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Emmy Awards Should Expand to 10 Nominees in Peak TV Era

How many is too many?

When it comes to the Emmy Awards, it’s hard to find consensus on any subject — but one thing is clear, there are never enough to go around.

But the very idea of adding awards is fraught. You’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks the show itself should be longer. Host Jimmy Kimmel and producer Don Mischer will have their work cut out for them trying to wrangle the Primetime Emmys in at under the three-hour mark. Things already have gotten so bad over at its cousin, the Creative Arts Emmys, that the show has had to be split into two parts.

There is some good news about this year’s Emmys: With many of last year’s nominees and winners having retired to the TV hall of fame (RIP, “Mad Men,” “Parks and Rec,” “Nurse Jackie”), there’s certainly ample opportunity for new entries to break in.

But now the bad news: It’s an ever-more crowded field, with way too many worthy nominees vying for those precious few slots. With 400-plus series on the air (and TV production showing no signs of slowing), odds are, the majority are going to get slighted.

I’m going to make a (not so) bold Emmy prediction right now: Come nomination day, there’s going to be widespread disappointment. There will be a flood of “snubs” stories (including our own). I might as well start writing it now.

Last year, the TV Academy expanded the number of nominees in comedy and drama series from six to seven, but that was merely a ripple in the pond. (Make that the ocean.) And the new definition of half-hours and hours, while reining in the category-jockeying madness, still frustrates the creative community. “The Academy made everything worse,” gripes one producer. “You’re completely ignoring the actual content of the show. If that’s the case, then change the name of the category to best half hour show and best hour show. It’s just silly.”

Execs complain that defining shows by length does little to level the playing field between broadcast and cable/streaming, a nagging sore spot for the kudosfest. Comedies that run on broadcast are limited to 21 minutes, while their cable and streaming counterparts can stretch to 35 minutes and more, and have far more creative freedom in terms of language and subject matter. Every year, broadcast series are virtually shut out from major wins while they foot the bill for the show itself.

And this year’s big rules change (along with splitting the Creative Arts Emmys into two shows) was the expansion of the short-form categories, bringing digital series into the fold. All due respect to those YouTube rock stars, but their inclusion does little to address the impending major snubs.

So what to do? An informal survey of industry insiders found that the current categories do indeed go a long way to recognizing the best of TV. “Awards shows are always too long, even for those who love them,” says one insider. “But there need to be either more categories or more shows in existing categories to acknowledge the explosion in content.”

A smart, single new category — say, best new show or best ensemble — could go a long way to bringing more nominees into the Emmy tent. Cracks one wag, “It would be interesting to see if the Emmy voters could do a better job recognizing the best ensembles than SAG voters.”

Another proposal: split the drama and comedy categories by number of episodes — best drama, 12 episodes and under; best drama, 13 and over. The argument: Is it fair to compare a series that runs 12 episodes to one that runs 24? Yes, it’s an obvious pander to the broadcast nets, but supporters have a point. It’s like comparing a short story to a novel. The last broadcast series to earn a nomination for best drama was “The Good Wife,” back in 2011.

The most popular solution by far: Steal a page from the Oscar playbook and expand each of the series categories to 10 nominees. The hope would be — as it was for the Academy Awards — that this would allow more popular series to sneak in.

And there would be another benefit: a ratings boost to the show itself: Last year’s outing hit a record low.

“It’s a win-win,” says an insider. “Most people did not watch the shows that won last year. If they added more nominees, they’d be getting shows that at least a few million people have seen.”

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