Are we there yet?
That age-old lament of kids in the backseat of the station wagon has been expressed more than once during the past few days as Emmy season headed into the home stretch with an extra-long weekend.
The move of the ceremony from September to the last Monday in August this year prompted more parties, receptions, toasts and photo ops throughout the weekend. And there’s plenty of agita building about the potential for limo gridlock around the Nokia Theater Monday afternoon as Emmy-goers battle non-pros in downtown L.A. traffic.
These are high-class problems, for sure, and there’s a good chance that the feared Emmy Sig alert turns out to be a sequel to Carmageddon — more hype than actual headache. (Still, it can’t hurt to get there early.)
The carping is driven by the disruption in long-established routines. The Emmy Awards are typically like the fall leaves turning colors on the East Coast — the ceremony signals the start of the new season and the heightened focus on solidifying development prospects for next year. But this year, the rhythms are off as Emmys arrive nearly a month earlier than usual. (Why? As Andy Griffith once put it: “What it was, was football.”)
Despite all this, there is an undeniable sense of swagger in bizzers these days as industryites try to dope out the likely victors on Monday. You know the medium has an embarrassment of riches when drama series as good as “The Good Wife,” “Masters of Sex,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “Homeland,” “Justified,” “Rectify” and “The Blacklist,” to name a few, couldn’t crack the list for the top prize.
The fact that there is so much worthy material to recognize is helping to ease the discomfort brought on by the radical changes in virtually every aspect the programming, production and distribution landscape.
Nothing brings out more nervous giggling at pre-Emmy parties than discussions of the growing influence of YouTube stars that Variety has chronicled in detail. Who are these people? Where did they come from? And why do our kids know all about them?
I had a long car ride earlier this summer with two 13-year-old girls, and all they could talk about was Jenna Marbles this and Dan Is Not on Fire that and, of course, PewDiePie. I finally turned around and barked “do you people not watch television?” In return got the condescending sneer that only pre-teens can deliver.
The experience made me realize that this shift in the nature of the content that attracts the on-demand generation is very real. They follow personalities more than programs. And they don’t want their content to confirm to 22- and 44-minute formats. The quickest way to make anything on the red-hot Smosh channels uncool would be to shove it into something that looked like a traditional TV series.
We seem to be in a moment when there is incredible opportunity on the high end to strive for bold breakthroughs a la “True Detective,” “Game of Thrones,” “Fargo” and “Orange Is the New Black.” On the low end, the ever widening pool of talent armed with only their wits and store-bought digital video cameras are changing the definition of programming for the future.
Perhaps the oversupply of pre- and post-Emmy parties is akin to fiddling while Rome burns. For now, the traditional television biz has plenty to celebrate — so long as the traffic isn’t too terrible.
(Pictured: TV Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum, Emmy host Seth Meyers and exec producer Don Mischer roll out the red carpet last week)