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Merged categories leaves some perplexed

Some believe movies to be overwhelmed by minis

After two consecutive years with just a pair of miniseries nominated for Emmys, the TV Academy announced in February that the movie and miniseries categories would be merged into one.

The move, which was disappointing to some, especially movie producers, was not necessarily a surprise.

“I think it was inevitable,” says Rebecca Eaton, exec producer of PBS’ “Masterpiece.” “The number of miniseries the networks are making you could count on the fingers of one hand. … It’s because they’re very expensive to do. When it got down to two nominations, the writing was on the wall.”

With the categories combined, conventional wisdom says TV movies will have a harder time getting Emmy nominations or wins now that they’ll be competing directly against more expensive miniseries sporting higher production values.

“The whole point of spending that kind of money on a miniseries is so it has scope, and you’ll see the difference,” says Tanya Lopez, senior VP of original movies at Lifetime.

Lifetime offered no minis this year, but the network is pushing four original movies, including producer David Rosemont’s “Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story,” about a real-life mother whose son was abducted by his father.

“It is my belief that the Academy should be incentivizing great programming like movies and miniseries,” explains Rosemont. “To (combine the categories) might take away from that kind of specialness that is due each category.”

HBO may be most affected by the change as it’s one of the few outlets actively producing both original movies and minis. The net’s execs declined an interview request for this story.

Perry Simon, g.m. of BBC America (which will enter its limited series “Luther” in the movie-miniseries category), says the merging of the categories is a sign of the times. But he’s not vexed about the decision.

“We understand, and I think for us it’s more about focusing on the work and on the quality of the content. If the awards come, they come,” he says.

PBS’ “Masterpiece” has a number of candidates for the combined category this season, including “Downton Abbey,” “Upstairs Downstairs,” “Sherlock” and “Wallander,” but if the categories had remained separate, Eaton says she would have submitted “Sherlock” and “Wallander” as movies because each episode tells a complete story.

“As far as the leadership of the Academy goes, I see the difficulty they face and, frankly, even though it makes it a faster track for us in particular, I can understand their reasoning,” she says.

Lifetime is submitting producer Craig Anderson’s film “Amanda Knox: Murder on Trial in Italy” for consideration in hopes of a nomination. Anderson’s not thrilled by the merger, knowing that the sheer size of a mini can dwarf a telepic.

“To combine categories rather than have them live separately is doing a big disservice to the industry in general,” Anderson says. “Both need to stand on their own.”

Lopez is hopeful the Acad will revisit its combined categories decision.

“I think that’s what needs to happen,” she says. “I feel like they acted very quickly, but I don’t think it’s fatalistic.”

ROAD TO THE EMMYS: MADE-FORS & MINIS
Merged categories leaves some perplexed
Miniseries | Made-for-TV Movies

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