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Emmys drops main title theme song

ATAS removes category beginning next year

Strike another blow for TV’s endangered theme songs.

Now that theme songs have gone the way of the TV western and variety show, the Academy of TV Arts and Sciences is planning to drop the “main title theme” Emmy category 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). But for now, it appears that the category will be replaced in 2011 by a new “music composition for a non-fiction program” award.

“This change was made due to the decreasing number of traditional television main title theme music,” the org said.

Such a decision was 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 last just a few seconds. But more likely, opening credits now appear as action takes place on the screen.

The main title theme category ax was one of several rules changes announced Monday by the Academy. But unlike past years, this round of changes were mostly small and housekeeping oriented.

In another switch, the separate hour-long 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 hour-long nominees, depending on how many entrants there are. (For example, the Acad said that if there are 40 half-hour entries and 10 hour-long entries, 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 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. That rule change will likely have the biggest impact in the guest acting categories, where thesps who have guested on multiple shows in a given year can now submit all of those entries.

Yes, that probably means Betty White will be competing against herself several times over.

Also, the guest acting categories will now emulate the other performance categories — which means six nominees will now be announced. Like the other acting categories, the guest thesp competitions will be determined by the first-round vote of the performer peer group.

A few more changes: The Academy’s “2% rule” will no longer apply in categories that already accept six nominees. Such a rule will still be enacted in the case of five nominees, if the fifth- and sixth-top vote getters are within 2% of each other.

This change will mean fewer categories with seven nominees — which now will only happen if the sixth- and seventh-top vote getters tie.

And in the case of “hanging episodes,” if a show has the required six episodes air within the eligibility year, then the extra episodes that air outside of the year can still count toward an Emmy.

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