Founder / Editor


Associate Editor


Assistant Editor











Solution to Emmy Flap: Make Better Programs, Stupid
August 13, 2009  | By David Bianculli

Life-generic.jpgSo the Emmy folks have backed down, and agreed not to pretape and edit awards presentation in eight of the night's categories. The guilds representing those writers, directors and actors not only raised a stink, but threatened to raise the rates for the rights to show clips from nominated TV shows throughout the September 20 CBS telecast. Good for them -- but there's an easy way for the broadcast networks, which are worried about losing viewers for the annual Emmy telecast, to emerge as ultimate victors.

To paraphrase the reminder posted in the Clinton election campaign war room: It's the programs, stupid. Make better ones...

Of the eight categories the CBS telecast sought to have pre-taped, most were in the movies and miniseries categories, which the broadcast networks long ago have abdicated to cable. Only 10 percent of the 40 nominations went to the four major broadcast networks, and only one of them to CBS, which is televising the contest next month.

But cable is now showing up strongly, in the major categories of drama and comedy series as well. Long ago, cable efforts were deemed largely unworthy of being folded into the Emmys, and presented their own awards, the Cable ACE awards. Now, ironically, cable is seen, grudgingly, as being TOO worthy.

They have larger budgets. Shorter seasonal runs. In many cases, bigger stars. And they can swear, and be violent, and be sexier than the government-overseen broadcast networks. How can CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox hope to compete?

Make better programs, stupid. And, when you make them, support them.


NBC's Life (above) was a great show, but the network had little patience with it. Fox's The Simpsons remains brilliant, and NBC's 30 Rock is a superb comedy, even with its broadcast TV restrictions.

The way out of this, for the broadcast networks, may be to rethink their goals. Present shorter seasons -- 10, 12, 14 episodes a year -- and spend more time and money to make them better. The Holy Grail of 100 episodes of syndication will take longer to attain, but DVD sales will increase if the shows are worth savoring, and owning.

And by the way, broadcasters should get back in the movies and miniseries business. At this point, the networks should be worried about ways to get viewers back to the TV set -- and major stand-alone events are one way to do that, and promote the weekly series at the same time.

When cable grabs more and more of the Emmy glory, the broadcast networks have no one to blame but themselves -- and their hunger for cheap-cost programming over quality television.




Gin Ichimaru said:

Cost cutting? You mean "Wipe Out" and "I survived a Japanese Game Show" wasn't nominated?? Shocking. Is there an educational/inventive catagory for shows like "Myth Busters" or "How It's Made". I like the documentary slice of life shows like "Ghost Hunters" and that Billy Mays (rip) show about the "Pitchmen" was interesting.

I think we can agree that Kate Gosslin gets the award most Over-Rated drama queen.

Comment posted on August 13, 2009 8:42 AM

Lisa Stone said:

I like those shows too especially Mythbusters.

Comment posted on August 13, 2009 10:59 PM

Eileen said:

Welcome Back! I totally agree with all your comments. Don't you find it quite interesting that just a few years back AMC was simply a cable channel that showed old movies (although classics) practically day & night? But they had the vision to spend a few $$, produce their own shows, get top notch writers and casts, and voila! I have to give them lots of credit, as well as USA, TNT, et al. They are providing what the commercial channels don't or won't.

And tv movies and miniseries, definitely yes to that. I remember the good old days of ABC Movie of the Week, as well as the wonderful, theatrical quality miniseries such as Roots, Rich Man-Poor Man, Winds of War, Holocaust, From Here to Eternity, and on and on. At least Lifetime & Lifetime Movie Network, whose ratings are sky high, actually know their demographic and aim to please with their own network movies.

Let's see how quickly the new fall shows on the commercial networks get yanked -- before they can even grow an audience. Or worse yet, the inevitable shuffling of the viewing night. Alas, there is little hope for commercial tv.

Comment posted on August 14, 2009 9:26 AM
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 Name (required)
 Email (required) (will not be published)
Type in the verification word shown on the image.