A Golden Opportunity For The Emmy Awards To Truly Matter Again

I’ve documented and discussed the growing indifference to awards, and especially awards shows, on several previous occasions.  The Emmys have seen an especially precipitous decline in popularity and zeitgeist in recent years, perhaps self-inflicted.  Not only has broadcast television been all but ignored in nominations, let alone victories, save for occasional outliers like black-ISH and This Is Us, but now even cable television series are increasingly less represented.   For a large percentage of potential NBC viewers, this may be the first time they will ever see many of the talents and clips that will dominate the presentation.

Host Kenan Thompson, the longest-tenured performer on the longest-tenured entertainment series on broadcast television, is perhaps the most familiar face that will be seen tonight.

Tonight the 74th edition of the awards will be held, being held on a Monday night to avoid head-to-head competition with the program that actually ranks as the most-viewed show in the U.S., Sunday Night Football. And as this was NBC’s year in the rotation, they controlled that fate, and, hey, even they know Tom Brady is still more popular than is Ted Lasso.

Lasso’s got 20 nominations, to be sure, and along with 14 nominations for Apple TV+ stablemate SEVERANCE this bodes to be a big night for that streamer.  It’s also a big night for HBO, as has been the case for decades, with SUCCESSION leading the list of nominees 2ith 25, the brilliant HACKS having 20 and a batch more for such critical darlings as EUPHORIA, INSECURE and WHITE LOTUS.

Arguably, HBO/Max needs these wins to cement not only their status as the cultural center of entertainment versus that of Netflix, but they also need to reinforce the value and importance of what they do with new ownership that appears far more focused on bottom line performance than accolade.  The scripted creative team led by Casey Bloys has deservedly been spared a good deal of the cost-cutting that has become the mantra of the day in the David Zaslav Warner Discovery era, but the deep cuts they’ve seen with other areas, not to mention many of the shows being available on the service itself, are sobering evidence that they need as much accolade and hardware as possible to remind the world that they’re an expense worth coughing up for.

Unlike the Oscars, which have a demonstated business model that identifies definitive lift in value for its winners, Emmy winners often don’t see improved ratings or back-end sales potential, and that’s even truer in an era where platforms have become walled gardens of megastudios’ IP.  There’s no COSBY SHOW payday out there, and in the ever-fragmented and poorly measured world of streaming services the correlation between winners at the awards and winners in the boardroom is weaker than ever.

For my money, the real opportunity lies with ABC’s ABBOTT ELEMENTARY, which has a chance to establish itself in many needed ways tonight.  With black-ISH and THIS IS US sunsetting, this excellent show now has the chance replace them as proof that a good old-fashioned broadcast network series, particularly one with a largely African-American cast, can be both widely seen and rewarded by its peers.   And as a co-production of Warner Brothers Television, it is also a potential reminder to Zaslav and his management team that there are other extremely worthy creatives beyond those at HBO in his purview, and should be better supported going forward.

And it’s that much more likely that an NBC viewer will recognize the faces in this cast than that of, say, Melanie Lynskey of YELLOWJACKETS.  Don’t get me wrong, Lynskey’s quite deserving of her Best Actress nomination .  But that Showtime series is viewed by a fraction of those that can or could watch an episode of ABBOTT, particularly as those episodes will now also run on Hulu and HBO Max.

So my rooting interest tonight is as much hoping for the representation of broad-appeal programming in a world that appears increasingly insulated and accessible.  With the ceremony itself now back to pre-pandemic glitz, and a Monday night time slot that unless you’re a fan of Denver or Seattle at least bodes to be more opportunistic, the Emmys have at least a fighting chance to regain some of their past glory and significance.

I’ll celebrate all the deserving winners, to be sure, but I’m really rooting for ABBOTT to cash in and remind us all that it’s possible to be both a winner with Nielsen and a winner with the Academy.  And, one would hope, a winner with its bosses as well.

Until next time….

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