Al Jean, executive producer of The Simpsons, addressed a letter to the Television Academy in protest of Community‘s Emmy nomination in the category of “Best Animated Program.” Community has gained this nomination because of its special episode, “Digital Estate Planning,” where its characters were rendered into 8-bit video game form. This is the second year Community has been nominated in this category. Many influential animators like Seth MacFarlane (Family Guy), Matt Groening (The Simpsons), David X. Cohen (Futurama) have co-signed the letter.
To be clear, Al Jean is not protesting that Community should not be allowed to compete in the animated series category against full-time animated series, instead, he is protesting against the Academy’s refusal to let animated series submit to multiple categories including “Writing for a Comedy Series.” However, the Academy stands by its decision to let Community compete in the animated category in addition to the comedy category and not allow the same for Jean and the other animated shows.
Here’s Al Jean’s letter and The Academy’s response. What’s your take on it?
To Whom It May Concern:
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.
Richard Appel, Mike Barker, Kit Boss, James L. Brooks, Stewart Burns, Steve Callaghan, Brett Cawley, Joe Chandler, David X. Cohen, Joel Cohen, Jim Dautrieve, John Frink, Tom Gammill, Valentina Garza, Stephanie Gillis, David A. Goodman, Dan Greaney, Matt Groening, Michael Henry, Mark Hentemann, Eric Horsted, Al Jean, Artie Johann, Stephen Kane, Ken Keeler, Brian Kelley, Jon Kern, Rob LaZebnik, Tim Long, Robert Maitia, Seth MacFarlane, Steve Marmel, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Patrick Meighan, Wendy Molyneux, Bill Odenkirk, Carolyn Omine, Don Payne, Michael Price, Eric Rogers, Michael Rowe, Jon Schroeder, Brian Scully, Mike Scully, Matt Selman, Rick Singer, Patric M. Verrone, Ali Waller, Josh Weinstein, Matt Weitzman, Jeff Westbrook, Marc Wilmore.
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.
So, what’s your take?