New Emmy Rewrite in Store for Reality TV

2 hours, 22 minutes ago
By Michael Schneider

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences continues to revamp its award rules in response to the reality TV explosion, adding two new categories this season to recognize writers and directors of nonfiction fare.

Having just revised its reality categories in 2001, the TV academy's board of governors has again altered the awards: The board voted Wednesday night to add stand-alone prizes for outstanding nonfiction writing and outstanding nonfiction directing.

According to TV academy president Todd Leavitt, the decision to give writers and directors their own categories came from the Emmys' nonfiction programming peer group.

"That's what's great about our business is we see the trends here first," Leavitt said. "The strength of the nonfiction group here has been a precursor of what's been going on in television."

Previously, writers and directors could receive Emmys, but only alongside producers and hosts/narrators if their series or special won an overall outstanding program award. In the new setup, only producers and hosts are the recipients of those Emmys.

The TV academy also opted to rename those program awards to clarify which shows are eligible for which award. Nonfiction programs are eligible for one of four categories:

-- Nonfiction series (traditional): These are generally nature, history, biography and other documentary-style series such as "Behind the Music," "E! True Hollywood Story" and "Inside the Actors' Studio."

-- Nonfiction special (traditional): Similar as above, but these are one-time-only entries such as "Scottsboro: An American Tragedy" and the various Sept. 11 tribute specials.

-- Nonfiction program (alternative/unscripted): These are staged and elaborately stylized reality-style shows without a game element, such as "The Real World," "The Osbournes," "Cops," "Trading Spaces," "Taxicab Confessions" and "Blind Date." This category was formerly known as "nonfiction programming (reality)."

-- Reality/competition programs. These are specials or series that include a game, competition or some sort of contest with a prize attached. Programs eligible include "Joe Millionaire," "The Bachelor," "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," "The Mole," "Road Rules" and "ElimiDate." This is the category that used to be called "nonfiction programming (special class)."

FEWER EMMYS

Ironically, academy awards chief John Leverance points out that the rule change may actually result in fewer Emmys bestowed upon nonfiction writers and directors.

That's because the outstanding program categories are "area awards," meaning more than one series or special may wind up winning. The new writer and director awards are single awards, meaning the nominees are truly competing against each other and there will be just one winner.