As Hollywood slowly returns to normal, the TV Academy is prepping for a limited in-person Emmy ceremony in September that could very well live up to the hype as the industry’s biggest night. Not only will attendees have reason to celebrate and reconnect with colleagues and friends after a year and a half of social distance and quarantine, they’ll also be ready to toast an extraordinary year in TV.
Despite the concerns that production shutdowns and delays might limit the scope and size of this year’s race, the 2021 Emmy nominations offered up a depth of premium comedy, drama and limited series nominees (with, of course, the usual surprises and snubs) that could very well be the definition of TV’s new Golden Age. Part of that comes from the growth in streaming services offering up so-called “prestige” fare. Variety spoke to proud TV Academy president/COO Maury McIntyre about this year’s crop of nominees — and he, too, was pleasantly surprised by the mix of contenders.
But Variety also asked McIntyre about Tuesday morning’s burning questions, including the platform tally conundrum. How can HBO and HBO Max, which are cable and streaming services, respectively, be combined in final numbers? What about Disney’s multi-platform count? What does this mean to Netflix’s crowing rights? Does any of this matter?
McIntyre also addressed the decision to bring back Emmy producers Done+Dusted and Reginald Hudlin to produce this year’s show, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer. And he hinted that news about the status of the Creative Arts Emmys and the Governors’ Balls is forthcoming. Read below.
These seem like solid nominations, particularly in the comedy, drama and limited/anthology categories. First off, what’s your takeaway from this year’s contenders?
It’s been a really difficult year and I don’t think the quality of television suffered at all. We’re seeing some amazing work coming out from all of our partners. It was really great to see that this morning. There had been a lot of talk about how the shows that won last year aren’t even eligible this year and others are delayed, what is it going to look like? I agree with you, I think that this crop is just as strong as any other year we’ve had in the past couple years. They are all just phenomenal. The other thing we’re just really happy with is, there’s just such a diversity of storytelling going on in television. It’s so good to see the Emmys reflect that. Honoring the excellence across so many different story types, across so many different talents from directors to writers, above and below the line.
Obviously the growth of new streamers like Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus and HBO Max had an impact on this year’s tally. In your opinion how are the streamers changing the makeup of the Emmys?
It certainly was an evolution we were seeing starting two years ago, with just how even the majors were all rearranging themselves. You now have a distribution guru, and you’ve got your content guru, and you’re not necessarily saying that something over here is being made for any particular channel. The distribution side gets to decide. I think that in some way frees up the content people to just make really great television. And I think you’re seeing that across the diversity of some of the platforms that are new, that have such great shows, including Disney Plus, HBO Max, and the Apple TV Pluses of the world.
I’m sure you’ve already heard from Netflix wondering why the HBO and HBO Max tallies were combined. And Disney can crow that it actually has the most nominations when all of its platforms are counted. It’s getting more tricky for the Academy to parse these tallies out. How did you land on the way this information was presented today?
I was reading your article before we got on. In some ways I think I would prefer the Academy just to step out of the platform, for lack of a better word, “wars” altogether. We don’t ultimately care. We’re here to honor the work. The tallies that really matter to us are, “The Crown” and “The Mandalorian” tied with 24 noms each. “WandaVision” second with 23. Those are the ones that really matter to us because that’s really what we’re focused on. The excellence of those particular shows.
We’ve had a long ongoing discussion with a lot of our partners about how we tally those things. There’s also been a conversation of “why are you only focused on the distribution platform, why don’t you talk about, Warner Bros. studios produces some of these shows and ABC Studios or Fox?” You get down into all of that and our partners can slice and dice it however they want. We can only go off what we have given from a submission perspective. And that’s how we report it out. How was it reported to us in terms of its platform or its network, etc. But, it’s a question for me moving forward as to whether we should be inserting ourselves in that count, or just be able to say, “yes, you want to claim that these are yours, we can say yes, that is what we are seeing, too, go at it.”
Competition is always a good thing in many ways, certainly the Netflix and HBO competition has been going on for a number of years. So I expect we’ll see more of that. But as you said, we’re seeing a lot of other newer, younger platforms trying to compete. And, this is actually the first year that because of all of the changes that have been going on, we grouped some of those platforms under the parent media company — so that you can make the claim, Disney as a platform company has all of these nominations, versus an individual platform. Again, that is for them to make a statement on. Ultimately, we’re really wanting to focus on what are the programs, what’s the excellence in television of this program.
