Days before the Emmy awards hit television, here's how to improve the broadcast
That’s not exactly true; the industry still cares, especially performers, producers and technicians lucky enough to snag one. But the days when a few artfully timed Emmys could save a quality, lesser-known show are long gone (worked for All in the Family and Cheers; didn’t work for Pushing Daisies or Arrested Development).
The Emmy organizers took a big step toward solving that problem by hiring as host How I Met Your Mother star Neil Patrick Harris, a well-liked actor with a taste for comedy poised to do for the TV awards what hunky Hugh Jackman did for the Oscars and Tonys — entertaining with the winky charm of a Hollywood insider.
But they blinked when the idea to pre-tape eight awards and cut down all the speechifying produced a backlash of Michael Moore-sized proportions. As Harris tries on Sunday to keep us from switching to the Giants-Cowboys game (in their way-cool new stadium!), here’s a few more ideas for improving the Emmycast:
Make news: Yeah, Kanye West was a bonehead. But his antics have ensured that America is still talking about MTV’s Video Music Awards a week after they happened. Unless Tina Fey announces she’s marrying Amy Poehler at the podium tonight -- and I would happily give up a week's pay to see that spectacle -- Emmy’s not getting that kind of bounce. But it should try.
Nominate shows people are watching: It may be time for new categories — say, best use of blurred video in a reality show, or separate categories for cable and broadcast. But when nominations are soaked up by well-produced, but little-seen shows such as Mad Men, which is actually watched by less than 2-million people each week, viewers don’t care so much about the winners.
Break up the familiar lists of nominees: Best comedy actress nominee Fey has been nominated 12 different times, her 30 Rock co-star Alec Baldwin has been nominated eight times, and Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay has been nominated six times. Too often, Emmy regurgitates the same lists of nominees in major categories with a few names changed; a limit of five career nominations for the same role would ensure a more diverse field. Or, as my buddy Aaron Barnhart of the Kansas City Star has suggested for many moons, perhaps a Best New Performer Emmy to ensure new blood.
Make winning count: I admit, I’m not sure how to pull this off. But winning big at the Golden Globes helped light fireworks under Slumdog Millionaire, making America aware that a blockbuster had been born. Emmy needs to do that for TV shows on the verge of success and spend less time feteing programs already in the winner’s circle.