with keeping the number of drama and comedy series nods at six.

“Six is the perfect number,” she explains. “You can have both critical favorites and ratings hits included in that six. You need to keep it small and the cream of the crop.”

Ratings have never been a factor when it comes to nominations, though certainly the network hosting the Emmy kudocast — NBC has this year’s edition, set for Aug. 29 — wouldn’t mind seeing some of TV’s most-watched and big demo shows be represented.

Of last year’s comedy nominees — “Entourage,” “Family Guy,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Flight of the Conchords,” “The Office,” “Weeds” and winner “30 Rock” — only four are on broadcast, and none are huge ratings hits, with “Family Guy” and “The Office” performing best in the 18-49 demo.

A major shakeup in the category wouldn’t be unexpected. “Conchords” is no longer eligible, and voters may very well be marking their ballots for freshmen hits “Modern Family” and “Glee.” Also, Warner Bros. is making a major push for “The Big Bang Theory,” the top comedy program in the demo that some feel was slighted last year.

With some TV aficionados calling these last few years the golden age of drama, many shows have been omitted from Emmys short list. Critical darlings such as “Friday Night Lights,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “True Blood” have never been nommed and are itching to get in the mix. Combine those with critically applauded newbies such as “Justified,” “The Good Wife,” “Men of a Certain Age” and “Treme,” in addition to last year’s noms — “Big Love,” “Breaking Bad,” “Dexter,” “Damages,” “House” and “Lost” — and 10 almost seems insufficient.

Leverence says the board of governors has no immediate plans to raise the limit of nominees to 10 in either comedy and drama. And that means just hearing your show’s name called on the morning of July 8 remains quite an accomplishment.

“Getting a nomination is the hardest thing,” says a longtime publicist who has touted his shows and thesps for many Emmy campaigns. “I really believe that. It’s all subjective. Is ‘Mad Men’ really better than ‘Dexter’? It’s all just someone’s taste.”

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