Road to the Emmys 2012: Preview

With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences expanding its nominations for best picture to 10 (or thereabouts) in recent years, it might seem logical that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences would follow suit.

However, moving beyond six series nominees in comedy or drama hasn’t even reached the level of being officially discussed, according to TV Academy senior awards veep John Leverence, while a proposal to establish separate honors for new series — a category that could also widen the Emmy playing field — hasn’t ventured much further.

Amid misgivings that a nomination might be cheapened, the Emmys have a couple of strong arguments for expansion, starting with the simple logic that the presence of more nominees could draw fans of those shows to the ceremony broadcast.

“I think that’d be great,” says “New Girl’ showrunner Liz Meriwether. “There’s such a great group of comedies out there right now. From what I’m hearing from the pilots, I think there’s going to be even more next year. So an expansion would be fantastic. More people should be recognized.”

While there’s been a perception that the film world is straining to fill its supersized ballot with worthy candidates, TV seems to have more than enough possibilities. On the drama side alone, in addition to four-time defending champion “Mad Men” and 2011 runners-up “Boardwalk Empire,” “Dexter,” “Game of Thrones” and “The Good Wife,” other potential nominees include “Breaking Bad,” “Downton Abbey,” “Homeland,” “Justified,” “Shameless,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Southland” and “The Walking Dead,” just for starters.

“The downside would be people might think it’s not as elite, it’s not as selective,” says “Walking Dead” exec producer Glen Mazzara. “But a lot of times you have the same shows dominating year after year, and that doesn’t mean that other shows aren’t achieving that same level of excellence.”

Citing “The Wire” and “The Shield,” which were both shut out of the Emmy drama series noms during their entire runs, Mazzara adds, “As you look back, you realize those shows certainly achieved a level of excellence the Emmys is designed to reward.”

But the idea doesn’t have traction where it counts.

“There has not been a discussion at the Board of Governors level of moving from six to 10 at this stage of the game,” Leverence says. “There has been a discussion of subdividing some of these categories (such as separate slots for singlecam and multicam comedies). I think about three years ago, there was a discussion at the awards committee level of whether that would be a good idea. … But the Board of Governors is of the opinion that ‘comedy series’ is enough to carry all of that.”

As for a category honoring new series, Leverence points out, the problem is the Academy’s position against any potential nominee winning two awards for the same activity. At the Emmys, programs could compete in comedy series or new series, but not both. As a result, Leverence says, a new series category “has been discussed, but it has never gone anyplace.”

The remedy would be to allow a series to win more than one award — it’s not as if an NBA Rookie of the Year can’t also be MVP. A new series category would have the dual benefit of reducing the Emmys’ same-old, same-old quality, while also perhaps providing incentive to keep alive critically successful but ratings-challenged freshman fare.

“Again, I think that would be a positive thing,” Mazzara says, “It would spread the wealth around.

“The WGA has this category, and I haven’t heard anybody complain about it. I think people are just happy for the nomination and the free dinner. So why not?”

In February, Showtime’s “Homeland” won the Writers Guild prize for new series, ahead of “Game of Thrones” and “The Killing” and comedies “Episodes” and “New Girl.”

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