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TV Movie Producers Lobby Against Emmy Changes

Change seldom occurs easily or without complaint when it comes to award shows, and the Emmys are no exception.

Helen Verno, exec VP of movies & miniseries at Sony Pictures Television, has called plans that would move some TV movie categories out of the main Emmy telecast and into an adjacent pre-show “an outrage,” and urged others who work in the TV movie biz to register their objections. A veritable who’s who of TV movie producers (no need to go through all their credits here, but feel free to look them up on imdb.com) have written to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to voice their concerns.

Personally, I have somewhat mixed feelings about this campaign — or at least can see both sides of this issue. The Emmys embarrassed themselves the last time around in part by pandering to reality TV. That said, reality has become a major element of primetime television, while the TV movie has been in decline — certainly in terms of volume, and often in terms of creative ambitions.

As a consequence, establishing which awards are handed out live comes down to a question of priorities — namely, are the Emmys about honoring excellence, or is the foremost goal to put on a good show that will attract solid ratings (and not incidentally, younger demographics), thus making the networks that televise the awards happy? It’s worth noting, too, the networks that share broadcasting the Emmys on a rotating basis (that is, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox) have dramatically reduced their movie production, so they have less interest in seeing movie categories represented. In other words, they’d rather have “Dancing With the Stars” or “Survivor” out there than some HBO movie or PBS miniseries.

While I sympathize with the pickle in which Emmy organizers find themselves, the passion of these TV movie veterans deserves a forum (plus, it lets others write my blog for me, which appeals to my slacker instinct). So I asked producers to copy me on their messages to the academy. Here’s a sampling:

* “As a member of the Academy, and a producer of made for
television movies for the past twenty years, I strongly object to the removal of
long form awards from the televised portion of the program. Made for television movies and mini-series have proven not only to achieve high
ratings, but have historically attracted major film actors to television. Just
two quick recent examples include Robert Duvall in Broken Trail and Susan
Sarandon and Ralph Fiennes in Bernard and Doris.” — Diane Sokolow

*
“As a long-time Academy member and three-time Emmy nominee, I am quite upset
to learn that the Academy is considering moving the longform Emmy Awards out of
the primetime telecast. Longform television has always been a prime staple of
network and cable television. The programming is the most expensive per hour
and often most complicated to produce (especially well) of all primetime
programming. It is the vehicle which attracts the most prestigious and
accomplished acting and directing talent in the business. And of course many of
the biggest stars in the business who attend the Emmy broadcast, do so because
they are longform nominees. I urge you to continue to keep the longform Emmy
awards in the telecast.” — Larry Sanitsky

* “Television movies and miniseries should certainly be part of the Emmy telecast. These films are often the best, most watched and most distinctive and distinguished programs on the air. If there’s any hope of maintaining audience interest in quality programming, the Academy must recognize and promote these television movies and minis. Denying them on-air exposure is dismissive and demeaning to those professionals who worked so hard to get them made and who’ve spent so much of their time and money to make them good.” — Frank Konigsberg

* “I made my first
Television Movie in 1973. It was a 90-minute Hallmark Hall of Fame. They’re
still around. I’m still around. I paid my TV Academy dues all these years. And
what do I get? Extirpated from the Emmys! At least I get all the good theatricals from my membership in the Motion Picture Academy. Clever ideas like
this one usually come from the Federal Bureacracy. Congratulations! After 120
movies, 3 series, 5 features, 1 animated series, and various other stuff you,
not the networks and cable companies as we all thought would be the case, have
made me irrelevant, sent me to an ignoble, anonymous death.” — Michael Jaffe

* “This is most unfortunate and self-defeating decision and an insult to those of
us still fortunate enough and passionate enough to continue producing Made for
Television Movies. I seriously hope this decision will be reconsidered and
overturned.” — Linda Kent

* “I was heartbroken to learn the academy is considering removing movies and
miniseries from the televised Emmys. I must tell you I grew up watching
television like millions of Americans and my favorite memories were when the
networks broadcast the longform. From ‘Roots’ to ‘Brian’s Song’ it was these movie
moments that inspired me to become a producer/writer in television, and I was
blessed when I was able to stand on your stage and accept the Emmy for Best
Picture for ‘Door To Door.’ I would not have been there if not for the movies I
watched and the movies the Academy honored through the years. I cannot imagine
an Emmy telecast without these movies being honored, and despite what the leaders
at the network have done to devalue a longform one thing is certain…the
audience loves them and will continue to till the end of time.” — Dan Angel

* “As a writer who was twice nominated for the Emmy in the TV-movie category … I wish to strongly add my voice to those protesting the possible removal of the TV-movie/miniseries awards from the televised portion of the Emmy presentations. What an absurd notion! TV movies are not the stepchildren of the industry. We deserve to go to the ball with all the other grown-ups. It’s not that we want to be on TV so we can wave to Mom. It’s the principle of the thing!” — Anna Sandor

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