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‘Black Mirror’ Apparently Worked Around The Emmys Rule Changes That ‘San Junipero’ Helped Force

Black Mirror may have had a bit more trouble than usual, but according to reports it will once again have an entry in the Emmy category for best TV Movie. According to Variety, the show’s creators and Netflix successfully petitioned to have one of its episodes included in the category despite 2018 rule changes interpreted by many to limit the show’s inclusion of episodes in the nominees.

“Black Mirror” is back in the Emmy TV movie race. The second episode of the Netflix series’ fifth season, “Smithereens,” will be submitted in the TV movie and movie/mini categories this year, insiders confirm — potentially keeping its Emmy streak going.

According to the report, the episode will be included despite it being five minutes short of the minimum runtime of 75 minutes that was instituted in 2018. Netflix had to petition for it to be included, otherwise it was unclear where Black Mirror should have submitted its Emmy entrants.

Otherwise, it wasn’t clear where “Black Mirror” would have landed this year in the Emmy competition. Season 5 of “Black Mirror,” released on June 5 last year, contained just three episodes. That put the anthology series in a tough spot: A minimum of six episodes must air within the current eligibility year to qualify as a drama series; limited series are defined as a program with two or more episodes that tell a “complete, non-recurring story”; and then there are the TV movie rules — “an original program, which tells a story with beginning, middle and end, and is broadcast in one part with a minimum running time of 75 minutes.”

“Smithereens” will now be considered for a category in which three other Black Mirror episodes — “San Junipero,” “USS Callister” and “Bandersnatch” — have won. Those are some of the better episodes the series has ever made, sure, but in the eyes of some in the award community the show was bending the rules of the TV movie category itself with those winning entrants. Though each episode is self-contained and runs more movie-length than a standard TV show, since most are released simultaneously as a full season of television the argument could be made that the shows are not actually TV movies, especially if they’re generally shorter than a TV movie.

That’s why the Emmys changed the rules in 2018 to insist a TV movie entered in the category must be at least 75 minutes long. Though it was never directly attributed to Black Mirror, most in the industry connected the dots that the move happened right after the show won two straight awards in the category. And as Variety pointed out, at least one of those wins wouldn’t have happened if the rule was in place beforehand.

Specifically, after the show won the Emmy for outstanding television movie in both 2017 (“San Junipero”) and 2018 (“USS Callister”). “USS Callister” would have still been eligible, as it ran for 76 minutes, but “San Junipero” was only 61 minutes long.

Black Mirror did win the award again in 2019 despite the changes, but that’s because the standalone choose-your-own-adventure Black Mirror: Bandersnatch ran at 90 minutes and was released on its own on Netflix. Now it seems Black Mirror: Smithereens will have a chance to join the other three Emmy-winning Black Mirror episodes and make it a four-peat later this year.

[via Variety]