Emmy Shake-Up: Major Rule Changes Expand Number of Nominees, Redefine Comedy and Drama Eligibility

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is making some dramatic changes to the Emmy rulebook — and hourlong “comedies” such as Orange Is the New Black and Shameless stand to be the most affected.

Among the major tweaks announced Friday: a comedy series will now be defined as a program that clocks in at 30 minutes or less, and the drama and comedy categories will include seven nominees, up from six.

Additionally, the Miniseries category has been renamed Limited Series, now defined as a “complete, non-recurring story” told in at least two episodes totaling at least 150 minutes. Further, a Limited Series must feature “no ongoing story lines or main characters” in any subsequent seasons. (In turn, Drama and Comedy series are defined as telling ongoing stories in runs of at least six episodes.)

Lastly, the Variety Series category has been split in two: Variety Talk (to be handed out during the big show) and Variety Sketch (to be awarded at the Creative Arts ceremony). Oh, and to qualify for a Guest Actor nomination, a performer must appear in less than 50 percent of a program’s episodes.

The new rules do allow for some wiggle room. For example, if the folks behind Jane the Virgin make a strong enough case that the show belongs in the comedy category versus drama, an exception can be made. Producers can also petition for a certain category in Limited Series versus Drama.

The 2015 Emmy ceremony will air live Sunday, Sept. 20 on Fox.

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  1. Jane says:

    So, where does Sherlock go?

  2. Gilded Lady says:

    I like these changes! There has been so much gaming of the system, I hope this helps!

  3. Jackie says:

    They also need a Crime Drama catagory because frankly they are a separate entity all by themselves…Cable should NOT dominate these awards! It really isn’t fair since they are allowed more filming and budget! :-(

    • susan says:

      Totally agree. There are so many Crime Drama’s on Network television that are so good but never even get nominated. It’s all about cable now. There are a lot of us who don’t even get Netflix, HBO, Showtime etc. yet they win all the awards.

      • Sarah says:

        I completely agree.

      • John says:

        Netflix is 7.99 a month. These awards are about honoring the best. Just because your broadcast shows aren’t good enough to compete with cable shows doesn’t mean the awards should divide the categories, than we would know it’s not about the best shows

      • Leah says:

        This puzzles me. Do we need a legal drama category as well? I don’t think you realize that even if such a category was created, the network procedurals you never see nominated…would still not be nominated. Besides, what would count as a crime drama, anyway? Because recently nominated shows like True Detective, Breaking Bad, Fargo, Luther, Top of the Lake, Dexter (back when it was good)… these are all technically about crime.

        And the quality of a show is not defined by how many people have access to it.

    • Jenny says:

      The award shows are so biased against crime shows. :(

    • abz says:

      Which crime shows are you hoping to get nominations? And please don’t say Castle (which I do still enjoy sometimes) or Bones (declining in quality for the past several seasons) because those shows don’t even come close to the level of quality, writing or acting IMO of many of the shows nominated over the years.
      I used to think cable and network dramas should be separate, however, The Good Wife, Empire, How To Get Away With Murder, Hannibal, Person of Interest and maybe a few others I haven’t watched or can’t think of at the moment are proof that network dramas can be superb if they try. The Good Wife alone last season delivered probably one of the best seasons of television, cable or network, that I’ve seen in the past several years, and has been consistently battling in the Emmys and Golden Globes each year against tough cable competition.

      • John says:

        Thank god someone has taste. Besides if they did divide the categories NCIS,Criminal Minds and Bones would still get nothing. If all someone watches are these type of shows they shouldn’t complain these shows get no awards for taking no risks

      • Cable and Network Dramas should get separate awards. Nobody was talking about The Good Wife for ANYTHING until the Josh Charles(Wil) character was murdered. Then it was suddenly “Julianna looks terrible crying; let’s give her an award”. The Good Wife is a good show, but it gets killed in the ratings every time it goes up against a new episode of The Walking Dead. If Julianna Marguiles didn’t have the friends in Hollywood that she has, The Good Wife would have been cancelled years ago. Anyone in their right mind would have moved The Good Wife away from The Walking Dead years ago, but CBS looks at this show with different statistics and a different point of view than any other show that they have. The Good Wife also has an outstanding list of stars on its show, and CBS is willing to spend more money on it even though NCIS has been a much better show over its years.

