“The Good Fight” is the kind of show that deserves to be in the Emmy conversation. The acclaim is almost universal: The program has a solid 80 rank on Metacritic, and Season 4 received a stunning 100% score from 16 critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Yet the series has received just two Emmy nominations: one for main title theme music (in 2017) and another in original music and lyrics (2018). In an earlier time, “The Good Fight” would be a contender, just like its predecessor, “The Good Wife,” was.
But “The Good Wife” was nominated for outstanding drama series in 2010 and 2011, on the eve of Peak TV. These days, it’s not enough to be “Good.” (And “The Good Fight” is more than good.)
There’s not only too much TV, there’s too much great TV. I know I’m a broken record on this, and I’m not the only one. So consider this my annual appeal to the Television Academy: Please, please, expand the number of nominations in the key program categories to 10.
Yes, even 10 feels like too few slots, and plenty of fantastic shows would still be snubbed in the expansion. There obviously has to be a limit, but there’s already a precedent: As we know, the Motion Picture Academy expanded the possible number of nominated best pictures to 10 in 2009.
The Television Academy currently allows seven nominees in the outstanding drama and comedy categories, six in variety talk, variety sketch, structured reality, unstructured reality and competition categories, and five in everything else (including the ever-growing limited series field). Ties will occasionally bump up those numbers.
The Academy last expanded the drama and comedy race in 2015, from six. Yet the number of series on TV continues to balloon: According to FX’s annual tally, there were 532 scripted original series in 2019. Although there isn’t a count in the unscripted space, that number is believed to be perhaps closer to 1,000.
That growth in shows includes new entries from Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus, of course. But now Quibi, HBO Max and Peacock are entering the fray. Even as some basic cable networks pull back on their scripted fare, there’s still a lot of TV, and not enough space to honor it.
That leaves many shows flying under the awards radar, particularly at smaller outlets like CBS All Access — the “Good Fight” streamer that doesn’t have the same reach as Netflix or Amazon. And the broadcast networks continue to get squeezed out. Even once-reliable nominees like NBC’s “This Is Us” and ABC’s “Black-ish” are no longer considered sure-thing nominations given the influx of new, high-profile programming.
Going to 10 nominations might at least get a few more worthy shows — and perhaps one or two surprises — into the mix. What’s the stumbling block? Last year, we theorized that it might come down to the Primetime Emmy ceremony. Add multiple nominees to several major categories, and suddenly an already crowded Microsoft Theater becomes unwieldy. And perhaps more important, as previously noted, it costs $750 for a seat at the show and Governors Ball, but nominees who are TV Academy members get comped two tickets. Adding all those new nominees might dig into revenue from the event.
So here’s this year’s twist: Since it’s pretty clear there won’t be a regular ceremony, those obstacles go out the window. You don’t need to worry about finding space in the Microsoft Theater or at the Governors Ball, because all signs point to a virtual Emmy event.
This is the year to experiment with 10 nominations. If it works, it opens the door to a much more vibrant race next year, once networks and studios feel comfortable with in-person campaigning again. This gives the Academy room to figure out how to accommodate more nominees in 2021 — I’m sure it could figure out a solution by then. AEG owns and operates Staples Center as well as the Microsoft Theater — perhaps it’s time to move to Staples (like the Grammys) and take advantage of all that extra space.
The problem of too many contenders isn’t going away, not as long as we live in Peak TV times. There’s a lot to quibble about concerning awards and the Emmys, but I honestly think the push to expand the number of nominees in the key categories is a battle worth waging. You might call it … a Good Fight.