The Emmys Need to Expand the Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series Category

One of the best recent rule changes the Television Academy recently made was the 2020 decision to expand the Drama and Comedy series categories to include eight nominees, regardless of the number of entries. But if the goal of the Primetime Emmys is to be reflective of the shows that most engaged viewers and voters alike throughout the TV season, it needs to now go one step further. The TV Academy needs to expand the Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series category to eight nominees as well.

In the decade since they have re-split the Limited Series and TV Movie categories there have been plenty of winners that were a cultural moment, from “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story” to “Big Little Lies” to “Watchmen,” but these event series were not as common an occurrence. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, an event that has had ramifications to the television schedule still present today. The 2021 nominees for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series were shows like “Mare of Easttown,” “WandaVision,” and eventual winner “The Queen’s Gambit” that did not just uphold the prestige of the category, but were record-breaking hits that proved audience’s ravenous appetites for shows done this way.

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Then the 2022 Emmys were the year where TV shows had figured out how to shoot again with new safety protocols, which resulted in a firehose spray of limited series. There was a stretch towards the end of eligibility where it felt like at least one new one premiered each week, whether it was “The Staircase,” “Under the Banner of Heaven,” “WeCrashed,” etc.— large productions that didn’t even get a nomination for Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series. While TV production has slowed down with Wall Street’s reaction to peak streaming profits most likely being reached, the ongoing demand for limited series has made competition for the category a bloodbath.

Now every nominee is conceivably a show that everyone was talking about at one point. That was certainly true of most of last year’s nominees, with “Beef” overtaking fellow blockbuster Netflix series “Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.” The Comedy and Drama contenders are still capable of being watercooler shows. We have seen it with projects like “The Bear” and “Succession,” but again, in a TV landscape post-strike shutdowns, the majority of the series capturing public interest are limited series.

'The Sympathizer'; 'Shōgun'
‘The Sympathizer’; ‘Shōgun’Hopper Stone/HBO/Katie Yu/FX

And what is always fascinating is that it is not just the stereotype of shows built around a major star seeking the E in their EGOT, like recent Oscar winner Robert Downey Jr. on “The Sympathizer,” or recent Oscar nominees Austin Butler and Barry Keoghan on “Masters of the Air.” More often now, the limited series that are getting the most shine, like “Shōgun” or “Baby Reindeer,” are the breakout projects for their stars.

While Emmy categories are meant to have categories that are proportional to the amount of submissions, it is super tough to see the casts and crew of dozens of shows give it their all to make one perfect season, only for five shows to receive top honors. That cap ends up discouraging voters from catching up on more shows, which has the trickle down effect of having less and less shows represented in the acting categories going from lead to supporting. To have all those great limited series come out in the 2021 – 2022 TV season only for “The White Lotus,” “Dopesick,” and “Pam & Tommy” to take up the combined 14 nomination slots for Supporting Actor and Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series is disheartening when one thinks of how many actors gave a scene-stealing performance that just went unseen because of the sheer popularity of some of the competition.

We don’t know yet how many submissions the Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series category is getting this year, as the entry deadline is May 8. For all we know, the category may expand to six nominees should 81 shows submit (Netflix alone has 11 contenders.) But any avid TV watcher can for sure think of more than five or six limited series from this TV season that captured their attention. It would be great to just extend the expansion to eight nominees to Outstanding Limited or Anthology Series to encourage voters to find even more shows to fall in love with, especially since these series in particular only get one chance at Emmy nominations in their current iterations.

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