Streaming has closed the gap between what constitutes a straight-up drama or comedy on TV nowadays. The Emmys are acknowledging the shifting landscape with a new rule change. Starting next year, a program’s episode runtime will no longer determine which of the two main categories it falls under.
It’s an interesting switch for shows with fluctuating episode lengths, like this year’s Outstanding Comedy winner Ted Lasso, whose second season had multiple outings by the end that ran for approximately 45 minutes each. It also impacts shows like Netflix’s Cobra Kai, which received an Outstanding Comedy nomination even though the show skews more in the direction of its dramatic material.
As a standard practice, the Television Academy has slotted half-hour shows automatically as comedies, even if it has dramatic elements, while episodes that are longer get automatically counted as dramas.
The rule was officially formalized in 2015. The only stipulation was that possible nominees got to choose if they wanted to change their category, and they could only do it once. It’s how shows with episodes over 30 minutes, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Flight Attendant, compete as comedies.
However, thanks to the rise of dramedies on streaming platforms, this rule is being switched up yet again. According to Variety, the producers will now simply determine category submissions, except for shows under 20 minutes, which will be short-form. The Academy’s Industry Panel reserves the right to review the producer’s preference.
The Academy has also made some other changes, starting with classifying that limited series will only be for shows whose story arcs resolve within the season with no main characters showing up in future seasons. This means The White Lotus, which started off as a limited show but is getting a season tw0 (with Jennifer Coolidge returning) will not compete in Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series.
Music supervisors will solely win in their category instead of sharing it with showrunners, Outstanding Stunt Coordination has been split back into two categories (one for Comedy or Variety and one for Drama or Limited/Anthology), and voice-over performers with multiple characters in an episode or series can submit them all as long as they’re a separate entry. Perhaps next year, Nick Kroll will rightly dominate this category for Big Mouth.
These changes come after another major one was announced only a few days ago: the realignment of the Primetime and Daytime Emmys.