Raise your hand if you are aware that the Emmy Awards are on this Sunday.
I see some hands, but most of you are evidently unaware that this is Emmy weekend. Compare this to the probable result of a similar request for a show of hands just before Oscar Sunday. Everybody in the room would have a hand up because everyone knows when it’s Oscar-time, right?
And yet, all you read about is how all the heat in Hollywood has shifted from the movies to TV. “Everyone” is talking about television, say the pundits, publicists (especially them) and TV critics (who should know better but are now mainly a community of cheerleaders for the TV industry).
All the big names in movies are migrating to TV, the observers say. Martin Scorsese is making shows for HBO. Woody Allen has a series coming out on Amazon. Meryl Streep has agreed to star in a series being made by J.J. Abrams. The list goes on and on. Vanity Fair’s headline on this Streep story earlier this month: “TV Lands Meryl Streep, Puts Another Nail in Film’s Coffin.”
Well, maybe. Or maybe not. I am sure Ms. Streep is not done with movies, despite this TV interlude. The same with the two legendary directors. But it’s true: All you hear about is how the creative types are gravitating toward TV because of the creative freedom they’re finding there.
This is certainly more true for the writers and producers writing all the quirky “alternative” series that are turning up on the streaming services and pay cable than for those lucky enough to get a show on the broadcast networks. The legacy broadcasters exercise more creative control, but generally speaking, they pay more -- or so some people say.
But when TV’s annual awards show rolls around, you don’t sense a level of excitement or anticipation anywhere near the ballyhoo that gets generated in the days preceding the Academy Awards. In a world where everyone is talking about the great TV shows they’re constantly binge-watching, doesn’t it seem strange that there’s so little palpable hype for this weekend’s Emmys?
Sure, the usual suspects are covering the lead-up to the Emmys -- “Entertainment Tonight,” “Access Hollywood,” People.com. But in a way, that’s the point: These used to be “big media.” Now, however, like everything else, their audiences are smaller than they used to be.
The people watching “ET” and “Access” are the people who crave their content about Hollywood and celebrities. Not that long ago, though, even those who were not rabid entertainment fans were somehow exposed to these media -- when walking by newsstands, for example, or grazing for something to watch on TV when there were fewer choices. Once upon a time, you couldn’t miss “ET.”
Today, however, there is so much media that we no longer have “mass media.” What we have now is “massive media” broken up into thousands of fragments -- hundreds of TV channels and streaming services and thousands of Web sites.
So, while we’re all using media in some way or another all day long, we’re doing it in smaller groups according to our interests. As a result, we have this huge tonnage of content available to watch and consume -- from TV shows to entertainment news – but no one piece of it gets the usage that media used to get when there was as so much less of it from which to choose.
As a result, it’s easier today to go about your life without ever becoming aware that the Emmy Awards are on this Sunday, that it’s ABC’s turn to air them, and that Jimmy Kimmel is the host. Who’s he, you might ask? He’s the guy in the beard.
“The 68th Emmy Awards” airs Sunday (Sept. 21) starting at 8 p.m. Eastern on ABC.