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Emmycast tries to build on momentum

Last year's kudofest showed promise after '08 debacle

Following the disastrous 2008 Emmy Awards show, with Josh Groban warbling a medley of TV themes and five reality TV hosts prattling on (and on … and on), last year’s Emmy broadcast had nowhere to go but up. And indeed, the Neil Patrick Harris-hosted show managed the neat trick of both improving ratings and lessening embarrassment, leading the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to ask back executive producer Don Mischer for another go-around.

Though Mischer, a producer on six previous Emmy shows, says it’s premature to talk about specifics, he allows that most of last year’s tinkering will be seen again in one form or another this year for the 62nd edition, broadcast on NBC, including the skill set that new host Jimmy Fallon brings to the table.

“He’s not just coming out there to tell jokes,” Mischer says.

In an effort to lure viewers who don’t subscribe to HBO or watch “Mad Men,” the 2009 Emmy broadcast broadened the on-air content to shows that went beyond the nominated series and actors. The emphasis was on the medium, and the message was clear — shows like “CSI: Miami” might not be a hit with voters, but audiences still want their favorites to have a place at the table.

“I don’t know if you can peg the 15% ratings bump to that decision, but it might have helped,” Mischer says of the 2009 show, broadcast on CBS.

Mischer also plans on continuing last year’s gambit of dividing the awards into genres, meaning that some prime acting Emmys will be handed out earlier in the broadcast. Another carryover: He’ll have the nominated writers and directors pretape comments about themselves and their shows, which Mischer believes helps audiences invest in their categories.

“One of the challenges of the Emmys is that out of 28 awards, half of them go to writers, producers and directors — people who certainly deserve to win their Emmys, but they’re not people who viewers know or care about,” Mischer says. “The challenge, then, is to make them care.”

One notable change for viewers on the West Coast will be the show’s start time. For the first time since 1976, the show will air live on both coasts. NBC also broadcast this year’s Golden Globes show live coast-to-coast, with eight Western affiliates rebroadcasting it during primetime. The Globes show saw a 14% increase in viewers.

“It’s a little bit bothersome when events like the Olympics get delayed on the West Coast,” Mischer says. “It takes a little bit of the edge off the excitement. So, I think the coast-to-coast live broadcast can only help make things more interesting.”

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