Another year, another HBO series getting called out by the Television Academy for pushing past the limits of a so-called “limited” series: Variety reports that Mike White’s The White Lotus will no longer be allowed to compete in the Emmys’ Outstanding Limited Or Anthology Series category, where it won last year. The series has instead been moved over into the Outstanding Drama Series category.
As we’ve noted many time before, HBO in particular seems to love fudging the lines surrounding this particular category, presumably so that at least some of its shows don’t have to fight it out in the hyper-competitive Drama bracket; after all, “limited” really just means “We haven’t decided to renew it for a second season yet.” (Looking at you, Big Little Lies.)
Admittedly, The White Lotus had at least a shot of sneaking by under the grounds that it’s an anthology series; the show’s second season switched locations and (mostly) casts, ditching Hawaii for Sicily and retaining only Jennifer Coolidge as one of its leads. And while it’s hard to fault White for that decision, it probably did contribute to today’s verdict: The story of Tanya McQuoid-Hunt in the show’s second season is very much a continuation of her adventures in the first, with a sort of continuity that puts the lie to the whole “anthology show” idea. (Also, there’s something vaguely embarrassing about a show winning for “Limited Series” two years in a row, which probably contributed.)
Limited Series has always been a bit of a mutant category, running at various times since the 1970s as Outstanding Drama/Comedy—Limited Episodes, Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Miniseries, and Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special And Miniseries before settling on its current name a few years back. The point, generally, being to distinguish shows with deliberately shorter runs from TV drama juggernauts (and to give short-run British shows a shot at winning awards in the American market)—but the actual effect being, more often than not, to simply muddy the waters and create exactly the sorts of semantic games that networks are all too happy to benefit from.
Anyway: The White Lotus is now officially a very dramatic Drama, a distinction that absolutely nobody will be able to quibble with or complain about.
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