TV Academy Reverses Course, Maintains Separate Categories for Sketch and Talk Emmys

Some argue that the genres — specifically Variety Talk — actually should be sparking more categories and not fewer.
John Oliver
John Oliver

On second thought, the Television Academy has decided a “Saturday Night Live” vs. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” showdown is the last thing the Emmy Awards needs.

The organization announced as much on Friday, reversing an earlier decision to collapse Variety Talk and Variety Sketch Series category that would encompass not only late night talk shows, whether airing nightly or weekly, but also sketch series, live or otherwise.

“While the Academy remains concerned about the number of series produced and the relatively small pool of entries in the Variety Sketch genre, it acknowledges that the differences between Variety Sketch and Talk programs merit separate consideration,” the organization said in a statement. “As the Academy continues to engage with industry leaders and constituents, it will always endeavor to uphold the integrity of the competition and be as fair as possible.”

To expand on the concern referenced in the above statement, the TV Academy saw only 14 submissions in the Variety Sketch category — and only 24 in Variety Talk — numbers that potentially rendered each group eligible for category collapse under the organization’s “Rule of 25.” Said rule establishes that if a category scores fewer than 25 submissions in two consecutive years it might be combined with a similar category, likely the situation that sparked the variety combination in the first place.

Some argue, however, that the genres — specifically Variety Talk — should be sparking more categories and not fewer. Recent years has seen “Last Week Tonight” run away with the Variety Talk category and while dominance is nothing new at the Emmys, it has sparked questions about if weekly talk shows should really be competing against those series producing episodes repeatedly throughout the week.

As for now, the other Emmy rule changes announced in December as still in full effect for the 2021 Emmy Awards, including: Episodic anthology series finding a permanent home with the expansion of the limited series category, as well as adding a Outstanding Stunt Performance by an Individual or Team in a Drama, Comedy, Limited Series or Movie to the slate of categories, finally recognizing the work of stunt performers, as opposed to limiting accolades to stunt coordination.

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