×

How ‘An Emmy for Megan’ Sparked New TV Academy Rules as Short Form Gets Competitive (Column)

Megan Amram disrupted the Emmy race last year with “An Emmy for Megan,” her meta short form series that chronicled her attempts to, yes, disrupt the Emmy race. She almost got there: “An Emmy for Megan” was nominated for outstanding short form comedy or drama series but ultimately lost to “James Corden’s Next James Corden.”

However, Amram — who’s back this year with a second season of “An Emmy for Megan” — tells me she won in another way: Her unusual series, which was all about finding a means to meet the requirements to get nominated and win an Emmy, wound up inspiring a host of Emmy rule changes. 

Starting this year, the Television Academy has made some clarifications to what might qualify as an Emmy-eligible short series. That includes a stipulation that every episode must be at least two minutes long. (One extremely short episode of “An Emmy for Megan” played with the fact that there was no rule for length.) The TV Academy also installed a vetting procedure to “identify Emmy-competitive entries” via a panel “randomly selected from a member pool.”

The Academy hasn’t confirmed whether the rules came from the “Emmy for Megan” nomination, but it sure seems like she forced the changes.

“I thought it was better than winning an Emmy,” Amram says. “Dozens of people win an Emmy every year, but how many people precipitate a rule change that theoretically is permanent? That’s like the ultimate Emmy!”

If the TV Academy did indeed get bent out of shape over “An Emmy for Megan,” the irony is Amram’s short form series was wholly original, in a category that has mostly been dominated by digital extensions of regular TV series. 

“James Corden’s Next James Corden,” of course, is a Snapchat exclusive spinoff of “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” Other digital shorts nominated last year included “Grey’s Anatomy: B Team” and “The Walking Dead: Red Machete.”

Similarly, in 2017, “Los Pollos Hermanos Employee Training,” a digital short from the “Better Call Saul” and “Breaking Bad” universe, won the short form prize.

“It’s strange to be doing an indie thing for IFC and potentially be up against a ‘Walking Dead’ spinoff,” says Janet Varney, who created and stars in the short form series “Fortune Rookie.” That program, which can be found on the IFC website, is an original idea that follows a fictional version of Varney as she gives up showbiz to become a psychic. 

The short form categories could soon see a shift to fare that’s more original, as outlets including Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s short form content incubator Quibi come online, and more major networks and studios also dabble in bite-size programming. 

Among the short form contenders this year is “State of the Union,” SundanceTV’s 10-episode series starring Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd. Although short in running time, the series’ production is anything but small: Written by Nick Hornby and directed by Stephen Frears, each 10-minute installment follows Pike and O’Dowd as they meet in a pub before their characters’ weekly marital therapy session.

“The show looks premium, and that was important for us,” says Jan Diedrichsen, executive director of SundanceTV and Sundance Now. “When people think about short form, a lot of people default into a web-series, low-budget mindset. We wanted it to be above the expectation of what people think of short form series.”

With that in mind, Diedrichsen says SundanceTV has set its sights on a nomination: “With the level of talent, we hope it gets some Emmy love.”

As major outlets start developing and producing more original short form series, they may push aside the more promotional short form offshoots of major TV hits. But whether that might also inadvertently squeeze out independent series like “An Emmy for Megan” or 2017 nominee “Brown Girls” remains to be seen.

“I hope that I inspired a lot of people to go out there and make exactly what they want to make,” Amram says. “I do appreciate the fact that the Academy considers short form digital content as TV shows, because [for] younger people, that is what TV is to them. It’s just going to be so interesting to see how the prestige of short form content continues to rise. I wonder what the first ‘Sopranos’ of two-minute television is going to be?”  

More Digital

  • Stuber

    ‘Stuber’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the always-on TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Twentieth Century Fox claims the top spot in spending with “Stuber.” Ads placed for the comedy had an estimated media value of $4.91 million through Sunday for 1,325 national ad airings on 42 networks. [...]

  • Andy Signore Screen Junkies

    'Honest Trailers' Creator Andy Signore Settles Defy Media Suit

    Andy Signore, the creator of Screen Junkies’ “Honest Trailers,” has settled a lawsuit against Defy Media challenging his firing for alleged sexual misconduct. Signore was one of the first figures to lose his job in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein harassment revelations in October 2017. Defy Media, which then owned Screen Junkies, terminated him [...]

  • Joyride

    With Joyride, Everyone Can Host Their Own HQ Trivia

    When mobile game developer Kiwi first released Joyride, the app looked familiar: Similar to wildly popular HQ Trivia, Joyride offered players the ability to win quiz shows in live broadcasts. The key difference: Joyride’s app wasn’t home to just one trivia show, but multiple shows around topics like music, dating, fandom, and yes, trivia, all [...]

  • Etika-Desmond-Amofah

    Gaming YouTuber Desmond 'Etika' Amofah Found Dead, NYPD Says

    Desmond Amofah, a YouTube gaming vlogger known online as “Etika,” was found dead by New York police on Tuesday after he was reported missing last week. He was 29. Amofah posted YouTube videos and live-streams focused on Nintendo games and other titles. A body later confirmed to be Amofah’s was found in the East River on [...]

  • Paula Pell

    Quibi Orders Comedic Murder Mystery From Lorne Michaels, 'SNL' Alums

    Quibi keeps shelling out cash for content: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s richly funded startup has ordered a short-form murder-mystery comedy written by and starring former “Saturday Night Live” writers Paula Pell and John Lutz, and executive produced by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video alongside Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker. In “Mapleworth Murders,” Pell (pictured above) is Abigail Mapleworth, [...]

  • View of the Public Library on

    New York City Public Libraries Drop Kanopy Free Movie-Streaming Service

    Kanopy suffered a blow with the decision by New York City’s three public library systems — collectively the biggest library system in the U.S., with some 210 branches across the Big Apple — to drop the free movie-streaming service, citing high costs. As of July 1, the New York Public Library and the Brooklyn and [...]

  • Cameo

    Celebrity Video Greetings Service Cameo Raises $50 Million

    Cameo, a service that works with celebrities to sell personalized video greetings to fans, has raised a $50 million Series B round of funding led by Kleiner Perkins. The Chernin Group, Spark Ventures, Bain Capital and Lightspeeed Venture Partners participated in the funding as well. Cameo wants to use the cash infusion to grow both [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content