Emmy Awards boss under fire for 'category fraud'

IN MUDDY WATERS: Shameless is a TV drama up for best comedy.
IN MUDDY WATERS: Shameless is a TV drama up for best comedy.

The television dramas Shameless and Orange Is the New Black are up for the comedy Emmy this year. The miniseries True Detective is competing as a drama series. And the drama series Treme is competing as a miniseries. Confused yet?

After a week of criticism for the shock snub of some of television's best drama series in the best drama, writing and directing categories, the Emmy Awards today came under fire for "category fraud".

Appearing at a television industry panel to promote the 66th prime-time Emmy Award, scheduled for August this year, the Academy's chief executive Bruce Rosenblum had to duck as media quizzed him on growing concern over irregularities with the night's categorisation of programs.

Worse, the line of questioning inferred that networks and studios were deliberately "gaming" the awards by cynically exploiting loopholes in what many agree is a cumbersome and confusing set of regulations.

Acknowledging the problem has grown in recent years, Rosenblum said there were "some subtle rules that, as an organisation, we should take a look at [which have] enabled the shows to move into the categories they're in."

Rosenblum said the issue was not new, referring to earlier cases such as drama series Desperate Housewives submitting as a comedy. At the time it was widely understood the decision had been made because the show had no chance of making the cut in the more competitive drama category.

Orange Is the New Black is another drama surprisingly up for best comedy in the 66th Emmy Award nominations.

"This isn't a new issue for the Academy to face," Rosenblum said. "Should we look and maybe define the rules more carefully? It's probably something we should take a look at."

Defending against criticism that the Emmy categories are either too loosely defined, or poorly policed, Rosenblum said the issue was not with the awards themselves, but with changes in the television industry.

"What's happened is that our industry has evolved," he said. "[In the past] we didn't have Netflix doing shows, or HBO ordering eight episodes of a series like True Detective.

"We need to be responsive to the way that the industry is evolving, to be reflective of the kinds of shows that are being produced ... not to respond to criticism, but respond to the evolution that's taking place in our business."

The panel, which also included the event's executive producer Don Mischer and writer/producer Mike Shoemaker, also took heat from media about the exclusion of some of TV's best shows from last week's Emmy nominations.

Shows such as The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy, Ray Donovan and The Walking Dead were ignored in the best drama, writing and directing categories, in favour of established favourites such as House of Cards, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones and Mad Men.

Mischer said the Emmys were not a popularity contest. "[They] are an industry award," he said. "How many people watch the product is not as important as the quality of the product."

That said, many of the overlooked shows are also cable dramas with small audiences, and in the case of The Good Wife, it is not the show's popularity which caused surprise at its exclusion, but rather the almost uniform opinion it has just delivered one of the strongest seasons of any TV drama.

Rosenblum said the Academy's membership, which totals almost 19,000 industry professionals working in a range of disciplines, did "a good job of choosing the best of television this year".

Sydney Morning Herald