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Does the Limited Series Category Make Sense Anymore?



As a Virgo, I’m all about order. As a child, I created my very own card catalog for my assortment of books, as if I had been a library. I nonetheless alphabetize and catalog all of my music on Discogs. Even my Emmy notes are neatly organized by yr, going all the way in which again to 1996.

That’s why I wasn’t glad within the late Nineties when hourlong exhibits like “Ally McBeal” and “Desperate Housewives” entered (and gained, in some instances) the Emmy comedy race. Hourlong dramedies usually are not comedies! Nobody ever known as “All in the Family” — which had some deep, darkish moments — a drama, and but there have been a few laughs in “Desperate Housewives” (which opened with a demise!) and immediately it’s a comedy?

Sadly, I misplaced this battle years in the past. And as we all know, the comedy race is de facto now a dramedy race. The frontrunner, FX’s “The Bear,” is famously an anxious and sometimes darkish present. (For some motive, I’m high quality with it being in comedy. I’m unpredictable.)

These had been the early days of gaming the Emmys. Later, it was all about exhibits like PBS’ “Downton Abbey” getting into the miniseries (as they had been known as then) discipline — after which immediately being picked up for an additional season and transferring to drama. HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and “The White Lotus” additionally did the restricted series-to-drama-series transition. Elsewhere, there was loads of outcry when a few of Netflix’s “Black Mirror” episodes discovered their means into (and gained) the TV film competitors — resulting in the TV Academy redefining how lengthy a “TV movie” could be. And so forth.

However I’m undecided we’ve ever seen class confusion on the extent of this yr. A few of it comes from technique, however it’s additionally not all the time straightforward to choose a lane when genres are so blended lately. There’s no fast reply: After complaints that contenders had been going class purchasing, for a number of years the TV Academy had a rule that half-hour packages had been comedies and hourlong exhibits had been dramas. However that stipulation was finally seen as too confining, and as soon as once more something goes.

The Oscars have by no means divided comedy and drama — however I don’t know if that’s the reply both, since comedic movies not often win the most effective image prize. In all probability the larger query of the second, given how aggressive the restricted or anthology sequence competitors is that this yr, is … what precisely is a restricted sequence?

As Selection awards guru Clayton Davis has reported, typically technique comes up towards TV Academy guidelines. AMC had deliberate to submit “The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live” within the restricted or anthology sequence class. However provided that the present revolves round two of the principle characters from “The Walking Dead,” Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), it was deemed ineligible there. That’s as a result of a restricted or anthology sequence should function a narrative contained to that season, with none ongoing storylines.

Final week, FX stated that it was exploring extra seasons of “Shogun” — initially introduced as a restricted sequence — transferring it to the drama class. In the meantime, HBO’s “The Sympathizer” and Apple TV+’s “Masters of the Air” flirted with the thought of getting into the drama race, however finally determined to stay within the restricted sequence discipline. Then there are the “anthology” exhibits that, sure, comprise standalone seasons and characters. However these are nonetheless TV sequence: “True Detective” was initially submitted (and earned noms) in Season 1 as a drama, earlier than switching to restricted/anthology. And but, it has a sure tone that carries all through, proper up via the most recent “Night Country” installment. “American Horror Story” ultimately needed to change to drama as a result of its “anthology” started to include an excessive amount of from previous seasons.

The truth that so many exhibits might soar between restricted/anthology and both drama or comedy (and have!) makes me surprise: Have we moved previous the purpose of “limited” making sense as a class? Keep in mind when “miniseries” was once a specific type of longform? Now, we’re simply placing extra TV exhibits within the restricted class once they might simply as nicely be within the drama discipline.

Within the streaming age, most exhibits could be thought-about restricted — airing between six and eight episodes a season, and lasting one to 3 seasons at most. “Limited” is just not a style, and it typically feels prefer it has merely morphed into one other “outstanding drama” class. Attempt to outline a “limited” sequence: You may’t actually, proper? Such classification feels so, nicely, limiting.

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