You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Writers and Directors Make TV’s ‘Vast Wasteland’ Bloom

Emmy Awards: On today's smallscreen, story -- not the individual storyteller -- is king

In 1963, Emmy nominations for writing and helming went to lawyer and doctor shows; a Western about a crooked poker game; a bittersweet romance; and a stage play starring Trevor Howard as Disraeli. Series and one-offs were lumped together, so there’d be enough to fill the slates.

Those weren’t even among the faves. Double winner “The Defenders” ranked No. 18 on the year, with nominee “Ben Casey” leading its field at No. 7. Only six dramas broke into a top 20 dominated by sitcoms and reality shows.

Fast forward to 2013, and its quantum leap forward in ambition and scope. Quality TV was once seen as the writer’s medium (’63 winner Reginald Rose), and a place for young filmmakers to start out (’63 nominee Sydney Pollack). But today’s marquee helmers embrace longform for its freedom and speed, and the story rather than the individual storyteller is king.

Production values have exploded. Trevor Howard’s jaw would drop at the elegant cavalcade wandering the halls and grounds of “Downton Abbey.” Or the erotically charged Midway of “Boardwalk Empire.” Or the Armageddons of myth and violence in “Game of Thrones.”

Writing, if less personal, has never been smarter or sharper. A post-9/11 America finds its mirror reflection in the emotional pain and moral ambiguities of “Homeland.” Dr. Kildare would fall apart reading the case file of Walter White, cancer survivor and meth king of “Breaking Bad,” while the bluffing at a Laredo poker table was nothing compared with the double-dealing going on back East in “House of Cards.”

Fifty years ago, TV drama was “Bonanza” and “Gunsmoke,” genre stuff grownups sat in front of when there were no hot, intelligent movies around. But the wheel has fully turned. Now the bigscreen caters to kids and action junkies, while drama series offer adults a damn good justification for never leaving the house.

Drama Series Writing and Directing By the Numbers:

23 – Most drama series directing Emmys for a network (NBC)

20 – Most drama series writing Emmys for a network (tie, CBS & NBC)

1985 – First year a woman won a directing Emmy (Karen Arthur, “Cagney & Lacey”)

More TV

  • Bristol, CT - March 13, 2017

    Mina Kimes Helps ESPN Kick Off 'Daily' Podcast

    Mina Kimes is preparing to take ESPN into a new frontier. The sports-media giant has launched a “SportsCenter” for Snapchat and tested baseball telecasts for kids. Now it’s hoping to set up shop in another media venue. Starting tomorrow, the Disney-backed company launches “ESPN Daily,” a weekday morning podcast that aims to tap its vast [...]

  • MIA Wrap

    Rome MIA Market Wraps With Stronger U.S. Presence, Boosts Italy's Industry Standing

    Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries wrapped positively Sunday with organizers boasting a bump in attendance just as some 2,500 executives departed in an upbeat mood after four days of dealmaking and presentations of mostly European fresh product, which elevated Italy’s global standing in the industry, especially within the TV sector. [...]


    Showrunner Stefano Voltaggio on Netflix's 'Zero' About Black Youths in Italy (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix recently announced a new Italian original titled “Zero” that will mark the first Italian series centered around the present-day lives of black Italian youths. “Zero” is based on several books by young writer and TV music show host Antonio Dikele Distefano, who was born in Italy from Angolan parents. The project was originated by [...]

  • Content-is-King

    Top TV Execs Tackle New Distribution Landscape in Rome

    ROME – In an increasingly complex TV market, with a host of new big-ticket streaming services preparing to enter an already crowded arena, both buyers and sellers are rethinking some of the fundamentals of the TV business as they grapple with the best way to reach global audiences. A host of top producers, network executives, [...]

  • MIA-MARKET-2019_Europe-Producers-Club_4

    European Producers and Broadcasters Debate How to Weather Streaming Storm

    ROME – The impending rollout of Disney Plus, HBO Max, and other new streaming services promises a new era of uncertainty—and opportunity—for broadcasters and producers in an industry already disrupted by the likes of Netflix and Amazon. At a panel hosted by the European Producers Club Friday afternoon during the MIA market in Rome, executives [...]

  • Kevin-Beggs

    Lionsgate TV Chairman Kevin Beggs on Streamers and TV’s ‘Platinum Era’

    ROME – Over the course of two decades in the industry, Lionsgate Television chairman Kevin Beggs has witnessed the ups and downs of a business that has frequently found itself confronting both dizzying new possibilities as well as existential threats. But these days the veteran exec, who oversees the development of all scripted and non-scripted content [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content