The only thing to do after the prime-time Emmys are over (quick, before everyone conveniently forgets who won what) is to gripe about the shut-outs and snubs.
Exasperated “True Detective” fans are unsatisfied with Monday’s night’s “Breaking Bad” sweep — even if we can all agree that “Breaking Bad” remains the best TV show in a decade and deserves this last, long victory lap. The McConaughey fans can take a number behind the “Game of Thrones” folks. The “House of Cards” fans can stew in their own weird juices. My fellow “Americans” fans and the Tatiana Maslany crowd have been standing here in the complaints queue for months — and not quietly, either.
Such grousing usually comes with a cry for some sort of Emmy reform. I usually zone out of that conversation (because why bother), but something about all the wisecracks Emmy host Seth Meyers made in his opening monologue about networks and cable and streaming (and genres and platforms and delivery systems and ratings and all of that skittish laughter that accompanies doomsday talk about television’s future) convinced me that the time for some significant change to the Emmy categories has arrived.
As I wrote in my review for Tuesday’s paper, it doesn’t feel like we’ll ever get on with fully enjoying good television so long as we’re hung up on mutual worries about the business of distributing television. Somehow, even though most of us are not network executives, this has become everybody’s problem. I expect people who work in the industry to obsess on those issues, but their obsession has become viewers’ obsession too — and more than just about the size of our monthly cable and satellite bills. We’re consumers. We just want to watch the stuff. Some of us — quite a few of us, in fact — are willing to pay for it, too.
This renaissance of format and platform has now merged with the renaissance in content. We need a new kind of awards show for the (so-called) TV we’re watching now. I would be more interested in the results of the Primetime Emmy Awards if …
- The top two scripted-show categories were no longer split by comedy or drama and instead split by “new” and “continuing.” How about Outstanding New Series and Outstanding Continuing Series? Up to six (seven? Eight? Ten?) nominees in each category. “But comedies would never win!” you say, citing Oscar’s aversion to comedy films as proof. True, but I think the bigger letdown is that the Emmys tend to nominate and award the same shows over and over. That’s the problem the Oscar’s never have to deal with (nor do the Grammies, the Pulitzers or anything else). Only TV has these ongoing works of art that premiere and evolve from season to season and, by their very excellence, create gridlock for the massive amount of new content we refer to as “television.”
- Someone solves the miniseries/not-a-miniseries debate. Is it or isn’t it? Shouldn’t someone besides the network that made the show decide? HBO says “True Detective” is a drama because they’re bringing it back for another season (but, in the same year, decided to enter the final, shortened season of “Treme” as a miniseries). FX’s “Fargo” won outstanding miniseries Monday night, but will be back for a second season in 2015, which makes it more like the network’s successful “American Horror Story” anthology which is on its fourth season and sure looks like a series to me, even if the settings and storylines change each year. My suggestion says “whatever” to all that: In your first season, whether you make a few episodes or a full 22 and whether they’re funny or dreary, you are eligible for Outstanding New Series. If you bring it back, you’re a Continuing Series.
- Someone steps in and writes new definitions of “comedy” and “drama.” Keep the acting categories separate for comedy and drama, but only if we can arrive at something that makes sense. For example, “Nurse Jackie’s” Jackie, as played by Edie Falco: I love you and I hope you get your act together after this last relapse and meltdown, but darling, what you are going through is not funny. (What Selina Meyer, the veep of “Veep” goes through isn’t always funny either, but there is never a doubt that we are watching satire; that it’s nearly always going for laughs.) The only reason Falco and “Nurse Jackie” are defined as “comedy” now is because that show is a half-hour long and features some dead-pans with its bed-pans. That’s an old way of looking at TV. Same goes for “Girls’s” Hannah Horvath and “Louie’s” Louie. There’s a hurt and a struggle and a darkness in the humor that cannot be ignored. The longer the Emmys pretend that the definitions of comedy and drama haven’t changed, or that a show that premiered in 2009 is still the most-relevant and interesting thing on, the weirder it will seem as content keeps heading in a thousand different directions. It’s like pretending that nothing’s changed about the devices and delivery systems that bring these shows to us, wherever and however we want.