One Win & You're Done: How To Fix The Emmys

Emmy nominations are out, and the list is littered with too many of the usual suspects.   Ho-hum, another nomination for five-time winner  “Modern Family,” a once-wonderful comedy whose best days are past.  And yet  “Broad City,” the funniest show on TV, gets no respect from the Emmy.  “Mad Men” may make my Top 10 list of best dramas of all time, but it’s won four Emmys already for Outstanding Drama. Yet “Justified” doesn't get a nod in that category, nor does its star Timothy Olyphant -- or any of  the series'  top-flight supporting cast -- after a wondrous six-season run.  Too often the new noteworthy aren't deemed Emmy-worthy, while there is way too much of the familiar and safe.

Still, this year's Emmys are putting  an increasing spotlight on original programming beyond the broadcast and cable world. It's great to see multiple nominations for Amazon Prime's “Transparent,” including best comedy and best actor for the sterling Jeffrey Tambor, and a best actor nomination for Kyle Chandler and best supporting actor nod for Ben Mendelsohn in Netflix's “Bloodline.”  



But back to the redundancies: “Amazing Race” gets yet another nomination in the reality category after winning 10 times.  Once again Jon Stewart's “The Daily Show” is in contention for best variety show after grabbing top honors an amazing 10 times.  Both of these shows are incredible in their quality, year in and year out.  Still, does “Amazing Race” or  “Daily Show” need another trophy?  Let's make room for more of what's new to get that Emmy glow. It's enough already.   

Everybody makes noise about how the small screen has replaced the movie screen, while the real creativity is happening in filmed entertainment.  So why not borrow from the Academy Award playbook and make the Emmys more like the Oscars? Specifically, if a show wins top honors in  categories like Outstanding Drama or Outstanding Comedy, that's it.  If “Game of Thrones” wins for drama or “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” wins for comedy, then they're done in the category under my new rules. Likewise for the various actor categories.  I know Viola Davis  is terrific in  ABC's “How to Get Away with Murder,”  as is Tatiana Maslany in BBC America's “Orphan Black,” but if either wins a winged statuette this year, she couldn't win again for playing the same juicy role.  

When I talk to industry folks about my Emmy fix, there's inevitable pushback.  There are business concerns. Multiple Emmys can translate to more bucks in licensing fees, syndication and beyond. Multiple wins for actors can drive up their salaries.  Networks with shows that win often, as well as managers and agents, would certainly fight such a change.

Of course a series could win one year in its category and the following year still be the best show on TV, the quality even more thrilling than the preceding victorious season.  Fans of such multiple-Emmy-award-winning dramas of seasons past —  “The West Wing” and “Mad Men” come to mind — could argue that shutting previous winners out wouldn't have been fair.   And the performances of multiple award winners in best actor categories, such as “Sopranos”  three-peaters Edie Falco  and James Gandolfini,  just got richer with each year.  I get it.

Most of the concerns about changing up the Emmy rules are legitimate ones.  Yet there's a greater good to be considered here.  I am part of the critical chorus that believes TV is in a  Golden Age, the audience a beneficiary of technology and creativity truly coming together.  Witness the more than 40  Emmy nominations this year for streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.  Yet the plethora of quality options  presents more responsibility and opportunity for the industry's most-prestigious award.  Change the rules, so there's less of the same-old same-old  — and lots more of what's new and could use the attention.

2 comments about "One Win & You're Done: How To Fix The Emmys".
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  1. Tom Ziangas from Rainbow Media, July 22, 2015 at 2:27 p.m.

    Orphan Black airs on BBC AMERICA

  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, July 22, 2015 at 2:34 p.m.

    Dear Max,

    I respect and defer to your expertise in these matters.

    Enjoy the day!

    Thank you.

    Nicholas P. Schiavone

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