Let’s talk about this year’s Emmy telecast on CBS. Done+Dusted and Reggie Hudlin did a great job last year and got high marks for how they produced the show during the pandemic. How did the Academy land on bringing them back this year?
We were thrilled working with that team last year. Done+Dusted has been on the show for a couple of years and they always do come with new cool ideas. Of course, last year, everything was new. Adding Reggie to the team was just a whole new different perspective, which is really fantastic. When we were talking about it this year with CBS, we looked at a whole number of production companies but I think that we were just so excited with what Done+Dusted had done last year with Reggie, that it seemed like, let’s try that again, I think the big challenge, of course, is, we don’t want to do what we did last year. Yes, that was a highly innovative show in a very difficult environment. But now what are we going to do this year? So a bit of our focus is on, how do we keep some of the elements that worked really well last year, and how do we innovate new ones in whatever environment we’re going to be in this year? That’s been a little bit of a focus. I hate to say it’s early days when we’re actually kind of late, in terms of production, but there’s a lot of conversations going on, and we’re really excited about the direction they’re headed.
The Emmys will return to a limited audience with with nominees and their guests. How is that going to work?
We’re still kind of figuring that out. We all were wanting to make sure that we were able to actually get together and celebrate, if we possibly could. I think though that we did want to be slightly cautious in that. There’s a difference between having, let’s say, 500 nominees plus guests, and then another 5,000 people in that auditorium. And I think that was where we were all a little hesitant. That was sort of our compromise amongst ourselves. Let’s bring in the people who really deserve the recognition: the nominees themselves with their guests. And let’s figure out how are we going to present a show that way. And so that’s where we are right now. I’m sure we’ll have more details to come over the next couple of weeks, but other than that and the Creative Arts show as well, that we’re still figuring out.
That was another question, do you think you’ll go back to in-person for Creative Arts or will it be virtual again this year?
We’re going to have hopefully some news on that within the next week. But clearly, I feel if we can do it we’re going to want to at least pull some people together. Again, we’re in a position where if you can do it for the telecast we should be able to do it for the Creative Arts.
I was also hearing that the Governors’ Ball might be canceled again this year. But then I heard maybe there’s going to be an alternate event. What is the status of the Primetime and Creative Arts Governors’ Balls?
Again, I think all of that information will be coming probably in the next week or so. It’s one of those things that we’re trying to make sure that we are delivering a really great celebration for our nominees this year. And so when we announce it we’ll be announcing kind of all of that stuff together. But we absolutely want to make sure that we’ll be able to celebrate with the nominees in person … I think we’re a little bit in a wait and see. I think everyone’s really excited about the possibilities of actually being together and that was the vaccines are here. I think we’re all a little cautious because of things like the Delta barrier.
One more question. Representation is important, and it was a good year in terms of the inclusion of Black performers. I know that there’s a concern with finding ways to recognize more Latino and Asian American performers. What might be done next?
We are happy with the direction we’re going. Of course, clearly we have still many steps to go in that journey. The representation that we’re seeing in terms of the nominations does seem to be representative of what’s going on in terms of storytelling in the industry. And we’re actually really excited to see this year more Latinx representation in some of the shows that I’m seeing being developed, etc. So I’m hoping that will help drive some of those numbers. It was really good to see however, we do have Latinx representation in lead categories. It’s not like the representation we have for Latinx is only guest or whatever. We actually have strong representation in lead and supporting categories this year, which is unlike previous years.
There is some representation of Asian Americans, but there’s no representation of Native Americans. We need to see that representation and storytelling. “Rutherford Falls” is a great example of a new sitcom which actually pushes that representation, which allows in submissions for those kinds of performers. But without it, you’re not going to necessarily see it on our end. So, as much as we can, we’re going to keep advocating for that diversity of storytelling. Keep telling authentic stories and keep supporting new diverse storytellers so that we get some of that representation and we can honor that representation.
(Photo: Maury McIntyre speaks at the 71st Emmy Awards nominations announcement at the Television Academy’s Wolf Theatre in North Hollywood on Tuesday, July 16, 2019.)