Why ‘Sex Education’ Isn’t on the Primetime Emmys Ballot (EXCLUSIVE)

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There are 171 shows submitted for drama series and 118 vying for comedy series at this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, but one show is missing from the ballot: Netflix’s “Sex Education,” the British dramedy created by Laurie Nunn. Variety has learned exclusively that the streamer and creatives have opted to submit for recognition at the upcoming International Emmys, and will not seek a Primetime Emmy nomination.

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The show’s first season debuted on the streaming platform in January 2019, earning acclaim internationally and stateside. With a runtime varying between 47 and 60 minutes for each episode, Netflix and its creators saw the series lean more toward a lighter, comedic tone, which many critics and journalists agreed with, leading to its first submission in comedy series. However, the TV Academy didn’t see it that way, ultimately moving it to the drama series categories, where it failed to earn any Emmy nominations.

For the second season that dropped in January 2020, Netflix successfully petitioned to have the show switched from drama to comedy. However, as seen with many shows that make genre changes after their initial seasons, such as Showtime’s “Shameless” and Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” it becomes inherently more difficult to find traction afterward.

The eight-episode third season, which debuted in September 2021, during this year’s Primetime eligibility window, will have a greater chance at recognition with the international voting community. The ensemble cast includes Asa Butterfield, Gillian Anderson, Ncuti Gatwa and more.

Many of the show’s accolades have come from the international precursors, including BAFTA Scotland for Gatwa for best actor (television) in 2020 and a BAFTA TV Award for best female comedy performance in 2021 for English actress Aimee Lou Wood.

Most recently, “Sex Education” was nominated for best comedy series at the Edinburgh TV Festival’s annual awards, which are set to take place on Aug. 25.

A series cannot be submitted for both Primetime and International Emmy recognition. “Squid Game,” another international Netflix series, was produced under the guidance of Netflix, an American company. As a result, it was allowed to enter this year’s race, where it could become the first non-English-language series ever nominated.

With television continuing to move toward a global market, this likely won’t be the last we hear of series vying for international recognition.

Nomination voting is now open for the 20,000-plus members of the Television Academy, with the first round of ballots due on June 27 at 5 p.m. PT. The official nominations will be announced on July 12. The winners will be revealed during the Creative Arts Emmys, set for Sept. 3-4 (which will air on FXX on Sept. 10), and during the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, scheduled for Sept. 12 on NBC.

See the complete television awards-season calendar here.

“Sex Education” is produced by Jon Jennings, Jamie Campbell, Ben Taylor and Nunn.

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