×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmys: Oscars Hearing Footsteps?

With television rising in esteem within the industry, Emmy might cease to play second fiddle

Emmy nomination day this year was like an instant snapshot of the breadth and excitement of today’s television landscape, not to mention — for the recognized actors — a reminder that TV might be where the best roles are these days.

Emmy nominee Laura Dern (“Enlightened”) estimates that of her generation of movie actors — those she’s worked with, or whose work she’s loved — “80%” are doing series right now or about to.

“Our finest actors, those who long for complicated characters and lead protagonists with blurred lines, where once those existed in independent film and Hal Ashby movies, they’re in cable series now,” Dern says.

But when it comes to rewarding that work, the Emmys themselves are still seen as something of a second cousin to the Oscars in terms of historical oomph, hype, viewership, and perceived worth. Could that status gap ever be bridged?

One indicator could be the atmosphere at the Golden Globes, where the awards-season worlds of movies and television meet. Dern, a winner in January for her work on “Enlightened,” says the vibe that night in the Beverly Hilton is remarkably different than years past.

“It’s not like, ‘Let’s get through the TV awards so they can talk about movies.’ There’s equal investment,” she says. “There should be no difference between the two, and that’s a night where you really feel how it’s all just the creative work that we’re getting to celebrate in different formats.”

Of course, the irony has always existed that if you translated viewership for a single episode of a niche, award-winning series like “Breaking Bad” into box office dollars, it’d be like releasing a hit dramatic feature every week. That makes Oscar’s cachet vs. Emmy’s like the difference between something fleeting and something concrete, says New York television critic and rogerebert.com editor-in-chief Matt Zoller Seitz.

“Movies are a date, at best a love affair, and television is a relationship,” says Seitz, and the awards competitions themselves reflect that. “Most people don’t see the movies that have been nominated. (The Oscars are) interesting and exciting and glamorous for reasons that have nothing to do with the movies themselves, whereas the Emmys are actually about the shows. The status gap may never be bridged, but the Emmys should be grateful that it can’t be. It’s a different kind of deal.”

First-time Emmy nominee Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”) has always given the Emmys extra points for recognizing comedy.

“I’ve always had a problem with the Oscars, who dismiss comedy, then would hire a comedian to host the show,” says Daniels. “Last time I looked, the Greeks were holding up two masks.”

As far as leveling the playing field between the two, however, Daniels says the biggest changes he’s noticed have been in how de-mystified stardom has become in the living room.

“Back in the day, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Brando, De Niro, up until the ’70s, nobody did Carson,” he notes. “You were larger than life. Since then, we’ve all had to promote. Thirty years ago, I had to go to a movie theater to see a movie. Now it’s video on demand. Why is that different from any show on television? It all ends up on your television anyway, and good acting is good acting, wherever it is.”

FX president John Landgraf remembers the coup in landing Glenn Close for “The Shield” in 2005. It wasn’t the case of an acclaimed movie star slumming on “at that time a relatively dinky cable channel,” he says, but an actress responding to an ambitious, exciting role.

Close eventually was Emmy-nominated for “The Shield,” which proved meaningful enough of an experience that she told the network she’d consider any project they developed for her. The result: “Damages,” and two Emmy wins.

Landgraf sees the same trajectory in Oscar-winning actress Jessica Lange’s Emmy-winning turn on “American Horror Story” that he saw in Close: the open-ended nature of television acting becomes liberating.

“It reconnects the actor with some of the spontaneity and risktaking and improvisation they had in the earlier part of their career as an artist, which went away as they became more technically accomplished, and as they had larger burdens placed on their shoulders in the film business,” says Landgraf. “I take nothing away from film, I am a huge film fan, but I do think any actor entering the craft today is probably going to tell you they want to do both.”

The Emmy might need a bit more time to catch up with Oscar’s global resonance and storied history, but Dern says look to where artists want to take chances. Lately, the excitement is more about a “Breaking Bad” than what’s at the multiplex.

“An award for television is absolutely becoming equal to an award for film,” she says. “Wherever the artists are experimenting will be the most important place to celebrate for people who try to do it and love it, for sure. That’s where it’s becoming equal.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Billy Porter ABC Disney FX Party

    Emmys 2019: Inside the Post-Show Parties

    After the final awards were presented at the 71st Emmys, televisions biggest stars and execs headed off for final toasts to this year’s festivities. Things kicked off at the Governors Ball but didn’t end until the wee hours at parties throughout Los Angeles. Here, Variety gives you the inside details on all the hottest after-parties… [...]

  • Batwoman CW

    'Batwoman': CW Drama Tops New Fall Shows in Two TV Awareness Studies (EXCLUSIVE)

    If awareness of a new show were directly correlated to viewership, then The CW”s “Batwoman” would be the biggest hit of the new fall TV season. According to two new studies, both exclusively obtained by Variety, “Batwoman” leads this fall’s crop of freshman broadcast series in terms of both viewers “aware” of a show, and [...]

  • Andre Previn Dead

    Emmys' In Memoriam Shows Photo of Living Composer Instead of Andre Previn

    Any “In Memoriam” segment on an awards show results in immediate viewer furor over which recently deceased figures got left out. In the case of Sunday’s Emmy Awards, it was more about who got included: the very much still-with-us composer Leonard Slatkin — or at least his photographic representation, as he was misidentified as Andre [...]

  • Supernatural -- "The Rising Son" --

    'Walker, Texas Ranger' Reboot Starring Jared Padalecki in Development

    “Supernatural” star Jared Padalecki could soon be starring in a reboot of “Walker, Texas Ranger,” Variety has confirmed. CBS Television Studios is currently developing a new version of the classic Chuck Norris-led series with Padalecki in the title role. No network is currently attached. The series would focus on Walker as he returns from years undercover. [...]

  • This is Us

    What to Watch on TV This Week: 'The Politician,' 'This Is Us' Season 4 Premiere

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, Ryan Murphy’s “The Politician” drops on Netflix, and “This Is Us” season 4 [...]

  • UMC-Marriage-Boot-Camp-Hip-Hop-Edition-WE-tv

    WE tv, UMC Reteam on Bonus Content for 'Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition' Season 2

    AMC Networks is touting the benefits of cross-pollinating content and promos across its TV and streaming properties. In the latest bit of synergy, the programmer’s WE tv announced the continuation of its partnership with sister company UMC (Urban Movie Channel) to produce a second season of “confessional” episodes for WE tv reality series “Marriage Boot [...]

  • BLUFF CITY LAW -- "Pilot" Episode

    TV Review: 'Bluff City Law'

    As a legal procedural emanating from outside the imaginings of Dick Wolf, “Bluff City Law” at least represents something novel for NBC. But its understanding of the workings of the legal profession is frustratingly limited in a familiar way — not merely because it falls so nearly into timeworn cliché but also because it seems [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content