The Emmy Nominations officially came out this morning, and as per usual, I’m pleased in some respects and annoyed in others. That’s to be expected though. There are way too many contenders and way too many categories for the voters to magically agree with me 100% of the time. That being said, there is one giant, glaring issue with these Emmy Nominations that every single man, woman and child in the free world should share. It makes no sense whatsoever that True Detective and Fargo are not in the same category. None. And rather than a weird little quirk, the diverting paths of those two shows are a clear example of a larger problem that’s only getting worse.
You see, Fargo and True Detective (and American Horror Story) aren't exactly typical dramas. They're anthologies, which means they change characters and settings after every season. That allows the writers to put together the entire project almost as they would a movie, but because there's an expectation of them continuing beyond one season, no one is quite sure what category to put them in. They're just in a weird grey area.
Right now, producers on individual television programs submit their nominations to individual categories. In theory, this makes sense. Who better to decide whether Josh Charles is a leading actor or supporting actor than the producers of The Good Wife? Who better to decide whether Shameless is a drama or comedy than the show’s own top brass? And, of course, who better to decide whether True Detective is a proper drama series or a mini-series than those who actually shape it? Unfortunately, it turns out these people are actually last on the list of credible decision-makers because they’re extremely biased.
The name of the game is to earn nominations and hopefully, wins. It’s not to slot everything into its proper category, and because of this, it’s impossible to actually predict the nominations ahead of time unless you’re given a cheat sheet of what has been submitted to what category. Some of this can’t be prevented, of course. You’d be hard pressed to find an actual lead actor in Game Of Thrones considering Tyrion doesn’t even appear in every episode, but some of these issues can be fixed immediately if the Television Academy would start being proactive.
If a series changes the majority of its characters after every season, is it a drama series or is it a miniseries? True Detective would have you believe it’s a typical drama series. Fargo and American Horror Story would have you believe it’s a mini-series. There are good cases to be made on both sides. It seems unfair to make network dramas that are planning for indefinite futures compete against an effort with a clear endpoint, allowing for tighter writing and neater resolutions. Then again, it also seems unfair to lump those shows in with mini-series since they sometimes get as many as 12 episodes and are planning to come back for a second season.
I would go so far as to say there isn’t a wrong answer, except deciding on a case-by-case basis, which is exactly what the Television Academy lets individual shows do. That has to change. There has to be rules and independent parties to make these choices. Otherwise, network executives are going to continue to sit around having conversations like, “Should we go for the glory of Best Drama or should we guarantee ourselves more nominations and submit for Best Miniseries?”
The reason why the Academy Awards and the Emmys are worth paying attention to is because there’s so much tradition and history involved. It’s exciting to watch Game Of Thrones or House Of Cards potentially receive the same honor as NYPD Blue, The Sopranos and The Fugitive, but as more and more shows nestle into the middle ground between comedy and drama and more and more shows start writing single-season events or anthologies, the Television Academy needs to step up and start taking control rather than leaving it up to others.
Because True Detective and Fargo (and American Horror Story) deserve nominations. They just deserve them in the same category.