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​8 Things You Might Not Know About the Emmys

Why is the number of nominations inconsistent?

Liz Raftery

TV's biggest night is right around the corner, and at Sunday's Emmy Awards, three questions will be on everyone's minds: What are the stars wearing; how will Stephen Colbert do in his first outing as host; and -- most importantly -- who's going to take home the top prizes?

Those mysteries won't all be cleared up until the end of the evening, but ahead of the big event, here are eight things we do know about the Emmys... and a lot of them may come as a surprise.

1. A lot of the awards have already been handed out.

There are so many Emmys to present, the ceremony technically takes place over three nights. Last Saturday and Sunday was the "Creative Arts Emmys," where prizes were awarded even to some of the most popular shows and beloved moments of the year, like This Is Usand Melissa McCarthy's turn as former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Saturday Night Live. McCarthy and This Is Us' Gerald McRaney won awards as guest actors, along with a whole host of other stars like The Handmaid's Tale's Alexis Bledel. You can check out the full list of winners here. An edited version of the Creative Arts Emmys will air on FXX this Saturday.

Check Out Our Complete Emmys Coverage Here!

2. There's a lot of symbolism behind the Emmy herself.

The coveted statuette, which depicts a winged woman holding an atom, was designed in 1948 by television engineer Louis McManus, who modeled it after his wife. The figure is symbolic of television as a union of art (as represented by the wings) and science (as represented by the atom). Each prize weighs nearly seven pounds and stands 15.5 inches tall.

Stephen Colbert
Jeff Vespa/Getty Images

3. The number of nominees in each acting category isn't always consistent.

You might have noticed that the number of nominees in some of the main categories varies. This year, for instance there are six nominees in most of the acting categories, though some -- comedy lead actress, drama lead actor, and drama supporting actor -- contain seven. (There are also seven nominees in the drama and comedy series categories.) Since 2009, each of the acting categories has had six nominees as a standard; however, additional nominees are permitted if the actor or actress receives within 2 percent of the vote of the lowest vote-getter of those six nominees. And there's no cap to that rule. In 2015, for instance, there were eight nominees in the comedy supporting actress category.

4. Thanks to a new voting system, it's easier to get a win than ever before.

My colleague Joyce Eng has offered an excellent breakdown of the Television Academy's voting system here, but because the winner is determined by a weighted plurality, a nominee only needs to earn 17 percent of the total vote (in a field of six) to win. That doesn't seem so hard, now, does it?!

5. There are two names on every statuette.

Remember last year when everyone was making such a big deal about Sarah Paulson putting Marcia Clark's name on her People v. O.J. Emmy? A nice gesture, but Paulson probably didn't have to push the Academy too hard. Unlike the Oscars, which only includes the actor or actress' name on the awards, the Emmys make it standard practice to include both the actor or actress' name, as well as the name of their character.

6. The show has experimented with a shorter format before.

If you're one of the people who likes to complain about the length of awards shows (yet still tunes in anyway), be careful what you wish for. In 1965, the Academy experimented with having just four categories -- Programs, Acting, Directing and Writing -- with multiple winners in each. As a result of the new format, only five shows were honored. The next year, the awards returned to the previous format of having more than 20 major categories, and have stuck to that format ever since.

7. Only three shows have ever won Best Reality Competition Program.

The Outstanding Reality Competition Program category has been around since 2003, yet in that time only three different shows have shared the wealth. The Amazing Racehas won a whopping 10 times, The Voice three and Top Chefonce, breaking Amazing Race's seven-year winning streak in 2010. All three shows are nominated again this year, but we'll have to wait until Sunday to see whether other programming like RuPaul's Drag Racemight be able to break into the winners' circle.

8. The hosts weren't always entertainers.

With Colbert at the helm, there will certainly be some political jabs thrown during this year's ceremony. But while some people would prefer that "Hollywood types" stay out of politics, once upon a time they were very intertwined. In 1951, then-Governor of California Earl Warren hosted the Third Annual Emmy Awards, before going on to be the 14th Chief Justice of the United States, a position in which he presided over cases including Brown v. Board of Education.

The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards air Sunday at 8/7c on CBS.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)