        • DYS says:

          Are you talking about separate awards just for best drama or for the other categories as well such as best actor, actress, supporting actor, and supporting actress? If it’s for all five categories then that will certainly bloat things quite a bit.

          As for it being better to move The Good Wife away from TWD years ago….it was moved there for the specific reason that, despite them knowing that it would inevitably going down in ratings, they had enough faith that it would perform well based on Sunday standards and be able to have a nice run. That faith has been proven year after year.

        • abz says:

          You should check your facts because TGW has been racking up awards since the first season with several Emmys, Golden Globes and other wins and nominations for the show and the actors alongside widespread critical acclaim year after year. Ratings are not always an indication of quality. NCIS has good ratings and lots of viewers, but from what I’ve read about about the show it’s just another basic CBS procedural that’s only still around because it makes money. Not going to say anything else about it since I haven’t seen it.
          I think the show has been given the respect it deserves and money because of the excellent quality of the show, writing, directing, acting, etc. It probably wasn’t the best decision to move it to Sundays, but its been a few years now and the show is still in excellent quality so who cares and it may be reaching its end point if the writers decide to wrap up the series by the seventh season. Besides, this article is about the Emmys and the nominations aren’t based on the ratings of the show so any rating struggles are irrelevant here.

    • John says:

      Sorry old people it’s 2015 if you’re too ignorant to watch shows outside of the major networks your opinion doesn’t matter

      • LOL … “sorry old people”

      • Julio says:

        No, no, no. You don’t mean sorry old people. What you really mean is sorry poor people you can’t afford cable or the internet.

        • John says:

          Than how are you typing in right here 85% of households have cable if you’re too cheap to get cable or Netflix your opinions don’t matter when it comes to quality tv, and old people cling to network tv like they do newspapers and the evening news

          • Julio says:

            Of those 85% how many are just basic cable? You do realize that in some rural areas you have to get cable to watch the networks because the signal is too far away or there are obstacles like mountains that block the signals? .

        • M says:

          well if they can’t afford internet they likely wouldn’t be looking at this site anyways

    • Temperance says:

      Why? They are all virtually identical anyway. Boring crime procedurals just repeat the same basic story over and over. If they can’t compete then they don’t deserve the award.

  4. Gerald says:

    But loose the exceptions can be made. OR
    Make a new category Dramadey. Not sure how they will define it, but it wouldn’t hurt to have one more category.

    • My thought exactly… Dramedy would solve so many problems!

    • B says:

      exactly! I agree its hard to define since most dramatic series these days have some comedic elements (and the same goes for many comedies) however i’m glad that ACTUAL comedies have a better chance of being nominated compared to the category being overrun by dramedys (dramedies?)

      • wingsstef says:

        Yes. I actually think this is a good idea. I admit I watch several dramedies but giving 30 minute sitcoms a better chance to win is not a bad idea. Having a dramedy category sounds a great idea.

  5. Kate says:

    This should be interesting. Maybe this will reduce some of the head scratching at award time when you find shows nominated as comedies that are not even funny. Or actors nominated as guests even though they may as well have appeared in the opening credits.

    • Joey says:

      That’s another funny thing with the show Shameless. Joan Cusack has, to my knowledge, appeared in every single episode to date, and that’s over four seasons now, but every single episode, she’s always credited as a “Special Guest Star”.

