Those Blurred TV Lines
66th Primetime Emmy Awards exec producer Don Mischer, show host Seth Meyers, Television Academy chief Bruce Rosenblum and more discuss the impact of television's swift-moving evolution on the Emmys.
As content creators break with traditional episodic formats and fans watch across an expanding range of digital platforms and devices, the lines that define an online program, a miniseries and so forth, are much more blurred than ever.
So stands the challenge—and more so the tremendous opportunity—before this year's 66th Primetime Emmy Awards team: how to best reflect and celebrate what many are calling an extraordinary year in television.
“It’s really difficult to have straight, ironclad procedures that clearly delineate where every show falls,” said Don Mischer, the executive producer of this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, to journalists at Television Critics Association's biannual press tour in Beverly Hills, California.
Staggering Surge in Shows
Competing for Emmys
Over the last 5 year period, the 19,000-member strong Television Academy (which administers the Primetime Emmy Awards process) received over 40% more nominations submissions for drama and 60% more on the comedy side for consideration this year, according to the organization.
And some submissions, like Shameless and Orange is the New Black, are regarded by some as “dramedies,” straddling genres to varying degrees and sparking endless debate among fans and industry insiders alike—including the scores of Academy members responsible for casting Primetime Emmy votes.
“It’s just really tough,” Mischer continued. And though some suggest the Emmys team simply add more categories and nominees to accommodate all the quality television fare we are watching, Mischer says that “more and more awards” are not the way to go, at least not in his opinion: “We just have to do the best we can.”
Television Academy CEO Bruce Rosenblum—also on hand alongside Mischer, Late Night star and 66th Primetime Emmys host Seth Meyers, and Late Night producer Mike Shoemaker—noted that the Academy regularly takes a look at awards submission rules each year, rules which may be eyed for adjustment as content producers keep breaking down walls of long-standing creative structures.
“Look at the kinds of shows that are being produced and the networks that are ordering shows today,” Rosenblum observed. “We didn’t have Netflix ordering shows. You didn’t have HBO ordering 8 episodes of a series like True Detective.”
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Rosenblum said that while it is incumbent upon the Academy to step back and take a look at the rules again—not in response to criticism, but to the evolution taking place across the industry—this is actually good news:
“It’s good news that there is so much more production being done around town and that the kinds of productions being done are unique and varying and don’t all fit into nice, cleanly defined boxes.”
“We’re going to need to respond to that,” he said.
As for making “television’s biggest night” specifically, however, 66th Primetime Emmy Awards host Meyers is approaching his job with a firm eye toward tradition.
Vows Old-School Fun
“No matter how much television changes, which I do think it’s changing, our job is still just to be entertaining for the 3 hours—and in a very old school way,” said the Saturday Night Live alum, who has also steered the ESPYs and the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Meyers and team look forward to a fun, fast-paced Primetime Emmys celebration, one which may benefit from its rare Monday night time slot this year. (That is, due to this show’s August 25 date landing in the summer, a time which finds many viewers still out and about at beaches and parks on the weekends.)
Love for the “old school” aside, Meyers was doing triple-duty at the press tour, supporting Late Night, the Primetime Emmys and new-school platform success The Awesomes, the animated Hulu original series created by Meyers and Shoemaker currently enjoying its second season pick up.
How is Meyers pulling off this balancing act?
“With all of these kinds of productions, you’re only as good as the people you put together to help you write on them,” Meyers shared. “It’s not like you’re out there alone.”
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards airs live Monday, August 25, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on NBC.