The Television Academy has confirmed to IndieWire that “Black Mirror” will not be eligible to compete in the 2020 Emmy race for Outstanding Television Movie, a category the Netflix science-fiction anthology series has dominated for the last several years. A source close to Netflix also confirmed the show had been booted from the Television Movie category. THR first reported the news. Netflix submitted the fifth season “Black Mirror” episode “Smithereens” into the 2020 Television Movie race but the Academy has ruled it must compete for Best Drama Series instead.
Moving “Black Mirror” into the Best Drama category radically shakes up the Emmys race and suggests that the science-fiction anthology’s dominant run at the Emmys is more or less over for now. “Black Mirror” has won the Emmy for Outstanding Television Movie for three years in a row thanks to the episodes “San Junipero,” “USS Callister,” and “Bandersnatch.” Allowing “Black Mirror” to compete as a television movie has long rubbed critics the wrong way. IndieWire’s Ben Travers urged the Academy to change its rules after “USS Callister” won in 2018, explaining that “Black Mirror” entries are not films but episodes in an ongoing anthology television series.
Accusations that “Black Mirror” was dominating the Emmys through category fraud is part of the reason the TV Academy announced it would be changing the qualifications for the Outstanding Television Movie race in 2020 so that only programs 75 minutes or longer would be eligible. News broke earlier this year that Netflix succeeded in appealing to the TV Academy so that “Smithereens” could still compete in the Television Movie race despite having a 70-minute runtime. The decision to allow “Black Mirror” back in the race was widely criticized, notably by IndieWire’s television awards editor Libby Hill.
“The Academy’s choice to overturn its own rules, rules instituted less than 18 months ago, is baffling,” Hill wrote earlier this year. “Why bother restructuring a category at all if you’re just going to undermine your own eligibility requirements? At this juncture the only thing the TV movie category makeover has changed is that it has increased the amount of paperwork required for ‘Black Mirror’ to be included.”
The TV Academy has now made amends and “Smithereens” is confirmed to only be eligible for the Best Drama Series race. This ruling means “Black Mirror” now faces a tough challenge in getting “Smithereens” an Emmy nomination. The 2020 Best Drama race is stacked with powerhouse contenders such as “Succession,” “The Crown,” “Better Call Saul,” “Ozark,” “Westworld,” “The Morning Show,” “Killing Eve,” and “Big Little Lies.” Whereas “Smithereens” was a no brainer to land a nomination in the Television Movie race, its Emmys future is now uncertain and unlikely.
As for the Television Movie category, the race has suddenly gotten more exciting without “Black Mirror” looming large over other contenders. Without “Smithereens,” the prospects of Netflix’s “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” or HBO’s “Bad Education” becoming Emmy winners just increased tenfold. HBO is probably happy as well, as less “Black Mirror” nominations means the premium cable network can stay on top of the total Emmy nominations count.
The 2020 Emmy Awards are set for September 20.