On the day after the Emmy Awards, network consultant Ray Solley of The Solley Group hosted his second annual roundtable gathering of experts to critique the show and offer predictions about how this year’s winners will affect the industry.
Along with moderator Mr. Solley, the panel included Meryl Marshall-Daniels, president of Two Oceans Entertainment Group production company and the former chair and CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences; Karen Miller, founding member of Reality 24-7 and former VP of programming at Spelling Entertainment Group; and Craig Grella, a manager with The Shuman Co., an entertainment management firm.
Mr. Solley: What was your opinion of the show?
Ms. Marshall-Daniels: I was in the room last night. You could feel the excitement. The `Arrested Development’ staff was seated right next to me, and the energy was unbelievable. [But] I was saddened by the amount of music that had to be used [to play off winners], because I think it was just really troublesome.
Ms. Miller: The evening is about excellence and I think that really came through loud and clear. There were some concerns about last year’s show, if you recall. There were nine hosts; it didn’t have the sense of grandness that this one had. This was a really big show. I think it came off much more like the Oscars than previous Emmys have.
Mr. Solley: What was something that surprised you?
Ms. Marshall-Daniels: For the Emmys to break through a first-year comedy [`Arrested Development’]. It’s not something that happens easily. And you had sentimental favorites-certainly with `Frasier’ or `Sex and the City,’ I think both of those had really strong seasons coming in.
Mr. Solley: What’s the win going to mean for `Arrested Development’?
Mr. Grella: There has been a lot of critical acclaim for the show since the very beginning. I think this sort of validates all that. Fox was very quick to cancel `Andy Richter [Controls the Universe],’ which sort of had the same type of accolades. … The Emmy might make them consider a show like that a little bit longer. … Ultimately, if the show is not getting the ratings, it’s not going to be around for very long-whether it has 100 Emmys or it has two.
Ms. Marshall-Daniels: Last year at the Peabodys we gave an award to `Boomtown’ and the show’s producers really credited that with keeping it alive. Then it died. So there’s no assurance that the show will survive and make it through as a result, but it sure gives it additional life.
Mr. Solley: This year there was a change in the voting process where you could nominate 10 shows instead of five. Can you draw a link between that change and the `Arrested Development’ win?
Ms. Miller: I would. Because people do have their favorites that they’ve been watching all year long, and it gives them that extra opportunity to again respect excellence.
Mr. Solley: `The Daily Show’ won again last night. That was one show we sat around this table last year and predicted their award was going to have a big impact. Was there a show or a person last night that you might think will enjoy a similar kind of spotlight effect?
Ms. Marshall-Daniels: [James] Spader. I think there are a lot of people who have abandoned `The Practice,’ who haven’t been back, who liked Spader, but didn’t know him in this role until they saw him accept this award.
Mr. Grella: I see people like Mary-Louise Parker really getting a good bump off her supporting actress award. Back when she was involved with `Proof’ on Broadway, it was a play that won Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize and she didn’t even get a phone call to be the person to come in and read for the movie role. I think now being involved with something that again is a Tony Award-winning play, a Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of material, and now getting the Emmy for the TV version of it, I think it will bring her some of the recognition that is probably long overdue.
Mr. Solley: My prediction is [`Arrested Development’ showrunner] Mitch Hurwitz becomes-in a year or so-a slightly more household name. Like a David E. Kelley-Steven Bochco kind of a showrunner that have become much more foreground on their own shows and in the consumer press. He’s a TV personality who’s in charge and somebody who can play the creative community room at the same time.
Mr. Solley: There was a reality theme running through the entire show. What’s interesting about that is the Emmys only have two major reality categories, both were created last year and one isn’t even awarded in the prime-time ceremony. Isn’t it kind of odd to chase that reality popularity despite the fact that it has little to do with the content of the show?
Ms. Miller: I thing the schizophrenia you’ve noticed is exactly right, which is there’s a desire to be popular, there’s a desire to be in sync with the audience. And the awards are struggling with how that will be done.
Mr. Solley: In a couple of years, don’t you think there’s going to be a push for more categories? Best Reality Host? Reality Editor? Reality Story Editor?
Ms. Miller: That push is happening. This struggle, though, is a different struggle than you think. It’s really the struggle between documentary and reality. There have always been a number of categories in documentary. If you’re going to split these into more specific competitions, you’re now going to add another 10 categories, new categories that are going to be added.
Mr. Grella: I wouldn’t mind seeing more awards and more recognition for those people. Representing people who work on those shows, I’m impressed by how they’re able to do shows like `Amazing Race.’ There are these huge shows [that] have skeleton crews. They’re doing a lot of work for the very little money they get, and the very little credit they get, and they are largely responsible for the success of the shows.
Ms. Miller: There are categories that they are able to compete in. It’s just that it’s a mix of different kinds of programming.
Mr. Solley: Did it feel as though reality was getting a decent shake last night? Or was it getting a stereotypical shake?
Ms. Miller: I thought it was stereotypical. I thought it was one of the most predictable parts in the show. The only unpredictable part in it was having two complete strangers show up on stage, and I thought that was brilliant.
Ms. Marshall-Daniels: You have an enormous number of people in the room who make their living off of scripted programming and value it greatly. The actors and all of them are finding fewer and fewer time slots. That dilemma was dropped front and center and-you’re right-salvaged by a generous, lovely moment in the room with “real people.” Which, oddly enough, I think is important because how else do you bring this prejudiced audience this [reality] experience?
Mr. Solley: The irony was that the reality sketches seemed scripted. Every joke about reality TV was written three weeks ahead of time.
Mr. Solley: Sixty percent of the awards last night went to HBO. Is this the end of an era?
Ms. Marshall-Daniels: Next year will be interesting. `Sopranos,’ `Sex and the City’ and `Angels in America’ [were] the three pieces that had a lot of audience excitement and loyalty and creative juices behind them. I think up until now HBO was actually disappointed that they would get lots of nominations and not so many wins. At last they turned into wins, but they’re juggernauts.
Ms. Miller: I think there’s something else interesting that happens when you have HBO winning these awards. … When you’re talking about putting on an Emmy Award show you want to have familiarity. I would say that probably a very large percentage of the viewing audience for the Emmys this year had never seen many of the shows that won.
Mr. Solley: So the Emmys could be placed in a situation where the issue becomes: The critics love it, the audience doesn’t watch it.
Ms. Marshall-Daniels: Right, a People’s Choice Award may resonate a little bit more.
Mr. Solley: Was anyone surprised by the retrospective on the sitcoms? All this press about the sitcom dying, and here it is, they presented them like a memorial?
aniels: When you say it now, absolutely. But I believe comedy is percolating in other places, it’s just not succeeding on the networks right now. I mean, Comedy Central is finding different ways to attack comedy and do half-hours, and `Arrested Development’ and `Scrubs’ are not to be slighted.
Mr. Solley: Looking back on the year 2003-2004, is there a show or a personality or an item that you would say in five years sort of encapsulated what this past season was about?
Ms. Marshall-Daniels: `The Daily Show’ … because it became the acknowledged news source for the young 18 to 24 age group.
Ms. Miller: I think it was in many ways a disappointing year. Nothing that really broke in as being so distinctive and so unusual to me. Is it terrible that I can look back and say … my only answer is Donald Trump?