  6. I don’t get it…why not just change the categories to be time specific? Are they saying a true comedy can’t be 60 mins of laughs? Or are there going to be Comedy Long and Comedy Short? Or why not do what the Grammys do and slice every category into bite-size segments so they can give out so many awards to respect the art?

  7. Viv says:

    Okay, let me get this… (and English is not my native language, so forgive me if don´t get it…): a series like Sherlock was in the mini-series category, but with those rule changes Sherlock couldn´t get nominated in the “Limited series” category, because it features main characters and story line in subsequent seasons. But it also couldn´t get nominated for the Drama series category, because it doesn´t have six season? Am I right or did I misunderstand that? Thanks.

    • Viv says:

      *six episodes not seasons.

    • Amy says:

      That’s exactly what it seems like. Majorly disappointing if this is the case.

    • B says:

      this is likely where an exception would be made however i’m not sure which category sherlock would now fall under (with the exception)

      • Viv says:

        My thought was that it would maybe qualify for drama as the episodes are running longer than 60 minutes? This wiggle room is very roomy…

    • analog says:

      Sherlock was submitted in the TV-movie last year. Only “His Last Vow” was considered. So I think they might go with that again.

    • johnhelvete says:

      Sherlock submitted one episode as movie each year that they were nominated. Study in Pink in 2011, A Scandal in Belgravia in 2012, His Last Vow in 2014…my guess is the show would still be eligible in that category.

    • Nick says:

      It was in TV movie before. They only entered the one episode. It’s never been considered a drama series or mini series by the Emmys, due to the number of episodes.

    • Sara says:

      Sherlock has always entered itself under the TV Movie category, as they view each “episode” as a separate TV Movie. Unless the rules for TV Movies also changed, I don’t see them changing their strategy.

  8. gayle says:

    How likely is it that an exception would be made? Because Jane the Virgin is absolutely a comedy. These changes seem like they are just going to create new problems and not fix much of anything.

    • I agree. They should just create a Dramedy category. There are enough shows on television that qualify as that. Running time doesn’t define a genre– a comedy can run for an hour. Just because something is 30 minutes doesn’t mean it’s no longer a comedy. Not to mention that their definition of ‘limited series’ is the old-school definition of a *miniseries*. No subsequent seasons means that if any limited event series gets brought back, it’s no longer eligible for Emmys, right? How is that fair? Why don’t they just have two different categories instead of trying to have what is a straight-up miniseries compete against what is essentially a full season of a television show that may or may not return.

      • dude says:

        Not to mention that there are plenty of 30 minute shows that are straight-up dramas that somehow qualify more for the comedy category than shows like Jane the Virgin that are totally comedies but happen to run an hour?

  9. abz says:

    So I’m guessing American Horror Story basically screwed itself over for award season by having Pepper story crossover and Sister Mary Eunice return from the second series. Does it now have to be nominated in Drama category?

    • WayneInNYC says:

      There is wiggle room there too as Pepper is not a main character. The inclusion of Sister Mary Eunice is more problematic, but since she was not a Major character in Freak Show, there is again some wiggle room.

    • Lana says:

      My guess would be that it would be fine. Pepper was never a major character and Sister Mary Eunice was only in the one episode. It sounds to me like if it was a main character in every episode, it would be disqualified.

  10. Sarah says:

    They need a Dramady (sp?) or a Crime Drama category, IMO.

    • John says:

      Should their also be a mulit cam and single cam category? People just need to accept broadcast dramas aren’t as good instead of insisting they make more categories. Those CBS dramas make tons of money in syndication and get high ratings they don’t need awards.

  11. behzadbyhimself says:

    There goes Lorraine Toussaint’s Emmy. None of these rules changes things for the better.

  12. herman1959 says:

    The barn door has been shut after the horses got out, but better late than never. It seems like a lot of thought went into this – it makes sense!

  13. Gail says:

    So Variety talk would be the Daily Show, Colbert Report, Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel , Letterman etc.. Variety Sketch would be Saturday Night Live and …..what?

