Emmy’s technical categories force reality shows to compete against documentaries

Awards given for reality TV programming are often “lumped in with the traditional documentaries at the Creative Arts Emmys, putting unscripted shows at a disadvantage,” Variety reports. Of those who produce reality shows, “many feel reality TV’s awards representation hasn’t caught up to the genre’s importance to the industry.”

One editor, Michael E. Phillips, says that reality shows are very different than documentaries. “A season of a reality competition might involve 2,000 to 3,000 hours of raw footage. … On a ‘Survivor’ or ‘Amazing Race,’ the production mixer may be following 18 or more characters over as many locations. It’s especially difficult to sustain style under those conditions. Consistency of style drives a story more than anything else,” he said.

There has been some effort to change Emmy categories to include reality TV shows. On the technical side, the Academy last year created “separate cinematography and picture editing Emmys for ‘small-team’ and ‘large-team’ productions, renamed this year as ‘nonfiction’ and ‘reality,’ respectively.”

However, sound “mixing and editing categories each pitting [reality shows] against a slate of traditional documentaries,” Variety says. And reality TV directors and hosts have no award categories.

Reality craftspeople not represented [Variety]
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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.