So what exactly does an Emmy win mean?
Well, in terms of ratings, maybe not so much.
At last year’s show at the Shrine Auditorium — to collective gasps, high-fives and backslapping among both Fox execs and the series’ cast and crew — “Arrested Development” won for comedy series, as well as writing and directing.
So given the skein’s good fortune, it certainly wasn’t outlandish to think that the critically beloved show would get more people to tune in.
Problem is, they didn’t. Season one averaged a 2.7 rating, 6 share in adults 18-49 and 6.2 million viewers; season two (post-Emmy) averaged a 2.8 rating, 7 share in the same demo, with 5.9 million viewers overall, begging the question: If you can’t lure more viewers after winning a major Emmy, what’s all the fuss about?
“An Emmy is definitely good PR for a network, but it doesn’t pay the bills or ensure ratings,” says E! News TV reporter Kristin Veitch. “Yet I think the only reason ‘Arrested Development’ came back this season was because of that Emmy win.”
“The benefits of the Emmy are much harder to quantify than the Oscars, which has direct box office correlation. But being able to put best comedy winner stickers on the DVDs helps drive DVD sales and gives the show a patina,” says exec producer David Nevins. “I think it’s also valuable to the sales department. Advertisers want to be in the show.”
It’s clear Nevins feels too much has been made of the show’s mediocre ratings and new Fox topper Peter Liguori agrees. He renewed the series for next fall (though it’ll now be on at 8 p.m. Mondays instead of Sundays), giving the creative community that has been behind the show a boost of confidence.
Nevins makes a good point. In the top 10 most-watched broadcast series, only “Everybody Loves Raymond” is a half-hour comedy — and that show recently went off the air after nine seasons. At No. 11 is “Two and a Half Men,” which will move into “Raymond’s” now-vacant 9 p.m. Monday spot.
“There are lots of comedies on TV, and a lot of them are struggling right now. We’re not the only one,” Nevins reiterates.
“Arrested Development” also isn’t the only series that’s failed to generate a ratings surge following an Emmy boost. “24” was nominated for drama series its freshman year and the anticipated influx of new viewers didn’t follow. Not right away, anyway.
“It’s not until year four that it’s become the ratings success that it was always thought it could be,” Nevins says.
This past season, “24” averaged 11.9 million viewers, the most in its history.
” ’24’ finally got a ratings boost because they had followed ‘American Idol’ a couple of times,” says Veitch, adding that a powerhouse lead-in does more to draw viewers than any award could.
Stellar ratings aren’t a prerequisite for an Emmy nom, so it would be safe to think the show will once again land on Emmy’s radar when noms are announced in July. And this time some TV insiders believe more members of the cast will receive recognition as well, including Jason Bateman, Jessica Walter, Tony Hale and Will Arnett. Last year, only Jeffrey Tambor was nominated.
Says Nevins: “This year I think our actors are going to break in. There’s been big turnover in the (comedy) acting categories. Shows that dominated in previous years — ‘Sex and the City,’ ‘Friends,’ ‘Frasier’ — are all gone.”
But while those shows and thesps are gone, newcomers like the ladies from “Desperate Housewives” will be in the running this year.
Nevins believes acting Emmys could help attract new viewers in ways a best series triumph didn’t.
“When your actors start to win, I feel like that’s when it really starts to seep into the mainstream.”
Overall, an Emmy win — in any category — can quickly establish the viability of a series in terms of ad dollars, DVD sales and cachet for a studio and network. Whether that means much with viewers is an entirely different matter.