Road to the Emmys 2012: Down to the Wire

If it’s a major televised event, Don Mischer has probably been involved.

Mischer has produced and/or directed the Oscars, Tonys, People’s Choice Awards, several Super Bowl halftime extravaganzas, a couple of Olympics Opening Ceremonies, the Kennedy Center Honors, Billboard Music Awards and even part of the inauguration of President Obama.

Now, for the 10th time, he’ll serve as exec producer of the Emmys.

“Every awards show has its own voice and feel,” Mischer says. “For those of us who work in television, the Emmys are a very significant night.”

As for this year’s event, Mischer says flow will play a factor.

“We’ll keep the show moving quickly,” he continues. “We give out 26 awards — more than any other show — so we have to keep moving. We’ll keep the bits short, the pacing up. That changes the mood in the room. People respond better when the pacing is good onstage. They get to the microphone more quickly and are more predisposed to give succinct and hopefully emotional acceptance speeches.”

Keeping things zipping along is the best, most humane way to try to affect the length of acceptance speeches, which are usually the difference between an awards ceremony that comes in on time and one that feels like a leviathan to viewers.

“Winning (may) be the high point of perhaps their lives and certainly their careers,” Mischer says. “They’ve dreamt about this, so saying to them, ‘Please keep your words to 45 seconds’ seems unfair. And playing anyone off with music is disrespectful to the winner and doesn’t reflect well on anyone. So if you establish the sense of pacing up front, it helps us keep the show moving.”

It’s key that the ceremony ends on time, Mischer says, as on the West Coast the show airs live at 5 p.m. and repeats as soon as it ends. Otherwise, viewers accustomed to tuning in at 8 p.m. (since the show was tape-delayed on the West Coast for decades) could come in as top winners are announced and opt out of watching the rest of the broadcast.

Host Jimmy Kimmel, who will likely be appearing before the largest television audience of his career, started shooting material with celebrities as soon as he was announced as host.

“We’ve talked about how celebrities might participate,” Mischer says. “He has a good relationship with everyone in Hollywood and will be integrated into the show a lot. His presence will make the difference.”

Kimmel is well known for his eviscerating monologues during ABC’s May upfronts, but Mischer isn’t sure if he’ll approach the lacerating levels of Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globes hosting gigs.

“Irrelevance and not taking ourselves too seriously is fine and helps make the evening pass, and Kimmel will do that well,” he says.

Mischer doesn’t believe the drama series noms’ cable-heavy tilt will have much effect on ratings. He also adds that awards will be handed out in genre groups, an approach that has worked well for Mischer-produced Emmy ceremonies in the past.

For all the planning and scripting, Mischer says: “Producers have no control over the most significant part of program, which is, who is going to win. We have no control over what people say if they do win.

“I remember Gil Cates used to say these shows depend on whether awards show gods smiled on you or not. If you get great, unpredictable wins and emotional acceptance speeches, then they’ve smiled on you. We hope that’s what happens.”

Road to the Emmys: Down to the Wire
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