Let’s Change the Emmy Calendar and Create a Season of Celebration

With the pandemic shutdown, production has irrevocably changed. The Emmy Awards should change with it.
Emmy Awards

The countdown to the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards has begun in earnest. Submissions are closed and we’re just six weeks away from the nominations announcement. Things are well underway despite the Television Academy’s schedule adjustments — made to better accommodate the restrictions and upheaval from the pandemic — but as things roll along, this is the perfect time to take a moment and look ahead to the 2022 Emmy Awards. Or, to be more specific, the 2021-2022 Emmy Awards calendar.

It’s time for the Television Academy to consider switching things up and shifting its eligibility window to January 1 through December 31, a departure from the current Emmy eligibility window that runs from June 1 through May 31, a schedule all but inscrutable to anyone outside of the industry and increasingly obsolete in the age of time-shifted TV viewing.

There are obvious downsides to joining the Gregorian calendar fray where most other awards shows live. The Emmys will have to fight for bandwidth amidst a glut of guild awards and critics choice celebrations, all of which typically line the road in the march toward the Academy Awards, give or take a Golden Globes or Grammys.

But why shouldn’t the Emmys be a part of that fray? The spiritual sister to the Oscars, the Emmys honor the absolute best that the dominant cultural medium has to offer. Not only that, but those same guild awards could be used as their own direct precursors to the Emmy Awards, fostering a perpetual motion machine of interest that culminates on Emmy night. After all, most of the awards distributed at the mixed-media winter awards ceremonies are for TV anyway. The idea that TV should be shunted aside in favor of film is ludicrous and television’s craftspeople deserve better.

The current Emmy eligibility window adheres to an age of programming that just doesn’t exist anymore. The traditional TV release calendar, with September premieres and May finales, is largely obsolete, with major series and awards hopefuls now debuting year-round.

Beyond that, TV doesn’t look or sound or feel like it once did, now that it is completely unmoored from archaic things like weekly releases or, you know, watching on an actual television. There’s no good reason (except, perhaps, inculcated but erroneous beliefs about how much advertising money could be earned when) not to at least consider an adjustment to a calendar that was forged in the age before the rise of streaming — or even the rise of cable.

Plus, wouldn’t it just be so much easier to be able to say something like, “The 2025 Emmy Awards recognize the best that TV had to offer in the 2024 calendar year” as opposed to “The 2025 Emmy Awards recognize the best that TV had to offer during completely arbitrary dates spanning some of 2024 and also 2025.”

But the most compelling argument for switching the Emmy calendar might come the bowels of 2020 itself.

We’re rapidly approaching the end of Hollywood’s pandemic-induced hiatus, wherein halted productions can resume work so long as certain safety measures are in place. (At least, that is,  until new restrictions pop-up in response to spiking coronavirus cases). But that’s a minimum of three months of production lost to an entire industry, with an unclear outlook as to how long it might take for output to return to pre-COVID levels.

With that in mind, what better opportunity is there to adjust the calendar, moving the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards to early 2022, with an eligibility window that runs from June 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021, allowing plenty of time for the industry to get back on its feet and create a robust field of competitors?

This year has already taught people so much about our ability to adapt to new and challenging circumstances. Within Hollywood, that means making adjustments so that people can still depend on pop culture to distract them from the horrors of the real world. With its adjusted deadlines and commitment to remaking the FYC process into something both safe and accessible, the TV Academy has already proven they’re up to the challenge of making changes when the moment demands it. Why not take advantage of a moment so attuned to change and make a bold statement in support of your own legacy?

The Emmys deserve a season of celebration. Let’s make it happen.

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