Done+Dusted partner Guy Carrington was in the production truck last year at the Emmys when director Glenn Weiss, who had just won the Emmy for helming the Oscars, surprised the Microsoft Theater audience by proposing to his girlfriend.
“For me in the truck, it was a horrifying moment,” says Carrington, who told me it added about seven minutes to a show that was already running long. “But at the same time, it was gold. It’s what a show like this needs. You watch the clock tick away … but you know that this is going to be a moment that everyone is going to talk about.”
This year, Done+Dusted and Don Mischer Prods., which are jointly producing the Emmys for Fox on Sept. 22, are hoping for a few more Glenn Weiss-like elements. Without a host to create any watercooler moments, it will be up to the show’s winners to provide a bigger share of the surprises that people will be talking about on social media.
“The moment that can make or break these kinds of shows, that make them memorable, are often things producers have absolutely no control over,” Mischer says. “Are there surprise wins? Are there underdogs that win? Is there someone who’s been nominated dozens of times who hasn’t won and finally wins? These all carry more emotional freight. We don’t have any idea who’s going to win until the envelope is opened, and we have no control over what a winner will say. So if a winner gets up there and makes an eloquent, emotional speech about what this moment means to them, that’s not something we can produce or write.”
Without a host, Mischer and Carrington say there will at least be extra time to let winners create those moments. Getting rid of a full monologue and other host routines will save nearly 20 minutes that can be applied to other elements — including, most importantly, ending the show on time.
“When you go past 11, I don’t care who’s on that stage or what they’re doing, people turn you off,” Mischer says. “That really affects the overall ratings and success of the show. We have to keep that in mind.”
The Emmys’ biggest problem is the sheer number of kudos that need to be televised: 27, more than any other major awards show. The Television Academy previously floated the idea of handing out some of those awards before the ceremony or during commercial breaks (aiming to edit down acceptance speeches and air them tape-delayed during the ceremony), but the various guilds have protested those attempts. “It’s not easy — I’ll be honest,” Mischer says of balancing the network’s and TV Academy’s needs, which are often contradictory.
Without a host, the show is expected to jump immediately into the awards, and rely on the night’s presenters to “do more than a little bit of patter and then throw to a nominations package,” Carrington says. “We had a discussion very early about getting into the awards as quickly as possible. You have a host, and it can be a bit hit or miss. It’s a lot of time before you give out the first award, and the awards are what we’re there for. We’re there to celebrate the content and the people who make it. We made a conscious effort to focus on that.”
The producers have divided the Emmy telecast into five parts, centering on key TV genres: Comedy, drama, limited series, unscripted and variety. “We want the first presenters to come out and talk about the significance of those particular genres of television in the past season,” Mischer says.
Some of the night’s segments will celebrate the large number of landmark shows leaving TV this year — “Game of Thrones,” “Veep,” “The Big Bang Theory” and others. Mischer and Carrington also say they hope they now have a bit of a time cushion to allow the more poignant winners’ speeches to go longer, rather than cutting them off after 45 seconds.
But there’s no guarantee another Glenn Weiss event will happen. That’s where the winners really need to step up their game. Ideally, no one will walk onstage, open up a crinkled piece of paper and recite a litany of thanks to names the audience has never heard of. Yet pleas for winners to make it entertaining often fall on deaf ears. And it almost never fails: As soon as the producers cue the orchestra to start playing off a winner whose boring speech has droned on for too long, he or she will suddenly perk up and offer the deeply emotional reaction that should have been given in the beginning.
“For those of us who do these kinds of programs, we get an adrenaline rush from rolling the dice and knowing we’re going to have to ride this thing out no matter what happens,” Mischer says. “It’s kind of the fun of being in this business. I love live television, and that’s one reason why.”