One of the biggest head-scratchers about the Will Smith Oscar-night slap fiasco is why the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ powers that be keep hiring new executive producers for the telecast every year. In a misguided hope that they’ll stumble across someone who will actually hit ratings gold, they repeatedly tap big-name movie producers. And the show winds up with producers not skilled in the art of live TV.
I can almost guarantee that the Oscars would have handled the Slap better had a seasoned TV awards show producer been in charge. (Thank goodness for veteran director Glenn Weiss, but he didn’t call the final shots.) And while AMPAS tears up its Oscars playbook every year, ABC has limited say in bringing on an experienced producer who could at least steady the ship.
The Emmys telecast airs on a different network every year in a four-network wheel, but there has been far more stability in its show producers lately. For the past four years, Done + Dusted has had the honors, with Reginald Hudlin also on board for the most recent two. There’s no guarantee D+D or Hudlin will return this year (no decision has been made as of press time), but at least the Television Academy has allowed the same Emmys producers to find their groove for several years. It takes time to figure out the rhythm of producing an awards show, and the Emmys found it.
That’s not to say there aren’t still ways to shake things up, with either host or structure. This year, the Emmys are back on NBC, which usually has the most host options of all the networks because of its strong comedy brand, starting with Lorne Michaels’ late-night powerhouse trio of “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers.”
Fallon and Meyers have already hosted, in 2010 and 2014, respectively, although that doesn’t preclude them from doing it again. In 2018, the last time that NBC aired the Emmys, Michaels joined as a producer and “Saturday Night Live Weekend Update” anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che shared the hosting gig. I suggest going full-blown “SNL” this year: Turn the night into one big show, with the categories integrated into sketches, the return of signature “SNL” characters (in the vein of the program’s 2015 anniversary special) and some musical acts.
But if that won’t work, and Michaels is uninterested in revisiting the Emmys, I have another idea for a twist on the Emmys format. And it’s sitting right there on the NBC primetime lineup: “Law & Order.”
What better way to promote the return of the original-recipe “L&O” to primetime after 12 years than turning the Emmys telecast into an episode? And just like an installment of “Law & Order,” divide it in half: The first 90 minutes features a crime and an investigation, with some of the actual nominees participating. That leads to the case during the next 90 minutes, ending with the big reveal … right after the final awards are handed out.
Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order Emmys.” (You can hear the “DUN DUN” in your head right now, can’t you?) The ceremony could have the “Order” stars — Anthony Anderson, Jeffrey Donovan and Camryn Manheim — host the first half of the telecast, followed by the “Law” stars: Hugh Dancy, Odelya Halevi and Sam Waterston bringing it home. Not only would viewers be glued to see whether “Hacks” takes on “Ted Lasso” or “Squid Game” hits “Succession,” but they’d stick around to the end to see whodunit. I’d say that’s a scripted spectacle befitting TV’s biggest night.
Too wild for you? Another idea I’ve been kicking around may be more doable: Take a page from Comic-Con, D23, Apple and everyone else who has turned to fan events (and even investor meetings) for big reveals and announcements. Make the Emmys the must-see event it should be by having networks, studios and streamers save some goodies that help break the Internet during the show. A new Marvel or Star Wars spinoff. A hot casting on a highly anticipated project. The return of a fan favorite character. A spoiler reveal. Sprinkle those through the ceremony, from each major outlet — which would surely appreciate the exposure. The Emmys, meanwhile, could reclaim its title as TV’s biggest night, the place where you have to go if you want to be in the know.
Or, as Dick Wolf might say, DUN DUN!