2012 Emmys: ‘Community’ animation submission angers ‘Family Guy’ writers


There’s some drama breaking when it comes to the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards already — and the nominations have not even been announced yet.

If you are a diehard fan of NBC’s “Community” (as you should be), then you are probably already well aware of an episode in “Digital Estate Planning” that features nearly half of the episode done via the sort of old-school 8-bit animation that you would traditionally see courtesy of Nintendo games. This episode met the basic qualifications for Emmy submission in the animated category — but it’s also fair to say that the people who work strictly on animated programming are none too pleased about it.

In a new letter to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, a number of writers and producers from some of the top animated series on TV (including “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons”) made a rather simple argument — if “Community” is allowed to submit in multiple writing and Outstanding Series fields, then why can’t they? Check out the letter in full below:

To Whom It May Concern:

Television Academy

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.

There are some pretty good points made in the letter, and really it seems all about fairness — there’s no guarantee that these animated series would even get nominations if allowed to submit in some of these other categories, so why not given them a chance? The Academy has released the following response, but it does not seem to be even remotely in these writers’ favor:

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.

Just as we have long argued for animated film to be taken seriously when it comes to awards, the same should be done here. Could it be perceived as unfair that animated series would get more opportunities than anyone else under the new rule? Sure, but you must also remember that the odds are incredibly slim that the Emmys would ever nominate a “Simpsons” in the same category as most live-action fare. (“Family Guy” has been nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series once, and it is the only animated series to get that honor in four decades.)

Where do you stand on this issue — if “Community” can cross over, do you think other shows should be afforded a similar luxury?

Photo: NBC

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