Megan Amram caused turmoil during the Emmy race last year with “An Emmy for Megan,” her meta short form series that cataloged her attempts to, as the title suggests, upset the Emmy race. She nearly accomplished that too. “An Emmy for Megan” was nominated for outstanding short form comedy or drama series but, in the end, lost to “James Corden’s Next James Corden.”
Nevertheless, Amram — who returns this year with a second season of “An Emmy for Megan” — tells us she won in another way: Her peculiar series, which was entirely premised on finding a means to meet the requirements to get nominated and win an Emmy, wound up causing a host of Emmy rule changes.
Beginning this year, the Television Academy has released further details to what could qualify as an Emmy-eligible short series. That includes a condition that every episode must be at least two minutes long. This condition is likely because one extremely short episode of “An Emmy for Megan” played with the fact that there was no rule for length. The Television Academy also established a vetting method to “identify Emmy-competitive entries” through a panel that is “randomly selected from a member pool.”
The Academy has not said whether the rules are due to “Emmy for Megan” receiving a nomination, but it definitely seems like she forced the changes. Otherwise, it is just a very special and unlikely coincidence.
“I thought it was better than winning an Emmy,” Amram states. “Dozens of people win an Emmy every year, but how many people precipitate a rule change that theoretically is permanent? That’s like the greatest Emmy!”
If it is true that the TV Academy did get annoyed over “An Emmy for Megan,” the ironic thing is that Amram’s short form series was completely original. The category has mostly been ruled by digital extensions of ordinary TV series in recent years.
Needless to say, “James Corden’s Next James Corden” is a spinoff of “The Late Late Show With James Corden.” Some other digital shorts nominated last year were “Grey’s Anatomy: B Team” and “The Walking Dead: Red Machete.”
Likewise, in 2017, “Los Pollos Hermanos Employee Training,” a digital short from the “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul” universe, took home the short form award.
“It’s odd to be doing an indie thing for IFC and possibly be up against a ‘Walking Dead’ spinoff,” says Janet Varney, who developed and stars in the short form series “Fortune Rookie.” That program is a new idea that follows a fictional version of Varney as she quits showbiz to become a psychic.
The short form categories may quickly see a change to content that’s more creative. Media outlets including Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s short form content incubator Quibi will arrive online soon and more major networks and studios are dabbling in short form programming.
One of the short form contenders this year is “State of the Union,” SundanceTV’s 10-episode series with Rosamund Pike and Chris O’Dowd as the lead actors. While the show is short in running time, the series’ production is not small at all. It is written by Nick Hornby and directed by Stephen Frears, each 10-minute installment follows Pike and O’Dowd as they meet in a pub before their characters’ weekly marital therapy session.
“The show looks premium in quality, and that was important for us,” says Jan Diedrichsen, executive director of SundanceTV and Sundance Now. “When people think about short form, a lot of people default into a web-series, low-budget mindset. We wanted it to be above the expectation of what people think of short form series.”
Considering that, Diedrichsen says SundanceTV has set its sights on a nomination. “With the level of talent on our show, we hope it gets some Emmy love,” she says.
While major outlets start creating and producing more original short form series, they may push aside the more promotional short form offshoots of major TV hits. Whether or not that might also unintentionally push out independent series like “An Emmy for Megan” or 2017 nominee “Brown Girls” remains to be seen.
“I hope that I encouraged a lot of people to go out there and make precisely what they want to make,” Amram says. “I do appreciate the fact that the Academy considers short form digital content as TV shows, because [for] younger people, that is, in fact, what TV is to them. It’s just going to be so intriguing to see how the reputation of short form content continues to rise. I wonder what the first ‘Sopranos’ of two-minute television is going to be?”