The television academy has rescinded plans to make this year's Primetime Emmy Awards more interesting.
It all started months ago when the academy, still reeling from the second worst audience ever scored by last September's trophy show, began looking for ways to jazz up the broadcast.
What evolved was a proposal to move all directing and writing derbies, as well as awards for best miniseries, best TV flick and best variety/music/comedy special, off the broadcast ceremony, which is carried each year by one of the major broadcast networks -- this year it's CBS, on Sept. 18.
Winners in those races would instead be announced during the so-called "creative arts" portion of the Primetime Emmy Awards, a ceremony held several days before the broadcast ceremony.
(The creative arts ceremony, during which a lot of tech awards are handed out, as well as the Emmys for guest acting, is telecast in a severely edited form on cable network E!)
Moving the movie and miniseries derbies out of the broadcast night of competition would also have greatly reduced the number of cable wins that night. Cable networks tend to mop up in those races, owing in part to the fact that the broadcast networks are largely out of that business.
This side effect no doubt pleased suits at broadcast networks that air the show, even though, as trade paper Variety noted back in January, it would severely reduce the trophy show's star wattage. That's because big film stars will occasionally condescend to do a flick or miniseries so long as it's on cable, for which they can count on snagging an Emmy nom. Al Pacino, for example, showed up last year and won an Emmy for his performance in HBO's "Angels in America." Ah, well, you can't have everything, reasoned broadcast network suits.
Even so, the planned change knotted enough knickers in Hollywood that the idea was reconsidered and a compromise reached in which the abovementioned categories would remain in the broadcast, but all the nominees would pre-tape acceptance comments.
Winners' comments would then be played as they walked down the aisle and up onstage to pick up their trophies.
The academy announced the change in April, estimating it would cut 20 minutes from the ceremony, which could then be used for production numbers.
Because if there's one sure-fire way to attract millions more viewers to a trophy show, it's a production number.
It seemed good to go. But under that thin veil of calm and solidarity, writers and directors were stewing.
They knew -- because they are, after all, in the business of show business -- that canned thank-yous to agents, managers, publicists, personal trainers and Kabbalah instructors do not resonate in the same way as do live thank-yous to agents, managers, publicists, personal trainers and Kabbalah instructors.
According to recent press reports, some of them finally came out into the open and said -- anonymously, of course, because that's how strong positions are taken in Hollywood -- that they would refuse to prepare their tapes, thus depriving viewers of their moving thank-yous to their agents, managers, publicists, personal trainers and Kabbalah instructors.
Here at the TV Column, we call that kind of fit-throwing "good."
Some, trade paper TV Week reported, even threatened to prepare tapes that mocked the Emmys. Which we like to call "even better."
Still others threatened to boycott the Emmys altogether, TV Week continued. Which is, of course, the "best of all possible worlds."
And yet, inexplicably, it appears to have caused the TV academy's board of governors to vote this week to forget the whole thing.
In a statement, the academy insisted that it was scrapping the plan because when this year's Emmy show executive producer Ken Ehrlich and the academy carefully reviewed the plan, they discovered that "the amount of time being saved was not as much as originally thought."