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Emmys Reverse Acting Rule Change in Movies-Minis

Lead and supporting thesps won't be consolidated into same categories

Lead and supporting performers in the miniseries-movies genre will compete in separate categories at the Primetime Emmys, reversing a rules change by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Board of Governors last year.

A year ago, the board decided to – effective in 2013 – combine the lead and supporting actor categories in miniseries-movies into one acting competition, doing the same for lead and supporting mini-movie actresses. The decision was a somewhat surprising one, given that it risked eliminating awards for supporting thesps in the genre, assuming the probability that a lead performer would prevail.

For example, if the system had been in place last year, assuming 2012 lead actor winners Kevin Costner (“Hatfields & McCoys”) and Julianne Moore (“Game Change”) still prevailed, they would have prevented fellow Emmy winners in supporting Tom Berenger (“Hatfields”) or Jessica Lange (“American Horror Story”) from doing the same.

It was the performers peer group that engineered the recommendation last year, as part of an Academy group known as “the anomalies committee” that explores category additions and reductions as part of a general review. Nevertheless, late Thursday the Academy announced that it was reinstating the previous system before the new rule had a chance to take effect.

“In the (past) year, longform production has increased,” the Academy said in a statement. “Based on the unanticipated resurgence of television miniseries and movies, the Board voted tonight to reverse the consolidation, thereby reinstating the longform lead and supporting categories in the 65th Emmy Awards competition.”

Among those the reversal could benefit are such prominent thesps as Elisabeth Moss and Holly Hunter of “Top of the Lake,” Hilary Swank and Brenda Blethyn of “Mary and Martha” and Matt Damon and Michael Douglas of “Behind the Candelabra.”

The rationale for the rules change last year had been the belief that TV movies and miniseries were in retreat, at least relative to reality TV production. Minis and movies, of course, had once been separate programming categories themselves, before being combined in 2011, a year after only two programs (“The Pacific” and “Return to Cranford”) were nominated for top miniseries.

“Since 2001, when we first had the reality breakout from nonfiction as a separate category, there has been an increase of approximately 20% in the total number of awards,” Acad senior awards veep John Leverence told Variety last year. “So there was concern there was a trend in proliferation.

“It’s one of those situations where you have a legacy genre with (longform), and the Academy does want to continue to recognize those achievements — but on the other hand you take a look at expansion on reality side,” Leverence said. “The awards structure tends to expand or contract with the expansion and contraction of primetime programming.”

Said Lifetime exec programming veep Rob Sharenow: “We are delighted and thankful the Academy has reversed its decision to merge the movie and miniseries performer categories.  Clearly, it saw that, as we’ve always believed, the longform genre is as vibrant and powerful as ever.  Now the many actresses and actors featured in last year’s movies and miniseries once again have the much deserved opportunity to have their work celebrated by their peers.”

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