  14. Gail says:

    They should also define what a leading and featured actor is instead of letting the actor decide which category they wish to be considered for. Defining a guest actor is a start.

  15. LilAngel says:

    if these rules had existed in the last 15 years, shows like Glee or Desperate Housewives would never been nominated and won… It is the same thing for AHS as a mini-serie…

  16. Chris says:

    this seems squarely pointed at AHS….

  17. Babybop says:

    We need a dramedy category. Transparent is not a comedy but it’s a half hour and they’ll submit it as a comedy because they know it will win in that category.

  18. Kalee says:

    These changes sound like more hassle than their worth.

    Jane the Virgin more than anything has absolutely no chance of getting nominated without a petition. As for limited series, this sounds like anything with over 3 episodes that is made as a standalone series goes straight to Drama which is crap since many operate over 50 minutes per episode with 6 episodes minimum going over the 150 minute maximum requirement.

  19. Ashton says:

    I still think cable vs non cable shows should have their own category. Shows on HBO and others do not have to abide by so many regulations as the shows on CBS or NBC do. They both need to be in their own category

    • B says:

      but then where do you draw the line, does it become network vs cable vs online?

    • Jess says:

      Terrific writing, and acting transcends the regulations of broadcast over cable. I think Jane the Virgin is a terrific example of this. It’s a show that doesn’t kowtow to the current trend in grossly violent, over-sexualized, tragedy porn dominating so much of the cable waves these days. And with that, it has developed its own heart and charm, something that is sorely lacking across much of the TV landscape. I’m not a prude, and not against violence and sexuality in totality. But I also don’t think nudity, cursing, and physical assault make a good storyline…without decent writing, and a compelling plot to back it up, and performances to make it all believable, then what’s the point? I feel like far more decent shows are snubbed, than undeserving shows win – which is a testament to today’s TV. There’s a lot of trash out there, but there’s also a lot of thoroughly engaging content telling worthy stories about intriguing people, places, and events. Unfortunately – with 7 noms/category, you just can’t acknowledge them all. And that’s probably a good thing for the TV viewer.

      • John says:

        You are so ignorant if you think cable shows only get nominations because of their content. Graphic content is able to portray things more realistically. People have sex and some people do drugs and some people swear a lot, people also bleed when they’re shot not just fall down and not everything turns up sunshine and roses. It’s like the 70’s when movies like The Godfather redefined cinema but of course you had some people who preferred their old John Wayne westerns. That’s where television is right now

        • James says:

          Jess mentioned that as long as all those we’ve seen on TV are backed up by strong writing and compelling storylines and not for shock value then perhaps a lot of well-deserved shows don’t get overlooked.

    • Gail says:

      Remember the Cable Ace Awards? Prior to be allowed to compete at the Emmys the cable Ace Awards were for cable programming. I believe as part of the agreement for allowing cable shows competing at the Emmys, the cable industry had to discontinue the Ace awards. What you are suggesting, cable programs have their own categories, is essentially the same thing. There are too many Emmy awards as it is. They are not going to double them with separate awards for cable.

    • John says:

      Than maybe the major nets need to launch their own awards show instead of making more categories. It’s what’s the best on ALL OF TV not just a few channels and sorry to say the major nets shows just aren’t as good. It has noting to do with profanity,nudity or violence.

    • DYS says:

      That would mean taking the existing key categories (best actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, best drama ,plus then the same ones for comedy, plus writing categories too) and doubling it. That’s overkill.

  20. Jenny says:

    So 24 LIve Another Day will be a drama series, and not miniseries?

  21. Ellinas1978 says:

    Finally. Enough of shows that should never be Comedies, but wouldn’t even garner a nomination in drama, claiming they are comedies.

  22. webly3 says:

    I’m really happy to hear this new rule change. This should shake things up and make things interesting.

