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Wacky Emmy rule disqualifies Carol Burnett from earning guest actress nomination for ‘Better Call Saul’

Gold Derby logo Gold Derby 8/9/2022 Marcus James Dixon

When Carol Burnett was announced as being a guest star in the final season of “Better Call Saul,” awards pundits everywhere had the same thought: would she be the one to finally break the show’s Emmy curse? Indeed, the AMC drama is 0-39 at the Emmys so far and has seven more nominations this year. (The 2017 and 2020 short form series victories for “Los Pollos Hermanos Employee Training” and “Better Call Saul Employee Training: Legal Ethics With Kim Wexler,” respectively, don’t count toward “Better Call Saul’s” total.) However, there’s a wacky Emmy rule you may not know about that prevents Burnett from earning a guest actress nomination at next year’s ceremony.

The Emmy rule in question states that “only performers appearing in less than 50% of the eligible episodes can submit in the Guest Performer categories.” What does that mean in layman’s terms? “Better Call Saul” split up its sixth and final season into two parts, with episodes 1-7 competing at the current 2022 Emmys and episodes 8-13 competing at the 2023 Emmys. Burnett has so far appeared in three episodes of Part 2, so regardless if she appears in the August 15 series finale, she has already hit the 50% threshold. Thus, she is disqualified from competing in next year’s guest actress category.

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But not so fast. The legendary performer can still earn an Emmy nomination for “Better Call Saul” — in the supporting category. Since this 50% rule was enacted years ago, many people with guest-star billing have had to submit up in supporting because they appeared in too many episodes — “The Mandalorian” standout Giancarlo Esposito actually reaped a bid in the higher category in 2021, one year after contending in the guest race. Oddly enough, there is no rule against Burnett submitting as a lead actress, though it’s unlikely AMC will choose to enter her in that tougher category.

The guest eligibility rule was created in February 2015, one year after Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is the New Black”), Allison Janney (“Masters of Sex”) and Joe Morton (“Scandal”) all won Emmys in the guest races despite appearing in nearly the entire seasons of their shows. Had the rule been put in place for their 2014 ceremony, all three would have been forced to compete in the supporting categories instead.

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Burnett plays Marion in the black-and-white episodes of “Better Call Saul” that takes place after the events of “Breaking Bad.” She first meets Bob Odenkirk‘s Gene Takovic, aka Saul Goodman, aka Jimmy McGill, when he tries to get closer to her son, Jeff (Pat Healy), for the purposes of scamming a department store. Marion soon smells something fishy about Gene, and she savvily uses the laptop her son bought her to watch cat videos to Ask Jeeves “con artist Albuquerque.” After learning the truth about Gene’s true identity, she contacts the authorities via her Life Alert necklace.

“Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gillian originally came to learn that Burnett was a huge fan of his work through their mutual limo driver. That led to her earning the part of Marion in the final episodes of “Better Call Saul.” Burnett is a six-time Emmy winner for “The Garry Moore Show,” “Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall,” “An Evening with Carol Burnett,” “The Carol Burnett Show” and “Mad About You.” If there’s anyone that can be nominated in the supporting race for a guest-star performance, it’s her.

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