Who doesn’t love Community? Seriously, even if the quirky and geeky NBC comedy isn’t your cup of tea each week, at least one of their dozens of themed episodes should pull smiles from each viewer eventually. This past season saw plenty of oddball episodes including a caper, the creation of a commercial, another musical, a spoof on Ken Burns’ documentary Civil War, and in one of the final episodes, “Digital Estate Planning,” half the episode was animated into an 8-bit world as the study group had to win a custom-created video game to win the inheritance for Chevy Chase’s character, Pierce.
This gloriously fun and creative episode no doubt melted the hearts of gamers and anyone who played games in the 1980′s-1990s whether it be on an Atari or Nintendo console or at the stand-up arcades. But does this singular episode qualify Community as an animated program? This special exception (for the second year in a row) allowed The Television Academy to say, “yes” and is allowing them to contend with other 33 animated series for nominations in animation categories, in addition to several other live-action categories. Now some of the writers-producers from TV’s most illustrious animated series, including Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), David X. Cohen (Futurama) and Al Jean (The Simpsons) are protesting this ballot entry because they want to be able to submit their work for Comedy categories.
For this I say shame on you, Academy.
Showrunners, writers, and directors on animated series have been unable to submit their work as individual achievements outside of the animated categories held in the unaired Creative Arts ceremony, that is normally breezed over in the prime-time telecast faster than a fart in the wind. Here is the Academy’s official response to the protest.
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.
The key phrase there is: if an animated series opts to enter in Comedy Series rather than Animated Program category… So it seems for animated series it’s either or, but not both. And in the case of Community they were given the special ability to submit to both and last year, Community won an Emmy on its only ever nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation for another “special” episode, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas.”
One could argue that in past years, The Simpsons, Futurama and Family Guy in stretch runs stood tall next to or could have beaten out other Best Comedy nominees and winners. I know I’m not alone in wiping tears of laughter away watching either of those shows at the top of their game, and the same can be said today for FX’s Archer, Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken, and Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time. There are few traditional live-action comedies that could invoke such an equivalent of gut-busting laughter, and regardless of taste or subjectivity, every show starts with the writers, how is it that in animation they get slighted by the industry?
No one is saying to kick Community out of these categories, in fact the other writers in the ballot protesting agree to let the episode in, but these 52 writers-producers are requesting for the same eligibility to submit their work for comedy categories too. They’re basically saying, sure come into our categories as long as you let us into yours.
But for the sake of the argument, let’s say say that Community is allowed to stay eligible and animation writers are still kept out of the comedy writing categories as individuals. What’s the harm? This continues to weaken the case for animated series that claim to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with live-action comedies. It keeps animated shows from getting too much recognition, despite Fox turning their entire Sunday night lineup into an animation block. If animated series writers were allowed in these categories I believe that would build a case for an animated series to potentially earn Emmy Nominations and actually win them, maybe more networks would invest in creating them?
Family Guy has tried in the past to be considered as a Best Comedy Series but has yet to earn a win but did get nominated in 2009, however, if writers are not allowed to be recognized individually and what few recognitions they do get aren’t even important enough to make it to the main ceremony, then what respect is being given to them by allowing Community the ability to submit to both genres?
Continuing to allow this cross genre eligibility for normal live-action shows is not a good precedent. Community is probably one of the few shows that could crossover, but the Academy would probably adore it if an animated special was made from The Good Wife, or Modern Family. A Glee one even makes sense. That doesn’t mean any of them are being made, but it does build some animosity in the animation circles that they aren’t being given the same merit of live-action shows. Isn’t the goal the same for every show? To entertain? This is just another strange area in the realm of comedy that we must scratch our heads at where the Emmys is concerned. Why don’t they ever recognize edgier basic cable or premium cable comedies and why aren’t animated series writers eligible for comedy awards? Funny is funny in my opinion and it doesn’t matter if it’s animated or not.
What do you think? Cast your vote below.