Award show's producer gets candid at TCA panel

The fate of the Emmys as a mainstream kudocast hangs in the balance.

That’s according to Emmy Awards producer Don Mischer, who told reporters that the TV Academy runs the risk of losing the ceremony to irrelevancy.

“We are trying to keep the Emmys alive as a major television event,” Mischer said during a TV Critics Assn. panel on Monday. “It may drift away from that and become a niche event. It may come to that. … The writing is on the wall, and every other award show knows it.”

Mischer said that in order for the beleaguered kudocast to survive, the show must present programs that mainstream viewers recognize.

According to a survey conducted by the TV Academy after last year’s Emmycast debacle, 65% of that broadcast’s awards went to little-seen shows. Of the 12 most-watched shows last year, only two were represented with nods: director for a drama and guest actor in a comedy.

“The key finding was that potential viewers were not tuning in to the Emmys,” Mischer said. “They felt the Emmys featured shows that mainstream viewers didn’t know or weren’t interested in.”

Mischer said that unless Emmy decides to offer front and center the shows people are watching, the award show could become a nonfactor.

“We’re going to have to connect the show to the big picture of television,” Mischer said. “Its high points and memorable moments. … We want to maintain a major profile. This is broadcasting, not netcasting.”

He said the Emmys were also at a disadvantage in that the TV Acad has to present 28 awards in a three-hour show, while the Oscars, Grammys and Tonys offer significantly less hardware to distribute.

By taking eight categories, taping them before the telecast and incorporating them into the show later that night, the presentation of those awards can be edited down. That means less walking down the aisles, hugging and thanking agents — and thus valuable minutes can be saved to jazz up the production.

The edits could allow for more clips or even time for host Neil Patrick Harris to incorporate some of the showmanship that he brought to the ratings-improved Tonys.

Jack Sussman, CBS’ exec VP of specials, asked that writers, producers and actors wait to see Mischer’s approach before drawing conclusions. He added that the changes would allow for more clips of their actual work and, hopefully, help everyone if the ratings for the telecast improve.

“If more people embrace television as a result of this broadcast, it’s good for everybody,” Sussman said, citing improved CD sales or theater attendance in connection with the Grammys and Tonys, respectively.

Also during the session, Mischer and Shaffner confirmed earlier reports that this year’s Emmycast would be divided up by genre — comedy, drama, reality, variety and longform. Also, Shaffner said he would do his part in shaving down the show’s running time by axing his own speech from the ceremony.

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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