Every year, as critical darlings from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” to “Gilmore Girls” are overlooked at Emmy time, fans and critics are left again to wonder: Why can’t teen shows get any respect?
“Institutionally, the Emmys tend to have a bias against young performers,” says TV Guide’s senior critic, Matt Roush. “Shows that skew young, or are aimed at a younger audience, aren’t taken as seriously as adult shows. Whether they’re delightful comedies or searing dramas, they’re just not on the Emmy radar.”
Entertainment Weekly TV critic Gillian Flynn says part of that stems from how networks market the shows.
“A lot of older voters probably see a WB promo and think, ‘This network’s not for me.’ You don’t see anyone over 22 or 23 in their promos, so that would be pretty offputting.” She says promos for “Everwood” focus so much on the kids that audiences might not realize it’s a multigenerational show.
“I think the lack of recognition is probably because of the (niche) networks they’re on,” says Tim Goodman, TV critic at the San Francisco Chronicle, on teen skeins.
He’s got a point. Seems like if you’re on one of the Big Three, Emmy chances increase exponentially.
Claire Danes was nominated for ABC’s “My So-Called Life” in 1995 and the show also received directing and writing noms; more recently, CBS’ “Joan of Arcadia” had three noms including drama series and lead actress for Amber Tamblyn; even NBC’s “Freaks and Geeks” had two writing nominations and a casting win.
“I certainly cast all the votes I could for ‘Freaks and Geeks’ when it was on,” says “Veronica Mars” creator Rob Thomas.
” ‘Freaks and Geeks’ would be at the top of my list (of disrespected teen shows).”
Knowing the precedent of Emmys past, Thomas isn’t expecting his series to be tapped but is hopeful his lead thesp receives recognition. “The only thing I’m holding my breath about is Kristen Bell.”
Goodman, who believes Bell would be a worthy nominee, doesn’t hold out much hope that teen shows will ever get the respect they deserve.
“You can go back to some of the early WB shows like ‘Buffy’ — and even shows like ‘Felicity’ and ‘Dawson’s Creek’ probably had, at some point, the merit to be recognized — and ‘Gilmore Girls,’ which when it was at its peak should have been nominated. Lauren Graham was robbed, even in the down years. That doesn’t leave me much hope that ‘Veronica Mars’ is going to step up and get noticed this year,” he says.
“The Emmys are kind of like the popular kids, and at this point we’re the outsider,” Bell says. “It would be really nice to be accepted by the popular kids, it would feel really good. But ultimately, you don’t need it.”
It’s like high school, she explains, where popular kids and outsiders have different comfort zones. “Our show is a little more specific — and brilliant in its own right. If we can get a nod for that, I think that would be awesome.”
Curiously, few younger actors have joined the Academy. Roush says their lack of participation gives them no validation to complain.
“They’re not playing the game, and then they wonder, ‘How come nobody’s noticing us?’ ” Roush says.
An influx of younger members would lower the median age of Emmy voters, which wouldn’t hurt youth-oriented shows since Emmy voters, like anyone, tend to watch shows closer to their own demographic.
Age aside, Flynn says, “If you’re an Emmy voter hearing a lot about a show, you should take a look at it whatever your misgivings. There should be some curiosity there if so many people are lauding it.”