Road to the Emmys 2012: Reality Competition

Shows like “Dancing With the Stars” and “The Voice” are magnets for the kind of rabid fans who tune in religiously and speed-dial for their favorites when the audience voting lines open up. But singing and dancing shows don’t get that same kind of love from Emmy voters.

Perennial bridesmaids in the reality competition category, these shows earn raves from viewers but seldom a statuette for the mantle.

“It’s nice to have the recognition of an Emmy, but we’ve been incredibly successful in another way and I don’t take that for granted, because if we’re not doing a great job with storytelling then no one will watch us,” says Mark Burnett, exec producer of “The Voice.” “The audience has voted, haven’t they?”

Singing and dancing competition shows are so beloved by viewers that there are multiple shows running throughout the year. Many have held steady with a loyal following for five or more seasons. But the field of shows in this genre is so packed that it may create another challenge when it’s time to dish out noms and awards.

“You have to work harder to set yourself apart from the other shows now, and you have to do it while still appealing to your core audience,” says Conrad Green, exec producer of “Dancing With the Stars.” “This might make it harder on Emmy voters, too, with lots of competitive singing and dancing shows on the air.”

Since they’ve attracted so many passionate viewers and advertisers that want to reach them, these shows have few worries. Once they’re established, they’re likely to stick around. But that audience may differ from the crowd that votes on Emmy noms, and this could be part of the dramatic gap between the viewership of top reality singing and dancing competish shows and the number of industry awards bestowed upon them.

“We skew young and female, and we’re a summertime show, which might be part of why we haven’t had recognition in the reality competition category,” says “So You Think You Can Dance” exec producer Nigel Lythgoe. “Still, you see that dancers on our show are going through physical challenges that are just as difficult as what people face on ‘The Amazing Race’ or other shows in our category, so it can be a little of a disconnect.”

It’s clear on one level that Emmy voters appreciate the complexity of these shows. While these shows don’t make a big splash in the reality competition category, they’re lauded for their technical prowess. It’s not uncommon for dance and singing competition shows to come home with mitts full of Creative Arts kudos in categories like choreography, lighting, costume design and technical direction.

“I think you just can’t deny how much goes into a competitive show where you’re following multiple contestants, and there’s a live broadcast on top of that,” says Barry Adelman, another “So You Think You Can Dance” exec producer. “The crews that pull off these shows have to be the best there is, because there’s really no room for error.”

Road to the Emmys 2012: Reality Competition
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