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Emmys considering dropping TV theme songs

Too few shows include such intro music

Strike another blow against TV’s endangered theme songs.

Now that such songs have gone the way of the TV Western and variety show, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is considering dropping the main title theme Emmy category, starting next year.

The org’s music peer group executive committee is still mulling other ways to honor main title themes (which will be awarded this year). It appears the category will be replaced in 2011 by a new “music composition for a nonfiction program” award, though the Acad’s music branch is still mulling its final decision.

The change was made due to the decrease in traditional television main title theme music, the org said in a press release on Emmy rule changes issued Monday morning.

Later in the day, however, the Acad clarified that while its board of governors has approved the change, it has given the music branch more time to make a final decision.

The move by the Acad seems inevitable, given that the once-vibrant slice of pop culture — who doesn’t still know the words to the themes from “Gilligan’s Island” or “The Brady Bunch”? — has mostly disappeared from primetime.

TV themes virtually disappeared in the late 1990s, as networks experimented with ways to keep viewers from flipping channels. Just as the nets have squeezed out closing credits, played with start and stop times (like last week’s 9:28 p.m. scheduling of “Glee”) and worked to seamlessly blend from one show to the next, webheads have dramatically reduced opening credit segments — or dropped them all together.

If they still exist, main title themes generally run around 15-30 seconds — think “Men, men, men … ” from “Two and a Half Men.” CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” is the rare contempo show that has a full-blown theme song (commissioned for the sitcom from Canuck rockers Barenaked Ladies). But more likely, opening credits now appear as action takes place on the screen.

The possibility of the main title theme category disappearing was one of several rules adjustments announced Monday by the Academy. But unlike past years, this round of changes included those that were mostly small and housekeeping-oriented.

In another switch, the separate hourlong and half-hour animation categories have now been combined into one. That has allowed for a new category for short-form animation.

According to TV Academy awards senior VP John Leverence, episodes less than 22-minutes long — such as some Adult Swim fare, like “Robot Chicken” — will face off in the short-form animation competish.

Meanwhile, the now-consolidated animation category will balance the number of half-hour and hourlong nominees, depending on how many entrants there are. (For example, the Acad said that if there are 40 half-hour entries and 10 hourlongs, then four nominees will be half-hour, and one nominee will be an hour.)

“These changes accommodate the fact that the ranks of animated programs (of) more than an hour are diminishing, and short-format animated programs (primarily Web-platformed) are increasing,” the org said.

Meanwhile, the Academy will now allow multiple achievements from an individual or team in the same category — as long as they’re for different programs. Also the category will allow for six nominees.

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