Emmy Awards 2014: Hopefuls play the angles to nab trophies

If a show walks like a drama and talks like a drama and yet calls itself a comedy, that's just fine with the Emmy Awards.

But the audience for Monday's ceremony -- yes, a Monday instead of the usual Sunday (so as not to conflict with Sunday Night Football), at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, hosted by Seth Meyers -- may suffer momentary confusion when, say, the Netflix women's prison saga "Orange Is the New Black" pops up as a nominee for best comedy series.

While the Emmys have included category-busters before, the 66th prime-time contest is an especially freewheeling one.

"The Emmys are being loosey-goosey about category placement," said Tom O'Neil, author of "The Emmys" reference book and organizer of the Gold Derby awards website.

Such flexibility isn't unusual when it comes to TV awards in Britain, where category definitions are less stringent and series formats are more fluid than in the United States, said Gareth Neame, the U.K. executive producer of PBS' Emmy-winning "Downton Abbey," which is among the nominees for best drama series.

"My view is all these producers, studios and (networks) are just giving their best shot to try to get their shows nominated, and what producer wouldn't do that?" Neame said.

The tactic isn't frivolous. Shows are angling to better their odds of winning TV's top honor, which can bring not only prestige but also possibly more viewers -- and attention that may usher in more viewers is what niche shows such as "Orange Is the New Black" crave.

Emmy bragging rights are another matter. With the explosion of acclaimed cable and online content, traditional broadcast networks are finding themselves shut out or lightly represented in the major categories including best drama and comedy series. Network stars are being elbowed aside, too.

The decision by "Orange is the New Black" to compete as a comedy despite its bleak setting puts pressure on four-time best-comedy winner "Modern Family." The ABC series -- vying for a record-tying fifth win (with "Frasier") against a buzzy Internet newcomer -- may look a lot less modern to Emmy voters.

The Netflix series already flexed its muscle at the Creative Arts Emmys held a week ago, when Uzo Aduba was honored as best guest actress in a comedy for her role as prisoner Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren. She is the first online performer to win an Emmy.

Another apparent fish-out-of-water: Showtime's dysfunctional family series "Shameless." After coming up empty as a drama contender it gained the TV academy's OK to jump into the comedy pool, where it missed out on the series category but did snare a lead comedy actor bid for William H. Macy.

The other comedy series contenders are CBS' "The Big Bang Theory," FX's ''Louie" and HBO's ''Silicon Valley" and "Veep."

Shifting categories isn't unprecedented. In the 1950s, "Father Knows Best" moved between comedy and drama and captured trophies in each, and "Moonlighting" did the same in the 1980s, O'Neil said. The academy tightened the rules in 2009, but obviously didn't make them ironclad.

Offbeat interpretations of what a comedy may encompass presents a challenge for more than Emmy viewers.

"When you're putting clip packages together for comedy series, in some instances it's harder to find something to put into a clip package where someone would say, 'Yeah, that looks like a comedy to me,'" said Don Mischer, the ceremony's executive producer.

HBO's "True Detective" is unmistakably a drama, but one with miniseries trappings: a close-ended story and two movie-star leads (Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson) who have said they committed to just one season (and led to endless speculation about who will sign on for season 2).

Because of a TV academy rule involving the show's Writers Guild of America credit, however, it was eligible to compete as a series.

If "True Detective" nabs the top drama trophy, it would deny "Breaking Bad" a farewell hug for its final season. A McConaughey victory as best drama actor also would keep Bryan Cranston from tying Dennis Franz's record of four wins in the category.

Other series competing for the best drama trophy are HBO's "Game of Thrones," PBS' "Downton Abbey," Netflix's ''House of Cards" and AMC's "Mad Men."

There will also be a tribute to Robin Williams by the late actor's longtime friend Billy Crystal during the "In Memoriam" portion of the Emmys ceremony.

Tell us: Who do you think will come out victorious on Monday night at the Emmy Awards?

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