The 2002-03 season is over, as are May sweeps. One of the most successful upfront selling seasons in history is now on the books. The summer offers some promising TV programming, as does the coming fall season. After all the wheeling and dealing, stunting and scheduling, it is an opportune time to reflect not just on who is making money but on the best programs the medium offers. This is the week that the initial Emmy ballots go into the mail.
Those who like to say there is nothing to watch on TV aren’t really watching. It may not always be on at a convenient moment (unless you have TiVo or remember to set the VCR), but the fact is there is a cornucopia of interesting, intriguing, involving shows for selective viewers on both broadcast and cable. That fact was brought home last weekend when Elephant, a poetic drama produced by HBO and directed by Gus Van Sant, which was inspired by the horror at Columbine High School, won two awards at the Cannes Film Festival, including the top honor, the Palme d’Or (along with the directing prize).
That a movie produced by a pay-TV company can win the top prize at the world’s most prestigious film festival isn’t a surprise. As at Sundance, Telluride and other film festivals, many of the most provocative and interesting projects exist only because of financing from a TV-based entity.
The place for the industry to honor its best is through the Emmys. That is a responsibility we hope the academy voters will take seriously. The awards’ luster has been dulled over the years by predictability, reflected in the nomination of the same shows and performers year after year. That situation has improved in recent years since the academy, in a move designed to ensure that the voters actually see the shows they are voting on, implemented a system making it easier to screen the contenders at home. The voting is broader now, and new shows and performers are breaking through more often. It’s a good start.
But it’s important for the industry to maintain that momentum. It begins with each academy member’s voting as part of the group and as part of the peer group. It also means members must vote responsibly, including watching the material and keeping politics out of it. The Emmys aren’t about corporate affiliations. Block voting for your employer does nothing to ensure high quality. The Emmys are about honoring the television community as a whole. It benefits all of us for the television industry’s highest-profile event to reflect the highest possible standards, showcasing the most deserving shows and artists.
We know the voters are busy people. We hope they will take the time to be part of this important process. We hope they will take their responsibility seriously. In fact, we hope it will be a pleasure helping to ensure the integrity of the industry’s annual showcase.
Emmy voters can serve television best by helping to see to it that the Emmys honor what is best in television. And despite the naysayers and critics, the fact is there is a lot to celebrate.