"Black Mirror" inspires TV Academy to make rules changes to TV movie Emmy eligibility

After the Charlie Brooker anthology series won two years in a row, it was time for clarity

Published December 14, 2018 1:30PM (EST)

Black Mirror season 4, episode 1: USS Callister (Jonathan Prime/Netflix)
Black Mirror season 4, episode 1: USS Callister (Jonathan Prime/Netflix)

This article originally appeared on IndieWire.

Call it the Television Academy’s “Black Mirror” Rule. After Netflix’s Charlie Brooker anthology series won the Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie the past two years in a row, the org has given a little more clarity to what a “TV movie” is: Notably, that it has to be at least 75 minutes long.

That means that this year’s winner, the “Black Mirror” installment “USS Callister,” would have been eligible, as it ran for 76 minutes. But the category’s 2017 winner, the “Black Mirror” episode “San Junipero,” was only 61 minutes long, and would not have been eligible to compete under the new guidelines.

The decision to add a length requirement to the category comes just as anthology series experience a resurgence — and given the success of “Black Mirror” in the category, others were sure to emulate the idea of submitting an individual episode as an original TV movie. (Granted, if that episode is padded to 75 minutes, it will still be eligible.)

Read more IndieWire: ‘Black Mirror’ Season 5 Date and Episode Title Leak, Prompting Fan Theories

As IndieWire’s Ben Travers wrote in September, “This is the second year in a row an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Netflix series has triumphed in the TV Movie category, and the third year a non-movie has won, given “Sherlock’s” victory for a “TV special” in 2016. This fact alone should be enough of a tip-off something has gone wrong here; after all, even if sequels that don’t rhyme with ‘The Toddfather: Fart Flu’ actually won Oscars, this isn’t the Oscars. It’s the Emmys. Here, voters are supposed to know the difference between TV and film.”

Among other changes, as announced late Thursday, the Academy put a tighter leash on what might be eligible for short form awards. Without mentioning it, the change may be in response to “An Emmy for Megan,” the short form series from Megan Amram that was all about Amram’s attempt at winning an Emmy. The meta series was nominated — but ultimately didn’t win.

The Academy said it has now adopted a “new vetting procedure to identify Emmy-competitive entries in the Short Form categories on nomination-round ballots. Panelists, randomly selected from a member pool, will evaluate these entries.”

Those panelists will vet the nominees for Outstanding Short Form Drama or Comedy Series, Outstanding Short Form Variety Program, Outstanding Short Form Nonfiction or Reality Series, Outstanding Actor in a Short Form Drama or Comedy Series, and Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Drama or Comedy Series.

Read more IndieWire: Who Could Host the Emmys? Assessing the Emcees, From Most Likely to Longshots

Another rule change will benefit linear networks looking to compete with shows that premiere late in the Emmy eligibility window. Because streaming services like Netflix and Amazon can drop an entire season of episodes at the last minute — making them eligible for Emmy consideration — the Academy is now giving linear networks the same ability to come in at the last minute by “posting episodes on a distribution platform in advance of the episodes’ airdates in cases where they otherwise would be ‘hanging’ or ineligible because they are scheduled outside the eligibility period.”

Those episodes can even just be posted on a private distribution platform accessible only to TV Academy membership, as long as they don’t change in content once they air — and as long as the episodes actually air for the public sometime in June.

Also announced a new category for Outstanding Music Composition for a Documentary Series or Special (Original Dramatic Underscore). According to the org, the new category recognizes “the unique creative process and evaluation criteria for documentary scoring, versus scoring for scripted series or specials.”

And much like other categories have eventually been split into two, the TV Academy’s choreography field has now morphed into two separate juried awards: Outstanding Choreography for Variety and Reality Programming (Variety Series, Variety Special, Structured Reality, Unstructured Reality and Competition Program), and Outstanding Choreography for Scripted Programming (Comedy Series, Drama Series, Limited Series and Television Movie).

Read more IndieWire: The Real ‘San Junipero’: Here’s the Experiment That Inspired the ‘Black Mirror’ Classic

Also, music supervisors will now be permitted to vote in all music categories (previously music supervisors only voted for Outstanding Music Supervision).

And voting in stunt coordination categories has been revised to go through a three-step process:

  • All entries will be viewed in their entirety by the Stunt Coordination Peer Group Executive Committee (PGEC).
  • Based on a weighted score of all the entries by the PGEC, up to the top 10 scoring entries in Comedy Series or Variety Program and up to the top 15 Drama Series, Limited Series or Movie will be presented to the Stunt Coordination peer group via “at home” online viewing to determine the nominations.
  • Winners will be determined by the members of the Stunt Coordination, Performer and Director Peer Groups via “at home” online viewing of the nominated entries.

The 71st Emmy Awards will air Sunday, September 22, 2019, live on Fox, while the Creative Arts Emmys will be presented on Saturday, September 14, and Sunday, September 15.


By Michael Schneider

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