Two years ago, in a bid to goose the Primetime Emmy telecast’s anemic ratings, the TV academy coaxed several stars into a singing competish they dubbed “Emmy Idol.”
This year, looking to boost a once-again declining Emmy audience, the org is going one better: They’ve recruited the real-life producers behind the “American Idol” steamroller.
Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick, who stage at least two live TV events every single week during the heart of “American Idol” season, have been named exec producers of the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.
Academy of TV Arts and Sciences prexy-CEO Dick Askin and Fox Entertainment honcho Peter Liguori made the announcement Tuesday.
“Nigel and Ken have consistently raised the creative bar with their innovative work on ‘American Idol’ and we believe they will continue to do so during their first Emmy telecast,” Liguori said.
Askin said the producers’ experience with live event TV would serve as a “major asset to this year’s Primetime Emmy telecast.”
Kudofests like the Emmys are usually steered by award show veterans (like last year’s exec producer Ken Erlich) who know the ropes — and manage to keep the shows from collapsing under their own weight. But by reaching out to the usual suspects, award shows like the Emmys frequently come off too polished — preventing much watercooler talk the following day.
By bringing on “Idol” exec producers Lythgoe and Warwick, Fox (which airs this year’s show) and the TV academy are hoping to shake up what has been a pretty by-the-books show.
Attempts like “Emmy Idol” tried to inject new life into the Emmycast. That year, Donald Trump and Megan Mullaly teamed up to croon the theme song to “Green Acres.” Kristen Bell, the star of “Veronica Mars,” dressed in legwarmers and belted out the theme from “Fame.” William Shatner joined an opera singer in performing, yes, the “Star Trek” melody.
The Nielsens improved … but critics yawned.
Through the years, the show has been hampered in part by the sheer number of awards (27) handed out on-air.
And in 2006, the show took a hit as NBC (hampered by NFL commitments) and the TV Acad pushed the show back into August.
It’s too soon to tell whether the kudocast — which airs live from the Shrine Auditorium on Sept. 16 — will be Simon-ized. (As in, will acerbic “Idol” judge Simon Cowell submit to offering up a running commentary of the night’s proceedings?)
Lythgoe isn’t promising a revolution, arguing that the Emmy Awards “not only celebrate excellence in television, the Emmy Awards are excellent television. “Star power, production values, drama, suspense, tears and euphoria, just like an ‘American Idol’ finale.”
But the producer is promising some major tweaks.
“While appreciating the traditional and maintaining the high standards of past Emmy Award ceremonies, we will also be recognizing the ever-changing landscape of today’s successful television,” he said. “It is a great honor and a wonderful challenge.”
Randy Jackson welcoming Emmy nominees to Hollywood, dawg? Paula Abdul offering up more grist for the tabloid press? With the telecast seven months away, it’s too soon to tell.
Lythgoe, the president of 19 Television, also co-created Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” on which he served as a judge. Warwick serves as FremantleMedia’s senior exec producer on worldwide productions of the “Idol” format.