There’s a rule that TV Academy goes by when it comes to the consideration of foreign television shows for Primetime Emmy Awards and it goes like this: “Foreign television production is ineligible unless it is the result of a co-production (both financially and creatively) between US and foreign partners, which precedes the start of production, and with a purpose to be shown on US television.
“The producer of any production produced in the US or outside the US as a co-production between US and foreign partners, in a language that is substantially (i.e. 50% or more) in a language other than English, shall have the discretion to enter the production and its individual achievements in any category where they are eligible in the Primetime Emmy Awards competition or in the awards competition of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, but not both.”
This rule means the creators of smash-hit series Squid Game — the South Korean survival drama that’s on track to become Netflix’s most popular series ever — have a tough choice to make: enter the race for the Primetime Emmy Awards or the international ones?
The series meets the eligibility requirements of both ceremonies seeing as it is produced under guidance from an American company (Netflix) and was always intended to be distributed in the US, but produced internationally.
The situation not only offers up a choice for the producers of Squid Game, but perhaps for the TV Academy, too. With more and more international series captivating the attention of audiences (such as Lupin, also on Netflix) perhaps it is time for the Primetime Emmys to be more inclusive of non-English language programming rather than relegating popular shows to the International event.
The two Emmys ceremonies have been historically more clear cut, as US producers and networks focused on the US market with any overseas productions typically being made for the markets they were produced in. However, with more and more streaming services dipping their toes into the international production game (and US audiences responding well to such shows), the lines are significantly more blurred these days.
Plus, with louder calls for awards shows to make more of an effort to fly the flag for diversity, the time could soon well come that the divide between foreign and local productions ceases to exist.
In the case of the Golden Globes, for example, following the success of films such as Minari and Parasite at the Oscars in the past two years, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made changes to the eligibility requirements for Best Motion Picture in both the drama and comedy/musical categories, meaning that foreign films can now be included.
Additionally, the organisation also announced that from now on, the Best Motion Picture — Foreign Language category will be known as Best Motion Picture — Non-English Language.
Of course, one factor that complicates the matter is the issue of the television landscape being thoroughly saturated. In the era of peak TV viewers are inundated with well over 500 scripted television series and numerous platforms on which to watch them which means the Academy must be especially judicious when selecting nominees.
The hyper-violence of Squid Game could be a factor in seeing the popular series overlooked in the Primetime categories as TV Academy voters often shy aware from such content. Given the sheer popularity of the survival series, though, it could prove impossible to ignore.
If the TV Academy was to look to including a non-English language category at the Primetime Emmys for 2022, it would have no bearing on the outcome of next year’s ceremony and Squid Game‘s producers would still have to choose which event to be included in. That’s thanks to yet another rule instated by the Academy which stipulates that “if such categories are to be created, the Television Academy will give the International Academy at least eighteen months’ notice prior to such effect”.
“Creation of new non-English categories will not affect the International Academy categories and the producer shall have the option of entering the existing Primetime Emmy Awards category or the new Primetime Emmy Awards non-English category or the International Academy category for which eligible, but may enter only one such category.”
Squid Game is currently streaming on Netflix.