Emmys expand reality TV category

Posted July 09, 2014, at 4:32 p.m.
Actress Jessica Lange poses with producer Ryan Murphy as he holds his International Founders Award at the International Emmy Awards in New York in this November 2012 file photo.
CARLO ALLEGRI | REUTERS
Actress Jessica Lange poses with producer Ryan Murphy as he holds his International Founders Award at the International Emmy Awards in New York in this November 2012 file photo.

In case we needed more proof that reality shows have completely taken over the world, the 2014 Emmy Awards — for which nominations will be announced Thursday morning — make it very clear: As of this year, there are three separate categories dedicated to honoring the fine work in the reality television genre.

That decision came down earlier this year when the television academy decided that in addition to the Reality Competition Program race (“Survivor,” “Project Runway,” etc.), the Outstanding Reality Program prize should be split into two categories. The first is for “structured” reality shows; basically, series with something of a routine, such as MTV’s “Catfish,” Discovery’s “MythBusters” and History’s “Pawn Stars.”

The second category specifies “unstructured” reality shows. Those are the ones that just follow wacky people around and see what happens: Think A&E’s “Duck Dynasty,” E!’s “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York City.”

Yep — the “Real Housewives” franchise is absolutely eligible for an Emmy. As you may have guessed by some of the titles above, the list of potential nominees for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program is pretty incredible. The best part: By virtue of the fact that all noncompetition reality shows are divided into two lists — and the more “reputable” ones are over in the “structured” category — the odds just got a whole lot better for, say, the Kardashians to take home an Emmy.

And honestly, why not? There are really only so many realistic options for the prize, given that the unstructured list includes the likes of MTV’s tired “Real World: EX-plosion” and Lifetime’s Tori Spelling tragicomedy “True Tori.” No matter how you may feel about the Kardashians or “Duck Dynasty’s” Robertson family, those shows are far more likely — based on name recognition and massive ratings over the years — to walk away with a nomination than VH1’s “Mob Wives: New Blood” or E!’s “Total Divas.”

The hilarious hidden gems on the list of potential nominees are many and varied: “Dance Moms,” Lifetime’s guiltiest pleasure about the meanest dance coach ever; “Lindsay,” OWN’s awful Lindsay Lohan spectacle sponsored by Oprah; Mark Wahlberg’s family vanity project “Wahlburgers” on A&E.

There also are WE tv’s Rivers mother-daughter drama “Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?”; Reelz’s no-explanation-necessary “Hollywood Hillbillies”; and OWN’s “Golden Sisters,” about the elderly women who went viral after they recorded their reactions watching a celebrity sex tape. (It was Kim Kardashian’s sex tape, of course, to bring us full circle.)

Then, there are the shows that might have a legitimate shot: TLC’s “The Little Couple,” SundanceTV’s “Dream School,” Discovery’s TV academy favorite “Deadliest Catch.” Even MTV’s “Teen Mom 2” and Bravo’s “Shahs of Sunset” push enough cultural buttons that they could slip onto the list of nominees.

It’s hard not to see this as a genius move on the part of the academy. While there are a few genuinely intriguing shows in the mix, there are just as many spectacularly buzzworthy scenarios that could play out in this delightful new category. After all, who wouldn’t tune in to hear the phrase “And the Emmy goes to … ‘Vanilla Ice Goes Amish’” on awards night?

 

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