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Emmy category changes could affect popular shows

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Posted at 4:18 PM, Feb 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-02-20 17:41:14-05

Major changes to the biggest categories at the Primetime Emmy Awards mean more shows will be nominated next year — but some popular ones will have to switch genres.

The number of shows nominated for both the best comedy and drama series of the year categories will increase from six to seven and the qualifications for which category a series falls under have been tightened.

Whether a show is classified as comedy or drama won’t have to do with the number of laughs crammed into each episode, but rather with the length of each episode.

Series with episodes “of 30 minutes or less” will be defined as comedies, while those with episodes “of more than 30 minutes” will be called dramas. The rules changes were announced today by the Television Academy, which governs the Emmys.

The academy is allowing producers to “formally petition” a panel to consider their show’s eligibility in the opposite category. The panel will consist of nine members, with a two-thirds vote to approve the petition.

Television enthusiasts questioned several choices made by the academy among 2014 Emmy nominations.

Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” was nominated for outstanding comedy series although the show runs 60 minutes per episode and is dramatic in terms of storylines and tone. All the other shows in the category were 30-minute shows, including CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory,” HBO’s “Veep” and ABC’s “Modern Family,” which won the award.

Similarly, actor William H. Macy was nominated for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for his work on Showtime’s “Shameless.” That series also runs nearly 60 minutes per episode, meaning it would be classified as a drama under the academy’s new rules.

Other rule changes included an update to the best miniseries (or, “limited series” as it will now be known) category. To be eligible for that category, the show must air two or more episodes totalling to at least 150 minutes and not featuring “an ongoing storyline and/or main characters in subsequent seasons.”

By that change, FX’s “Fargo,” last year’s winner for outstanding miniseries, would likely not be accepted into the category in 2015 as the show’s second season will carry on a storyline related to the first season. Conversely, if nominated, HBO’s eight-episode show “True Detective” would be classified as a limited series in 2015, rather than a drama series, as it will use an all-new cast and storyline in its second season.

The academy also changed its qualifications for the outstanding variety series category. Starting this year, that category will be split between talk shows and sketch shows, meaning NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” would not run against shows like Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” or ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” as was the case in 2014.

Clint Davis is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @MrClintDavis.