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Emmy Awards reshape categories

February 24, 2011 |  2:11 pm

The pacific 
The miniseries, once the hallmark of network television with such landmark productions as “Roots,” “Rich Man, Poor Man,” “Holocaust” and “The Thorn Birds,” has fallen on such hard times that its Emmy Award category is being merged with the one for TV movies.

The announcement was made Thursday by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which said there are simply too few miniseries being made to warrant a category of its own.

“The number of entries in the miniseries category over the past six years has steadily declined and provided less than the requisite number needed for a full complement of five nominees,” the academy said. The last two years have each seen only two nominees: HBO’s “The Pacific” and PBS’ “Return to Cranford” in 2010, and HBO's "Generation Kill" and PBS' "Little Dorrit" in 2009.

The academy noted that it already had consolidated miniseries and movies in other categories, such as acting, writing and directing.

The miniseries flourished in the late 1970s and 1980s with American productions such as “Shogun,” “Masada,” “Washington: Behind Closed Doors,” “The Winds of War” and “George Washington,” which held their own with British imports such as “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” “The Jewel in the Crown” and “Nicholas Nickleby.” But the big budgets proved unsustainable as the television audience splintered in the cable era, and now they are rarely undertaken.

 --Lee Margulies 

Photo: Scene from the miniseries "The Pacific" from HBO.