The writers and producers of such popular animated shows as The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Futurama aren't happy today, and they have taken their protest directly to the Emmy voting academy. Why are these usually very funny folks so up in arms? One word: Community. The critically beloved, but ratings challenged NBC comedy was deemed eligible to be nominated in the various Best Animated Program categories for its animated episode Digital Estate Planning, which features the characters interacting in an old-school 8-bit videogame environment.
The writers' beef here is a bit technical and complicated, but I'll try to sum it up as simply as I can. While an animated series itself can choose to compete against live-action shows in the main Best Comedy Series category, the writers themselves don't share that privilege. They can only compete in the Best Writing in an Animated Series category. The aforementioned group of writers/producers (comprised of over 50 people from multiple shows) thinks it's unfair that Community's animated episode can be nominated for both Best Writing in a Comedy Series and Best Writing in an Animated Program, while they can only compete with other animated shows. Confused yet? I know I was when trying to figure out how to write this out.
Anyway, here's the complaint in its entirety:
"To Whom It May Concern:
We the undersigned animation showrunners and writers desire to address what we have regarded as a pernicious and unfair ruling by the Academy for the past 20 years, which we believe now, more than ever, should be redressed.
We have been told that animated program writers could not also submit their work for writing Emmys, for reasons we never understood, but supposedly pertaining to the purity of the branches.
This is why no one was more startled than we when last year “Community” was able to submit for comedy series, writing, and animated program, in the face of everything we had been told for two decades. We were told that for some reason, a one-time waiver was granted.
Imagine our surprise when this year we see “Community” once again eligible for comedy series, writing, animated program, and short-form animated program. This letter is in no way intended to be a slight on the terrific show “Community” but a request from us to enjoy the very same rights they now do. Clearly the Academy’s ban on submitting in multiple categories is being enforced in an arbitrary and unfair manner. We therefore request that we also be able to submit our programs for both animation and comedy series as well as in the writing category.
James L. Brooks
David X. Cohen
David A. Goodman
Patric M. Verrone
You may notice the conspicuous absence of South Park writers/producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who haven't publicly commented on the matter as of yet.
Here's the response from the TV Academy:
"It is a general rule of the Emmy competition that producers, writers and directors enter separately in their own program or individual achievement categories, e.g., comedy series writers enter the Writing for a Comedy Series category, drama series directors enter the Directing for a Drama Series category, etc.
Eligibility in animation programming is an exception to this general rule, because the animation producers, writers and directors enter the Animated Program category together as a team. There is no separate category for the individual achievements of animation writing and directing. (However, if an animated series opts to enter in Comedy Series rather than Animated Program category, then the individual achievement categories are open to them, e.g., writers can enter Writing for a Comedy Series category.)
“Community” is a Comedy Series that for the last two years has included an animated “special episode.” The competition includes a rule that a special episode can enter as a stand-alone special, “if it involved a significant and substantive format change throughout e.g. from whole-episode live action to whole-episode animation.” The “Community” producers followed that rule when they entered the producer-writer-director team for the animated episode in the Animation category and the regular, live-action episodes in the Comedy Series program and Comedy Series individual achievement categories."
I'm still a bit confused after reading all that, but it's pretty much a nice way of telling the animation writers to get over it.
Do you think the writers have a valid complaint, or is the Emmy Academy in the right in this case?
P.S. Are the rules for Emmy eligibility way too complicated? (Spoiler alert: Yes.)