Detectives vs. witches. HBO vs. FX. Miniseries vs. Drama. Who will win the epic battle of hour long cable dramas in alternative formats? In one corner, we have American Horror Story, who claim to be a Miniseries in the Emmy categories; in the other, we have True Detective, a show that claims to be a drama. Right now, both shows have "dual eligibility" for the awards, meaning that show producers can choose which category the show will compete in. Arguably, choosing the miniseries category is the smarter decision — it's much less populated, and thus much easier to win. Case in point, Downton Abbey: when the show switch from competing in the Drama category as opposed to the Miniseries category in season two, it received one award as opposed to the four it won in the previous year.
FX CEO John Landgraf defended American Horror Story's title as a miniseries, saying "I don’t think it’s cynical to enter AHS as a miniseries. I don’t look at it that way. The definition should be a miniseries has a story that ends, a series has a story that continues on.” But Landgraf went further, arguing that comedic dramas like Orange is the New Black and Shameless had an advantage over traditional half-hour sitcoms in the Comedy category in the Emmys because they're able to pack more of an emotional punch. “Comedy is primarily designed to make you laugh, not make you cry," said Landgraf.
Landgraf's comments may just sound like the rantings of a defensive CEO (and considering that he claimed Netflix was presenting FX shows as their own in the same interview, they kind of are), but he has a point. Television has evolved quite a lot in its lifetime, even just over the past few years or so. American Horror Story isn't a miniseries, but it seems wrong to describe it as a drama. Orange is the New Black isn't a comedy, but that doesn't mean we should ignore how it makes us laugh.
So isn't it past due to create new language to describe these shows? Comedic dramas have existed for a long time, and they're certainly deserving of their own category in the Emmys. And while constantly rebooting shows like True Detective and American Horror Story are something of a new phenomenon, their creative efforts in changing the television format deserve to be recognized (A minidrama? Eternal miniseries? Themed drama?). Sure, the Emmy's aren't exactly on the up-and-up when it comes to television programming — after all, this is an awards show that still thinks people watch made-for-TV movies and believes the only reality programming that exists is a competition. But the Emmys need to wise up, because there are shows making significant contributions to television as an art form that aren't being properly recognized. Changing the Emmy categories could completely change the way people think about the format — even network television is no longer a standard format. Things are changing, and the Emmys need to keep up.