That means star Kirsten Dunst, who had been considered one of the top front runners to earn a nomination in the outstanding comedy actress category, will now have to compete in the drama actress race. The show’s other performers, writers, directors and various crew members will also have to now submit in their respective drama categories, while the show itself now moves to drama contention.
Per TV Academy rules, any regular series under 30 minutes is automatically sent to comedy consideration, while shows over 30 minutes must compete in drama. “On Becoming a God” is over 30 minutes, but networks and studios are allowed to petition the org to move their show if they feel it better fits the other classification. That’s how Amazon Prime Video’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” ends up in comedy consideration, for example.
But the Academy’s decision to not to allow “On Becoming a God” to compete in comedy surprised insiders, who noted that Showtime markets the series as a dark comedy. Earlier this year, Dunst was nominated by the Golden Globes for best performance by an actress in a musical or comedy TV series. She was also nominated for best actress in a comedy series by the Critics Choice Awards.
The show’s episode “The Stinker Thinker,” written by Robert Funke and Matt Lutsky, was nominated by the WGA Awards for episodic comedy.
It’s believed that both Showtime and the show creators appealed the decision, but were told by the Academy that its decision was final.
Such a move will likely force Showtime to brand “On Becoming a God” as a drama in its Emmy FYC materials, but the show will still be marketed as a comedy everywhere else.
The debate over how the Television Academy should handle hybrid shows — series that can’t necessarily be categorized just as “comedy” or “drama” — has raged for years. Hour-long series like “Ally McBeal” and “Desperate Housewives” were being submitted (and winning) as comedies, and by early this decade, the confusion was cemented. Showtime’s “Shameless” switched from drama to comedy, and started landing nominations for star William H. Macy. “Orange is the New Black” was initially entered in awards as a drama, then switched to comedy.
In 2015, the Academy adopted the current system of placing all half-hours in the comedy category and hour-longs in drama, subject to review. That year, “Orange” was moved back to drama as a result.
In 2019, the Academy further clarified its rules, noting that programs will be allowed to switch categories (say, from comedy to drama competition) in the Emmy race just once. After that, they’re locked in — and won’t be allowed to categorize again.
Originally produced for YouTube Originals, which moved away from scripted series last year, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” debuted Aug. 25 on Showtime. The series, set in 1992, stars Dunst as a water park employee who rises up a pyramid scheme in an attempt to better her life. Théodore Pellerin, Beth Ditto, Mel Rodriguez and Ted Levine also star. Funke and Lutsky created the show, which comes from Sony’s TriStar Television. Executive producers include Smokehouse Pictures’ George Clooney and Grant Heslov, as well as Dunst, pilot director Charlie McDowell and showrunner Esta Spalding. Showtime has renewed the series for a second season.