Why the Emmys Have Super-Sized – and What It Means

The TV Academy is handing out more awards than ever before, with the Creative Arts ceremony split into two nights

Last Updated: May 27, 2016 @ 3:45 PM

A version of this story first appeared in the print edition of TheWrap Magazine’s  The Race Begins Emmys Issue.

This year, the Television Academy has made several rule changes that are going to mean, bottom line, more Emmys than ever. That’s good news for industry professionals hoping to make the grade in one of the burgeoning number of categories. More Emmys, more acceptance speeches, more (hopefully) creative ways to say, “Thank you.”

But good luck trying to keep track of it all.

The Creative Arts Emmys, devoted to handing out almost 90 awards mostly in “below the line” categories, will now be stretched over two consecutive nights the weekend before the Primetime Emmys. The Academy needed to double down on the Creative Arts because a single ceremony was getting “excessively long,” in the words of Academy Chairman and CEO Bruce Rosenblum.

Anyone who’s sat for hours in the Creative Arts ceremony, starving and in dire need of a bathroom break, can affirm that Rosenblum was not exaggerating about the need to make a punishing ceremony more manageable.

And thanks to streaming and on-demand providers, there are now even more gold statuettes. Eager to keep up with the explosion of digital programming, the Academy expanded the recognition for short-form series — i.e., those with episodes that run less than 15 minutes. Now the short-form category will be broken up into comedy/drama, variety, reality and animation categories.

“Our industry is aggressively, quickly and creatively evolving the various ways episodic stories are told,” Rosenblum said. “Our Board of Governors felt that this expansion of short form categories begins the process of ensuring that Emmy-worthy creativity will be rewarded, irrespective of format or platform.”

Of course, the short-form additions are but a fraction of the 113 categories on display this year. And several of the races in more well- established categories promise a long summer of network and studio jockeying for bragging rights. Take the best drama lineup, where last year HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones” took the top prize. It could well dominate again; the first six episodes of Season 6 will have aired before the May 31 eligibility deadline.

But “GoT” could get knocked off by a flashy newcomer, such as Showtime’s high-finance caper “Billions” or WGN’s slave drama”Underground” or even a dark horse like HBO’s period piece about the music industry, “Vinyl.” Then there are veteran shows that remain serious contenders, such as Showtime’s spy drama “Homeland” and Netflix’s “House of Cards.” And this season brought the series finale of “Downton Abbey,” which has been nominated for best drama four times but never won — so far.

Or take the race for best comedy actress, which is ripe for a major shakeup. The category has been dominated for four consecutive years by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who plays the self-absorbed pol on HBO’s “Veep.” That matches the record set by Helen Hunt on “Mad About You.”

A look beyond Louis-Dreyfus could give voters room to honor Amy Schumer (“Inside Amy Schumer”) or Lily Tomlin (“Grace and Frankie”), two nominees from last year, or even to ponder the inclusion of a fresh face, such as Ellie Kemper from Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” or Golden Globe winner Rachel Bloom from The CW’s musical romp “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

And speaking of change, look at the variety category. For the past 10 years, it has been dominated by “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.” But neither program exists anymore, and it’s an open question how voters will react to the new environment in late-night and elsewhere. Is it CBS host James Corden‘s moment for Emmy karaoke? John Oliver‘s time to shine beyond HBO? Anything’s possible.

So during this very crowded and confusing nomination season, look to TheWrap as your special guide through the ever-growing thicket of categories and nominees. Because you’re going to need some help.

That, and maybe a bathroom break during the award shows.

See more of TheWrap Magazine’s Emmy Issue The Race Begins:

The Race Begins Cover

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