Emmys: ‘Twilight Zone’ Will Compete as a Drama, Not Limited Series — but What About Jordan Peele?

There are no boundaries — besides imagination — in “The Twilight Zone.” But there are when it comes to “The Twilight Zone” in the Emmy race.

The CBS All Access anthology series will compete in the drama categories, including outstanding drama series, per a ruling by the Television Academy. In making the decision, the Academy turned down a petition by CBS Television Studios (which produces the series and handles its Emmy campaign) for the show to compete as a limited series.

In recent years, most anthology programs have either competed in the limited series race (like FX’s “American Horror Story” and “American Crime Story”), or have submitted individual episodes in the TV movie category (such as Netflix’s “Black Mirror” episodes “San Junipero” and “USS Callister”).

But as previously announced, the Academy is cracking down this year on anthology episodes being submitted as movies. In what might be dubbed the “‘Black Mirror’ rule,” submissions for outstanding TV movie Emmy must now be at least 75 minutes long. (Last year’s winner, “USS Callister,” ran for 76 minutes and would have been eligible. But the category’s 2017 winner, “San Junipero,” was only 61 minutes long.)

All of the “Twilight Zone” episodes have been below 75 minutes, ruling out the TV movie category. That’s why CBS TV Studios wanted to go the limited series route — but ran into another roadblock.

The studio’s plans were confined by the legacy of the original “Twilight Zone” series. The Rod Serling anthology, which ran on CBS from 1959 to 1964, competed in drama categories and won twice, for drama writing (in 1960 and 1961). The show was also nominated for outstanding drama in 1961.

Precedent being set, CBS TV Studios had submit a request to move the show from drama to limited series — with the idea that “Twilight Zone” doesn’t offer a continuing storyline or characters from season to season. It’s that argument that has allowed other ongoing anthologies like “American Crime Story” and “American Horror Story” to submit as limited series.

(As recently announced, “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” will also compete this year as a drama, not a limited series, because it included story elements and characters from previous seasons.)

CBS TV Studios’ request was denied, however, because “Twilight Zone” “has no thru-story; rather, [just] episodic standalone episodes,” according to a TV Academy spokesperson. That leaves outstanding drama series.

But here’s the other rub: CBS TV Studios also can’t find a spot to submit executive producer Jordan Peele, who also hosts the series, as a performer.

There are spots for unscripted hosts to compete, including the outstanding host for a reality or competition program category. Also, the principal host for variety series and the principal host/performer for variety specials are eligible to be entered with the program categories.

But what about someone who hosts, as a version of themself, on a scripted program? Perhaps they could be submitted in the supporting actor or actress categories, as playing a version (“host”) of themselves. CBS TV Studios is engaged in a conversation with the TV Academy right now about where they might place Peele in that role.

At the very least, as executive producer Peele will indeed be submitted, along with the rest of the show’s key producers, in that position for “Twilight Zone.”

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