An Annual Emmy Plea: Why 10 Is the Perfect Nomination Number for Top Categories (Column)

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In last week’s column, I suggested that TV Academy voters got it mostly right with the 2021 Emmy nominations. But what if I told you there was an easy way for them to get it even more mostly right?

Yes, welcome to my annual plea for the Emmys to expand some of its key categories to a nice round 10 slots. Perhaps I’m a broken record on this, but hear me out. Peak TV is still alive and well, and even in a pandemic year, the volume of original scripted fare is astronomical. Granted, basic cable has pulled back from first-run dramas and comedies, but the rise of new streaming services has made up for it — and has brought more so-called prestige fare to the forefront.

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I know this is in direct contrast to the prevailing feeling this year that it was a struggle to identify enough nominees for this year’s ballots. All season long, I heard a lot of TV Academy voters and pundits bemoan a dearth of major Emmy contenders. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing production delays on hits like HBO’s “Succession,” and past favorites like FX’s “Atlanta” taking their sweet time to return, were there even enough worthy options this year?

The TV Academy expanded the number of outstanding comedy and drama nominees to a permanent eight slots last year, but I’ll go ahead and be the contrarian and argue that it’s still not enough.

Think about it — for decades, there were just three (and maybe four, if you counted PBS) networks filling five slots in the key drama and comedy categories. Not everything was golden, but there was room to recognize most of TV’s top offerings. In 2021, the amount of eligible fare has more than doubled from those days. But the number of nominees has not.

For all this talk of comedy in crisis, look at the stellar crop of this year’s nominees: “Ted Lasso,” “Hacks,” “The Flight Attendant,” “Cobra Kai,” “The Kominsky Method,” “Black-ish,” “Pen15.” (OK, fine, and “Emily in Paris.”) And then think about the shows that didn’t make the cut but easily could have (and should have), like “Mythic Quest,” “Girls5eva,” “Superstore,” “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” You could have gotten to 10 and still had snubs.

Similarly, this year’s drama race includes “The Boys,” “Bridgerton,” “The Crown,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Lovecraft Country,” “The Mandalorian,” “Pose” and “This Is Us.” But what about “For All Mankind,” “P-Valley,” “In Treatment,” “Perry Mason” or “We Are Who We Are”?

Now is where I usually make the point that adding more nominees might give the broadcast networks a bit more representation, which in turn might help viewership by adding shows with more awareness into the mix. But to be honest, that ship may have sailed. There are too many streamers and premium cable outlets putting out high-caliber work to still entertain much room for the broadcasters (with exceptions like “This Is Us” and “Black-ish”), even if the nomination roster is extended.

But the spirit of the idea is still there: Increase the nominees to 10, and reach more audience members who have a vested interest in a series that might have otherwise been overlooked. And it would give breathing room to all platforms — broadcast, cable and streaming — to get more recognition, rather than just watch the Emmys morph into the Streamys.

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