If the writers' strike accomplished anything (it didn't), it gave us an appreciation for freshly written TV shows. Don't get me wrong, I could watch "Seinfeld" and "Simpsons" reruns till the remote turns to dust in my hand, but the absence of new favorites like "The Office" and "Pushing Daisies" took its toll on me. Without them, I was forced to occasionally attempt dinner conversation with my girlfriend, which may or may not be the reason we are no longer together.

OK, so the strike wasn't a total loss.

Anyhoo, as shows dribble and drab their way back onto TV (drab too often being the operative word -- am I the only one who thinks "30 Rock" is suddenly too clever for its own good?), now would seem to be a good time to check out Emmy, the official magazine of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Precisely what science they're referring to I have no idea ("We have a hole in the Tuesday night schedule, Mr. Zucker. To the laboratory!"), but they do produce a decent magazine. Indeed, if the industry put as much work into its programs as the academy did into this mag, we might never have had to watch "John From Cincinnati." (Not that we did -- you know what I mean).

The joys of Emmy begin with its touch. The paper stock is thick, like bacon, and nearly as slick. The palette throughout is subdued and sophisticated, and some of the photography is outstanding. The visual high water mark in the March/April 2008 issue is "The Sound and The Fury," a diary from "Deadliest Catch" producer/cameraman Don Bland complete with lush, dramatic photos of the arctic crab boats that are the show's subject. The feature culminates with a single wide shot spread over two pages of a boat and its crew in action as waves crash beside them and seagulls flap overhead. I've never seen the show, but if the visuals are always this dramatic, maybe I should.

Much of the rest of Emmy is trade-style analysis of the TV landscape, not all that different from what you might find in Mediaweek (full disclosure: I used to work at Adweek, a sister magazine of Mediaweek, whose content I would shamelessly "pick up" whenever we had a hole to fill. Print media has no laboratories). The front-of-book "In the Mix" section explores the migration of TV content to the Web, and the impact that newspaper downsizing is having on television coverage. A feature with the sadly hackneyed headline "Brave New World' looks at the explosion of high-quality drama on basic cable networks, as does "Turning the Tables" (honestly, is the copyeditor simply lifting his headlines from a book of clichés?), a Q&A with the heads of original programming for USA, FX and Turner Entertainment.

Balancing the trade articles are some solid puff pieces, if that makes any sense. The cover story is a profile of "Mad Men"'s Jon Hamm that is well written and engaging, at least for what it is. (Actor profiles aren't my thing.) "In the Mix" also presents some similar snapshots of new shows or actors or even Web programming. All in all, it's a pretty expansive look across the programming landscape and its increasingly fractured platforms.

Where Emmy stumbles -- and given the publisher, this should come as no shock -- is when it sacrifices journalism for adoration. Example: A Q&A with TV gossip reporters lacks a single question about ethics or conscience, even when the answers practically begs for it. At one point, Marc Malkin of E! Online's "Planet Gossip" boasts about breaking the news that Britney Spears might have bipolar disorder, and in the next breath pats himself on the back for suggesting the media should leave her alone already. But the interviewer doesn't challenge him on it at all. I never thought I'd say this, but where's Chris Cocker when you need him?

To be fair though, I went in expecting much more of this kind of thing. "10 Reasons There Is Nothing Bad on TV Right Now," or "Profiles in Value: Your Cable Bill." But Emmy is much more than a promotional vehicle for all things televised. The real question is whether any of us need to spend time reading about TV, given how much time most of us already spend watching it. Surely there are more rewarding pursuits, like dinner conversation, we could be focusing on.

Published by:
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences
Frequency: Bimonthly
Web site

Next story loading loading..