“Downton” Emmy category switch may prompt “TV awards smackdown”

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The hit Edwardian costume drama Downton Abbey from Masterpiece Classic is switching Emmy categories from mini-series to drama, “thereby setting up a fierce TV awards smackdown,” according to awards news site Gold Derby, in an exclusive report by Tom O’Neil, author of the books Movie Awards, The Emmys and The Grammys. Last year, O’Neil writes, Downton’s Season 1 won best miniseries “over widespread complaints” that it was a drama series “masquerading” as a mini-series in order to avoid competing with Emmy heavy hitter Mad Men. Season 1 of Downton had four episodes; Season 2, seven — exceeding the six that generally define a regular series.

O’Neil points out that the after another PBS Brit hit, Upstairs, Downstairs, won best drama series twice, in 1974 and ’75, the TV academy moved it to the best limited series category so it wouldn’t compete against favorite American shows like The Waltons and Kojak. “But Upstairs, Downstairs triggered a new outcry when it beat the hugely popular mini Rich Man, Poor Man,” O’Neil notes.

The 2012 Emmy Awards will be broadcast Sept. 23.

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