How the Emmy Winners Are Chosen
Claire Danes and Damian Lewis at the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 23, 2012. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The nominees for the 65th Primetime Emmys have been announced (in case you need a refresher, "American Horror Story" scared up the most nods this year, with 17, while Netflix broke new ground with an Outstanding Drama Series nomination for "House of Cards"), but arriving at the list of contenders — which was whittled down by the Television Academy's 16,000 card-carrying voting members — is just the beginning of a painstaking, peer-driven process that takes us to the star-studded September ceremony.
So once the noms are announced, what's the next step in the long and winding road to Emmy glory?
First up, it's final judging. For 2013, that occurs during the month of August, when reps from the academy's two dozen peer groups determine the voting procedures for each individual group's award categories. After panelists view the nominees' work from home (yes, a lot of DVDs are involved), judging takes place. Judging procedures range from ranking to a ratings-score system to a plain ol' yes/no vote. And there are a few important caveats — among them, certain categories are restricted to peer judging (example: Only writers can judge in writing categories).
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But back to that bevy of DVDs. The producers of each nominated television series must choose six episodes to submit for judging. (Eek — how do they pick their favorite child?) The episodes are paired up and sent to three panels for each genre. And then there are those hours and hours of television watching. (OK, that isn't exactly a torturous job for academy voters, but it's still time-consuming.)
After the ballots for all Emmy categories are submitted, Ernst & Young accountants tabulate and audit them multiple times — including hand checking. Andy Sale, a 25-year E&Y veteran, told the Wall Street Journal that the process is "laborious" and much of it is done in a locked, windowless room.
Once the envelopes are sealed (by Sale, who personally seals them), they're delivered — via secured metal briefcase — to their resting place at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
The next time they see the light of day (er, night) is Emmy night, when celebrity presenters read the winners' names.
Of course, things aren't always clear-cut. According to the Wrap, it sometimes pays Emmy contenders to check their egos at the door and let an objective third party give them some advice. Seems when it comes to selecting their best work or genre for consideration, actors and producers don't always know best.
Example: At the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards in 2010, the Showtime series "Nurse Jackie" was submitted as a comedy rather than a drama, leading to Edie Falco's surprising win in the Lead Actress in a Comedy Series category. Falco didn't think she was funny, but she definitely got the last Emmy laugh.
See Edie Falco's 2010 Emmy speech:
The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards airs on Sunday, 9/22 at 8 PM on CBS.