  23. maidenjedi says:

    Doesn’t actually address any of the problems. Is “limited series” interpreted to not include shows that go on to have a second recurring season or series after the eligibility period? What about separating supporting actor categories depending on their appearances in limited series or drama or comedy, where a lot of the snubs happen? Also, hour-long “comedies” competing with hour-long “dramas” is going to end up snubbing even more deserving shows. I dislike the set-up utterly.

  24. Luanne says:

    The only reason I watched the Emmys was to see if Jessica Lange won. If someone from Justified or Sherlock was nominated, I would tune in. Otherwise, I would just go online later if I was curious. Better things to do with 2+ hours of my time. Seems the rulesmakers knew exactly what they were doing, and made an effort to exclude shows they knew were recent winners on purpose. I especially want to see Sherlock win awards. So, now no reason to watch.

  25. Chaya says:

    Wouldn’t it be easier if they just created a dramady category? There seems to be more and more of them.

  26. dude says:

    So basically Jane the Virgin will have to kick up a stink just to be considered? That really sucks. The Emmys have just made everything worse. What I want to know is, do those definitions of what a comedy and drama are pertain to the acting categories (for instance, does Gina Rodriguez have to compete in the drama category against Claire Danes and co. just to be nominated?)

  27. Amanda says:

    Why don’t they just go ahead and create a dramedy category?

  28. Shelley Nault says:

    Michael Where is Bones.

  29. David4 says:

    I think they got sick of dramas being in the comedy section.

    However who wants to be in the comedy section when they keep giving it to crap like Modern Family?

  30. Jennifer says:

    I agree with Jackie. I like these new rules. Never saw how “orange …” was a comedy. BUT we do need to separate cable vs. network. Cable has bigger budgets and can get away with so much more. Cable has been dominating, when there are a number of high quality shows and actors/actresses on network. How can we make a case for this???

  31. Nick says:

    I’m really curious about Fargo, which will retain 1 character from the first season, but played by a different actor (Lou Solverson; Keith Carradine and Patrick Wilson)

  32. Grace says:

    Sooo, seven nominees instead of six in the drama category. Wonderful! Tatiana Maslany, Keri Russell & other well-deserving actresses may have a shot of getting nominated.

  33. M says:

    They need to increase the number of lead actor/actress nominees not the number of shows

  34. LT says:

    How about just submitting in the RIGHT category instead of limiting by the time of show length??? Thanks for screwing up this system SHAMELESS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK!!!!!!

  35. mika02 says:

    I’m sorry but they have made Genres for Categories Dramed and the like because all that will happen is let say Season 3 of OITNB is mostly funny they won’t win in the drama category etc. Just silly.

  36. CJ says:

    I think the majority of these changes were warranted and overall will make the Emmys better. But like others, I still think that an additional category should be created for dramedies. There are enough of them of a high enough caliber now that it seems like it’s more than time for them to be evaluated as a separate genre. It’s unfair to the incredible casts of shows like Jane the Virgin and Orange is the New Black to compete as dramas against The Good Wife and House of Cards. Apples and oranges.

  37. Joey says:

    HBO should purposely reduce Game of Thrones to 30 minutes per episode for us so a) we can point and laugh at the Academy and b) double the number of episodes we get per season.

  38. Bill says:

    Unnecessary changes. Comedy can’t be an hour long – ridiculous! Next they’ll be judging what goes into the comedy category by the number of minutes of laugh time it gets. So then we can get 30 minutes of a laugh track.

  39. Cc says:

    Can someone explain to me why people are saying that this change seems to be aimed directly at AHS? What has the show done that would disqualify it with these new rules?

  40. A fan of TV says:

    I’m actually stupefied that something only qualifies as comedy if it clocks in at a sitcom half-hour. Dramedies are among the best programs on television right now (OINTB, Shameless, etc) and they’re pushed further to the fringe with this change, since they don’t really fit in with the dramas all these shows love to vote for.

