Without A Net

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Emmys 2014: 'Naked category jockeying' and other tales from the nominations

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In the legal world, it’s known as venue shopping — finding the best judge, jury or courthouse for your case.

With the Emmy Awards, according to Variety TV editor Cynthia Littleton, the practice is known as “naked category jockeying.”

The Emmy Awards give networks, cable channels and online outlets the freedom to pick a preferred category for a show, within reasonable limits. But the Emmy guidelines are loose and open to manipulation.

With Thursday’s nominations for the 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards, it was clear some shows bent the rulebook to their immediate advantage.

“Orange is the New Black,” in which the laughs are sometimes few and far between, was placed in the comedy category, where it earned a nomination. (A few months back, the show was in the drama category at the Golden Globes.)

Edie Falco, who has joked that her “Nurse Jackie” isn’t all that funny, was nominated yet again in the comedy actress race.

And “True Detective,” which walked and talked a lot like a miniseries and will return with an entirely different cast next year, nevertheless was submitted as a drama series — where the cast is supposed to stay the same year to year.

Surprise, surprise — it, too, was nominated.

Littleton says HBO, which produces “True Detective,” has elevated the category selection game into an art form: “It’s a strategic effort either by the network or the studio to say, ‘What is the category that this show has its best chances in?’”

Not unexpectedly, the premium cable service led all comers with 99 nominations.

More from our conversation from Littleton:

On Emmy category rules

"Rules are fairly flexible for shows to make the case that they should be allowed to compete as a comedy. In the case of a show like "Shameless," a Showtime series which people have noted just had its most dramatic season ever, all of a sudden is a comedy. That was strictly a strategic decision to give the show its best chances to be Emmy nominated. Now if the producers of 'Homeland' or 'Mad Men' came to the Academy and said, 'We really think our show's a comedy'…there would just be no credible, possible way that you could say that's a comedy."

On "The Good Wife" snub

"A lot of people, including me, think that 'The Good Wife' was robbed this year. It was up there in the same stratosphere as cable dramas, by the estimation of a lot of television critics this year. It really excelled in that fifth season. … It's just a shocker that it didn't make it in."

On "The Walking Dead" snub

"There was no chance that it was going to get much beyond make-up and effects. You can imagine the clip reel. It's just not an Emmy type of a show, even though there's plenty of people who will vouch for its writing and its directing and its execution. It's just not an Emmy-bait kind of show."

On the Emmy " Outstanding Main Title Design" category

"Main title design and any of what are known as below-the-line categories — the craft categories or technical categories of people that do the sound mixing and the art direction and the makeup and hair — these are all truly crucial roles on any production. Television and movies are the conglomerations of work of a lot of true craftspeople that bring their skills to bear, and every show-runner will tell you that they get the best of the best to work on their shows."

2013 "Outstanding Main Title Design" winner


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