This morning, as you might have heard, the 2011 Emmy nominations were announced. But after a perusal of the list of those lucky enough to score nods, we found ourselves with questions. Lots of ’em, in fact! Such as: Is this the first time four actors — Modern Family‘s Ed O’Neill, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, and Ty Burrell — from one show have been nominated in a single category? Why was PBS’ Downtown Abbey nominated in the Mini-Series category when a second season is in the works? And: Why is Cloris Leachman showing up in the Guest Actress category when she was in 20 of Raising Hope‘s 22 episodes last season? Well, we searched high and low — and enlisted knower of all things Emmy, the Television Academy’s SVP of Awards, John Leverence — to help us get to the bottom of 10 perplexing queries. Read on for all the details.
• With Modern Family actors taking four spots in the Supporting Actor in a Comedy category, is this the first time a category has been so dominated by one television show? No. In 1982, five actors from Hill Street Blues — winner Michael Conrad, Taurean Blacque, Charles Haid, Michael Warren, and Bruce Weitz — filled the category. [Ed. note: Thank you, commenters, for helping us catch our mistake with this answer initially!] The full-sweep feat is rare, but multiple nominations from one show in the same category happens every so often. It was common with Hill Street Blues. As for other examples, in 2004, three of the leads from Desperate Housewives — Marcia Cross, Teri Hatcher, and Felicity Huffman (sorry, Eva Longoria!) — all scored nods. (Huffman eventually took home the trophy, and she was the only other DH lady to be nominated again.) And back in the late ’80s, The Golden Girls had a similar embarrassment of riches: Rue McClanahan, Bea Arthur, and Betty White were nominated together in 1986 (White won), 1987 (McClanahan won), 1988 (Arthur won), and 1989 (none of them won).
• Is there the possibility that one entire category could be dominated by one show? Yes, definitely. First, see above. In 1992, every spot in the Voice-Over category went to voice actors from Fox’s animated comedy The Simpsons: Dan Castellaneta, Marcia Wallace, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Jackie Mason. And Leverence explains another similar situation. “For example, a couple years ago, all five writing nominations were Mad Men writing nominations,” he says. “So that can happen. It would be a rarity, but it certainly could happen. There’s nothing in our rules that would preculde that.”
• With its six regular adult cast members all scoring nominations, is Modern Family have the most performer nominations for one show ever? No, again back to Hill Street Blues: The drama scored nine acting nods in its stellar performance year of 1982. Within comedies, though, Modern Family matches the much-decorated Cheers in 1990, when Kirstie Alley, Ted Danson, Rhea Pearlman, Bebe Neuwirth, Kelsey Grammer, and Woody Harrelson were all nominated across Supporting and Lead categories. Cheers wins for the most performer nominations in one year in comedies, though, when you factor in the detail that two other actors — guest stars Alexis Smith and Georgia Brown — were nominated in the Guest Actress category.
• How was PBS’ Downton Abbey nominated in the Mini-Series category if it has a second season in the works? The short answer is that when Emmy submissions were made, there weren’t plans for more episodes — Downtown was originally designed as a mini. “That was a situation in which the second season was an afterthought after the original mini-series was done,” explains Leverence. “They had success that was, perhaps, unexpected. That happens from time to time, that you will get a show that looks to be a one-off mini, and then all of a sudden, everyone wants of it, and they will rev up for another season.” A follow-up question: Will Downtown have to go in the Drama Series category next year? Most likely. “That very well could be the situation,” Leverence says. “I do remember, however, the original Upstairs, Downstairs, which was a repeat in the Mini-Series category. Although categories were different back then, so it very well might not be applicable. I would say if you come back for a second season, you’ve probably established yourself as an ongoing series because you’re ongoing from the prior year.”
• Where is The Walking Dead’s nomination? Was the show not considered for a Drama Series nomination because it was only six episodes? No, The Walking Dead was definitely in contention for a Drama Series nomination, despite its short run. (Shorter than Downtown Abbey‘s seven episodes, in fact!) Its producers submitted it in the always-tough Drama Series category. (It probably didn’t help that its network sibling Mad Men was all but a lock in the category; two shows from AMC in the Drama Series category wouldn’t have been impossible, just difficult to pull off.) Would The Walking Dead have fared better in the Mini-Series category? Definitely, but with its second season greenlit months ago, it wouldn’t have been eligible there.
