When the Television Academy revealed this year’s Primetime Emmy submissions in June, there were a few glaring omissions. Fans of Netflix’s young adult drama “Heartstopper” (pictured above) were particularly perplexed, until they learned that the show instead opted to vie for a trophy in the new Children’s & Family Emmy Awards run by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. With this move, the coming-of-age tale based on a graphic novel about a gay teen who falls in love with his classmate now has a better shot at winning than it would if it were still competing for a Primetime Emmy trophy.
Entries were due earlier this month for the Children’s & Family Emmys, which will include around 50 categories. Some of those races have moved over from the Daytime Emmys, which New York-based NATAS also oversees, while others are new, to reflect the full scope of youth-oriented fare (including shows like “Heartstopper” that might have previously competed for the Primetime Emmy race, which is administered by the Los Angeles-based Television Academy).
NATAS is currently vetting submissions, but CEO Adam Sharp says it will easily be more than 3,000, which is up from the 2,600 based on these categories in the previous year. “It far exceeds the number of children’s and family entries that were in the daytime competition last year,” he says. And so it’s very clear that it’s going to be trendsetting in terms of the amount of children’s content we will have to look at. And so that just shows that the momentum and excitement and investment is there to support a standalone competition and the corresponding event.”
What qualifies as a children’s and family show? There’s the obvious TV-Y and TV-Y7 fare, but for those that are more on the fence, about a dozen programs went through a formal petition process to determine whether they were eligible or should stick with primetime. “With a lot of content being TV-G or TV-PG, things can get a little grayer,” Sharp says. “There are a few creators who have strong opinions one way or the other.”
An anonymous panel consisting of members from both NATAS and the Television Academy ultimately voted on eligibility, and the decisions mostly came down to narrative perspective. Is the story being told in the voice of the child/teen or via the POV of an adult? “I think that wound up being a critical factor in a couple of these determinations,” Sharp says.
The judging process itself will mirror that used for the Daytime Emmys. Blue-ribbon panels will watch and vote on each category. Some will go through one round, and others through multiple rounds. Ultimately, nominations will be announced the week of Oct. 31. And at that point, the auditors (and only the auditors!) already know the winners, as there isn’t additional balloting after the nomination announcement. (This is why you don’t see many FYC campaigns surrounding the Daytime Emmys, and likely won’t see many for Children’s & Family either.)
The Children’s & Family Emmys arrive as HBO Max has just decided to get out of that business, particularly on the live-action side. But Sharp says he’s not concerned: “If the submission interest we’ve seen so far is any indication, it is a very vibrant, very active space. I don’t worry that much about one entrant or another.”
The inaugural Childrens & Family Emmys ceremony will take place at L.A.’s Wilshire Ebell Theatre on Dec. 11. That date was chosen to distance it from the other Emmy ceremonies throughout the calendar year.
“It was just happenstance that this wound up being the best timing, which really is the season of family,” Sharp says. “This idea of putting it between Thanksgiving and Christmas was a happy accident.”