Fixing the Emmys

Variety Editorial

The Emmys need an overhaul. At the very least, organizers hould consider changes to reverse shrinking ratings, which have fallen by a third in the last two years.

This week, the Board of Governors of the TV Academy is meeting to determine the shape of future telecasts. The Acad is right to tinker with the formula, even at the risk of alienating part of its membership.

ATAS’ awards committee has proposed moving the longform kudos for writing, directing, supporting actress and supporting actor out of primetime and into the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony (which airs in a truncated form on E!) It will also move the variety/music/comedy trophies for performer, writing and directing out of the main ceremony.

The org is also looking to combine the movie and miniseries categories into one longform award (which would still be awarded during the primetime Emmy kudofest).

Cable networks, which have won the lion’s share of longform awards in recent years, hate the idea.

Showtime, TNT and HBO fired off an open letter to the board of governors, published in Monday’s Daily Variety, suggesting that the presence of “Angels in America” stars Al Pacino and Meryl Streep, or “The Lion in Winter’s” Glenn Close, “add style and cachet to the broadcast.”

Maybe so, but the problem here isn’t the show’s style and cachet: It’s that nobody’s watching it.

To be sure, the net execs pushing for the changes have been somewhat disingenuous about their motives.

Networks are paying millions to the Acad to license the show. But network longform programming is dominated by popcorn fare like “10.5” and “Spring Break Shark Attack,” Not the sort of “innovation and excellence” ATAS wants to recognize on Emmy night.

What’s clear is that the Emmys can’t be all things to all people, and that they have to work both as a TV special and as a showcase to honor the best and brightest. One may quarrel with the ATAS’ choices for revamping the broadcast. But doing nothing is no longer an option.