THB #171: The Trouble With Emmys
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has a very different awards problem than The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. The best potential for Oscar demands that AMPAS finds a way to refocus on exclusivity.
But Emmy is on the ever-rising mountaintop that is peak tv. What they are not doing well now is finding a way to encompass the massive amount of content in a way that is as expansive as television itself in 2022.
It’s a little ironic. The Primetime Emmys are now at 118 categories. God bless them for the ambition. But it’s still really about the 27 awards that are part of the Emmy TV show. And that group of awards tend to be defined by mostly repeat nominations and 1 or 2 new star shows (and the talent that follows) amongst those 7 or 8 major nominees.
This season, that’s with 171 drama titles, 118 comedy titles, and 61 limited series titles in the process.
Last season, 37 shows, in all catagories, were nominated in 5 or more categories… out of 248 titles chasing Emmy.
6 shows won 21 of the 27 on-air categories last year.
The outsider 6 were movie star Ewan McGregor as Halston, the Stephen Colbert special Election Night 2020, RuPaul’s Drag Race, Saturday Night Live, Hamilton, and Michaela Coel for writing.
No actual outsiders there.
I can’t really blame ATAS or the voters as 37 shows got 5 or more nominations. That means those 5+ nomination titles are about the top 15% overall. But the opportunity is more exclusive in the top categories of Comedy and Drama.
What are the guessing chickens at Variety and The Hollywood Reporter guessing at in Comedy? The same 7 nominees, then 1 has What We Do In The Shadows and the other has Black-ish. For Drama? Seven picks are the same and one picks Yellowstone while the other picks Yellowjackets.
Who’s winning Competition? RuPaul. Who is winning Talk Show? John Oliver.
How exciting are those nominations going to be they reflect the same stuff everyone saw coming?!?!?!
We are in the midst of the greatest expanse of televised content in history. And we are going to get the same old same old. Not that I dislike those shows and performers… not my point.
But everyone I know is overwhelmed by the endless wave of new content, much of which they like a lot… and almost none of those shows are likely to score “meaningful” nominations.
And it’s not just Reservation Dogs and Julia and Minx and 1883 and Somebody Somewhere and Single Drunk Female and Fairfax and Pachinko and Tokyo Vice and I Love That For You that are sure to be marginal players. There is a whole deck of multi-season series that haven’t been given a much-deserved seat at the table, like Better Things, The Great, Billions, Insecure and Awkwafina is Nora from Queens.
And that’s just my taste. There are all kinds of tastes that feel like love to all kinds of niches in StreamingLand.
Can Sarah Lancashire even be in the race for a nomination for her universally beloved turn as Julia Child without doing interviews with the Penskes? I don’t know anyone who think it’s anything less than a sensational performance. But she’s not making herself available… so no soup for her.
Will Pamela Adlon finally get the Emmy love she has deserved for years because she is doing more press?
Did Sam Elliott take down his own opportunity and one of the hottest new shows of the last year because he was misunderstood in his comments about a Netflix western that didn’t fit his tastes?
Is anyone noticing that dramas & comedies led by men seem to have a big step ahead of those led by women?
How many ad dollars make your show a legitimate nomination candidate?
But getting back to the original premise of this piece… how does ATAS expand the Emmy show to include more than the same group of favorites that only go away in their final seasons (lately), plus the newcomer or two?
I love television. The audience for television has been the biggest amongst all delivery systems for more than 50 years. Everyone loves television.
There has to be a way to embrace more of it, not just the constituency of the annointed and funded.
I don’t have a specific answer. But I do believe that in a world of television that doesn’t have traditional seasons, maybe it is time for Emmy to break the mold and give out awards in a less traditional way… perhaps as a series of seasons followed by a Best Of celebration on national television. Hmmm…