TV’s best can feel ignored

Awards season inevitably focuses on film world

Here’s a riddle: Who can receive a lot of nominations during awards season but still feel ignored?

Answer: The season’s TV contenders.

People equate “awards season” with film awards. But, in fact, there are many kudos for TV work, from the DGA, Writers Guild, Golden Globes and AFI, to name a few — but these categories are usually relegated to “also nominated” status in conversations and media coverage.

Personally, I think some of this year’s most interesting nominees could be in the TV categories, especially because there are so many new shows that are interesting. “Glee,” “The Good Wife,” “Modern Family,” “FlashForward,” “Hung,” “White Collar,” “Men of a Certain Age,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Community,” “V,” etc., etc., could join the reliables like “Mad Men,” “True Blood,” “30 Rock,” “House,” “Californication,” “Dexter,” “Breaking Bad,” “Lost,” “United States of Tara,” “Big Love,” “Entourage,” et al.

These awards are the first since the new TV season began, so it’s an opportunity to start recognizing newcomers. The Globes, for example, have saluted shows like “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” and “The X-Files” long before the TV Academy did.

On the other hand, the Producers Guild Awards’ TV nominees, unveiled Nov. 30, offered no big surprises. The PGA generally bypassed newbies and saluted plenty of shows that had received Emmy attention several months earlier.

And that’s the first reason the TV biz gets so little respect: timing. The awards season culminates with Oscar and is thus by definition film-skewed. Every win from every film critics group is proclaimed as a bellwether or a game-changer for the Big Prize. But rarely does a TV win in the December-February season portend an Emmy, as those awards occur seven months later.

The second reason for TV’s second-class status during awards season is the lack of TV buzz. A lot of “prestige” movies open at the end of the year and garner mucho media coverage. But by this point, several months after the beginning of the season, TV fare is old news. Plus, there aren’t many Hollywood events thrown for TV. For example, the networks and production companies schedule press meets with the Globes at the start of the TV season, hoping HFPA members will write about these shows for their overseas readers. So the TV party circuit is pretty much over by October.

The third factor is the psychological one. Everybody likes his ego stroked, but the stakes are a little higher in the film world. When someone is an Oscar contender, he or she is aware that this chance doesn’t come along often (unless she’s Meryl Streep). But TV folks who are in a hit show can pretty much assume “If I don’t win this time, there’s always next year.” There is much less urgency.

The fourth factor is one that’s always a major consideration in Hollywood: economics. An Oscar win can translate into big bucks at the box office and be a selling tool for the entire afterlife of a film. Some film workers have riders in their contracts that ensure a bonus if they land Oscar attention. Few, if any, such riders exist in the contracts of TV workers for awards presented in the next few months. While a TV win is a big ego boost, and may increase salary demands of the winner, it doesn’t translate into ad dollars or additional viewers for a show.

So, all of you TV freshman, good luck. We’re thinking of you — even if we’re not talking about you.

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