    Does this mean that Fargo, at first a limited series, will now only qualify for drama, as the Keith Carradine/Patrick Wilson character is basically the sole carry over? Can what was awarded something a a limited series even qualify for awards if the series becomes unlimited?

    I appreciate the Emmys setting ground rules so that shows and agents cannot cherry pick categories they’ll have best chance in now that TV is so differently formatted than it used to be (especially regarding guest actors!), but not all of these new rules make a ton of sense, in my opinion.

  41. John says:

    I wonder how many people on here avoid independent films because they’re not mainstream enough. I bet this crowd thinks Transformers and Twilight should sweep the oscars

  42. Gail says:

    Apparently there can be a 30 minute drama but not a 60 minute comedy. Discrimination.
    Perhaps, to be fair, they should say all 30 minute programs are comedies and all 60 minute programs are dramas.

  43. Ashley says:

    Why are we worried about Jane the Virgin when shows like Shameless keep getting shafted? Along with the amazing actors who have blown away most others on television and never get recognized? These rules feel like an attack on the fact they went comedy last year and Macy finally got recognized. Way to keep holding a show about the lower class down.

  44. wingsstef says:

    The Dramedy debate, aside, I have to say, yay to the Guest actor thing. If you are on most of the episodes that is closer to supporting actor.

  45. It’s not enough. It’s time to have separate EMMY awards for Cable shows and Network shows. The Walking Dead has been spit on for over 4 years, so it’s time to have an award for the highest rated show on television, It’s time to stop penalizing Network TV shows for being “safe” shows, so have an award for the best “safe” drama show on Network TV. I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

    • John says:

      Walking Dead is a cable show on a network with several emmy winning series. The Walking Dead just like NCIS maybe popular, but that shouldn’t give it nominations. The general public doesn’t like stuff that challenges them or is unique.

      • That’s an interesting argument, but think of how creative the writing staff on THE WALKING DEAD must be to get so many more people to watch it than ANY OTHER SHOW OUT THERE. Your argument basically explains why Reality TV does so well. It says that the general public is a bunch of morons and idiots. That may explain why we keep electing the same do nothing politicians/people/criminals/con artists over and over.

  46. A-Rizzle says:

    Why not just split comedy into “Sitcom” and “Comedy”. Seems like that would solve a lot of problems.

  47. kd86953 says:

    Does this mean Shameless will FINALLY go into the Drama category where it belongs?! Maybe this time Emmy, Noel, and Cameron will get recognized!

  48. Amy says:

    Setting a time based definition to determine eligibility is honestly ridiculous and asinine. And even more, I loathe to think about how this will impact future show development. Television has been flourishing in recent years and I’d hate to think this would cause stagnation.

    At least the WB hasn’t worried about Emmy pandering – besides JtV, I don’t think Hart of Dixie is Emmy worthy, but imagine if it were cut to half-hour eps just to make sure it ‘fits’ a criteria.

    • Amy says:

      p.s. I personally think a new category of ‘best ensemble cast’ is well overdue. Let the shows bursting with talent rather than just one *coughMikeandMolly* get their credit.

  49. Chase says:

    Person Of Interest… they had that heavily praised third season last year which is when the show started to go into a more serialized direction as opposed to the procedural style that dominated the first two seasons. into season 4 and the show has damn near stopped doing case of the week episodes entirely, it has the writing quality of a cable drama really and because they broke out of the cbs procedural shell the show has been one of the best shows on television. the performances this season especially from Michael Emerson and Amy Acker really deserve Emmy recognition but i know they won’t get… sad. not even for best writing or cinematography ? this show has been overdue for Emmy love for the past two seasons.

  50. lululime says:

    I was expecting a Transparent v. Orange is the New Black battle, but it looks like that’s not meant to be. I hope it paves the way for shows like Fresh off the Boat or Last Man on Earth to have a shot. So is True Detective now a Limited Series?