The hangover from the writers strike is reflected among the winners and losers in this year’s Emmy noms derby.
It’s clear from (non-HBO) cable’s breakthrough in drama series noms — AMC’s “Mad Men,” Showtime’s “Dexter” and FX’s “Damages” — as well as the way those nets cleaned up in major acting categories, that Emmy voters were inclined to consider a wider range of shows and channels this time around.
Meanwhile, a number of past contenders in top categories that faced long strike-induced hiatuses last season were left mostly on the sidelines this year: Think ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and NBC’s “Heroes.” Fox’s “24,” the 2006 drama series winner and a perennial fave in acting categories, was KO’d entirely by the work stoppage and thus out of the awards running this year.
And then there are the hopefuls with creative momentum that might’ve broken through this year if they’d stayed on the radar longer: think NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money,” CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory” and HBO’s “Big Love.” On the other hand, similarly situated shows such as ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” and “Samantha Who?” prevailed with top acting noms.
“Because of that pause in regularly scheduled programming, viewers and members of the Academy did a lot of sampling,” said John Shaffner, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. “They watched a lot of different kinds of TV.”
It’s difficult to really tell whether Emmy’s arbiters were more adventurous on the cable side because so many of broadcast TV’s big guns were M.I.A. in the winter and early spring. But as far as “Dexter” exec producer Clyde Phillips is concerned, the strike surely played a role in getting his offbeat Showtime drama a series nom and lead actor bid for star Michael C. Hall — if only because of CBS’ decision to air edited versions of the show received in February and March as it scrambled to fill its sked.
“We were getting 6 million viewers a night on CBS,” Phillips said. “We get a fraction of that on Showtime. A lot of people became aware of the show and then gravitated to (airings) on Showtime.”
Phillips also cites the positive influence of online distribution and DVD sales. The “For your consideration” website Showtime set up to offer full-length segs for viewing by Emmy voters, drew some 50,000 downloads — about five times the volume that execs expected — and of those, “Dexter” was by far the most viewed show.
One show that seemed perfectly poised to benefit from the unusual dynamic this year was “The Wire.” HBO’s gritty urban drama bowed its final season to its usual critical raves in early January, just as the Big Four were running out of fresh segs completed before the strike.
But all of that gushing from crix wasn’t enough to end “Wire’s” Emmy dry spell — even in acting categories after the superlatives lavished on the perfs of Dominic West, Clark Johnson, Amy Ryan, Tom McCarthy and Clarke Peters.
HBO’s little-watched frosh drama “In Treatment” garnered a lead actor bid for Gabriel Byrne. But “Wire” closed out its run of Emmy eligibility with just one nom for drama writing, which went to series creators David Simon and Ed Burns for the finale seg titled, appropriately enough, “30.”
(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)