• Why is Raising Hope’s Cloris Leachman — who appeared in 20 of the series’ 22 episodes from the first season — nominated as a guest actress instead of a supporting actress? We sort of answered this question about a month ago with our burning questions a week before Emmy nomination ballots were due. Here’s an excerpt from that post that explains:
The differentiation — much like the one between supporting actor and lead actor in the case of ensemble casts — is subjective and up to the performer. “A person is thought of as a particular kind of player, a particular kind of role within [the show],” Leverence says. “That person who’s the guest can choose to go guest or can choose to go supporting. It used to be no more than three episodes, and then no more than six, and then it really came down to, we’re not going to look quantitatively. We’re going to look at the title the person has. You have people like Shelley Long, an example of a guest on Modern Family, where she plays the mother and wreaks havoc [and then is gone]. But then you also have the Cloris Leachman situation in which you have an ongoing guest.”
• Is this the first time the broadcast networks were only represented by one series in the Drama Series category? A quick bit of research shows us that this, indeed, is the first year there is only one drama from the broadcast networks represented in the Drama Series category. The networks completely dominated the Drama Series category until 1999, when HBO’s The Sopranos because the first cable series nominated in the category. (The first cable series to ever be nominated for an Emmy was The Larry Sanders Show in 1993, but that was in the Comedy Series category.) It has been a slow decline for the broadcast networks in the Drama Series category since then: Six Feet Under joined the party in 2002 and was the only cable show nominated that year. In 2003, two cable shows received nominations, marking the first time the networks had less then four nods in the Drama Series category. The Sopranos won in 2004, marking cable’s first win here. Mad Men scored for cable in 2008. As recently as just two years ago, in 2009, the number of network dramas in the category had dwindled to just two. This year, we’re at just one, with CBS’ The Good Wife.
• When is the last time all the nominees in the Comedy Series category were from the broadcast networks? 2005, when Fox’s Arrested Development, ABC’s Desperate Housewives, CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond, NBC’s Scrubs, and NBC’s Will & Grace were all nominated. Since then and before that, there had been cable interlopers every in the Comedy Series category since 1993, when The Larry Sanders Show originally broke the barrier for comedies not on the broadcast networks.
• During the nomination announcement this morning, there was a huge rush of excitement from the crowd when So You Think You Can Dance‘s host Cat Deeley was nominated in the Outstanding Reality-Competition Host category. Why was that? This is a category that had been locked up, for years, by Survivor‘s Jeff Probst, The Amazing Race‘s Phil Keoghan, Dancing with the Stars‘ Tom Bergeron, American Idol‘s Ryan Seacrest, and Project Runway‘s Heidi Klum. So the excitement was likely because there is love for Deeley, who swiped Klum’s spot. We’ll let Leverence explain: “[The excitement] happened when Cat Deeley was announced,” he says. “I think the [Outstanding Reality-Competition Host] category has been a somewhat static cateogry, in terms of the nominations. I think that [Cat’s] very highly thought of. Heidi [Klum] had basically had that spot for some time, so I think that the general good feeling about Cat is the tide that raised the ships this morning. The feeling was, you know, good for her!”
• Glee is again nominated as a Comedy Series category, but it certainly has lots of dramatic overtones and is an hour long. Will there ever be a Dramedy category created for such series? Not any time soon, it seems, but it is a topic that bubbles up with the Television Academy from time to time. “It comes up with some frequency,” says Leverence. “The Board of Governors has, at least, looked at the possibility of having Comedy: Sitcom Style and Comedy: Dramedy Style categories and then keep the Drama Series as it is. The board has thought about that and has decided it will remain, at least for the time being, with a Comedy Series category that embraces a rather broad range, all the way from one end of the spectrum, which would be the sitcom style to the other end, which would be more dramedy style.” (Additional reporting by Kevin Sullivan)
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky