Chuck Ross

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Emmy? It’s Not That Hard if the Guilds Have the Resolve to Do It

Sep 25, 2012

Am I the only one who remembers this? In the days before TV and the Emmys, there was radio and the Mega-Hertzies.

I recall sitting on my mom’s lap years ago when FDR spoke into a mike to accept his Mega-Hertzie for the many great speeches he had given on the campaign trail. He had just been elected the first time.

“I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel,” FDR said, continuing, “This is pre-eminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that …”

And then, as I recall, he was suddenly interrupted by orchestra music cutting him off. Later, we heard that he was really pissed. What he was going to say next, evidently, was that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” But none of us heard it because his mike had been cut off.

OK, maybe not. But you get my point.

One of the best reviews I read of this year’s Primetime Emmys show — which aired live on ABC this past Sunday, Sept, 23, 2012 — was by our friend Matt Roush, the estimable TV critic for TV Guide and TVGuide.com.

Roush’s review began, “No matter how hard they try to liven it up, and no matter how many winners they rudely play off the stage … the Emmy Awards remains a stubborn lumbering elephant of a show, the least likely of its type ever to win an Emmy itself, often just lying there — like Tracy Morgan in the Epic Fail of a stunt from which this year’s show never really recovered.”

Like many of us, Roush likes Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted the Emmys this year. But given the number of awards the show has to give out — 26 (!) — and, as Roush notes, the predictability of repeat winners — Kimmel never stood a chance.

I also agree with Roush’s conclusion, “In one of the night’s more audacious spoofs, Kimmel sent up the annual ‘In Memoriam’ segment by staging a mock version dedicated to his own career, while Josh Groban warbled One Direction’s cheese-tastic ‘What Makes You Beautiful.’ … Hosting the Emmys may not be career suicide — the show is too easily and quickly forgotten — but Kimmel’s own clip reel reminded us how much funnier he can be given the chance. Doing the Emmys? He never really had a chance.”

A nip here and a tuck there and the Emmys can be fixed forever.

Commenting on the fact that his show once again won the Emmy for Outstanding Variety Series, Jon Stewart said live, during the ceremony, “When aliens visit they will find a box of these [Emmys with ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ engraved on them] and they will know just how predictable these f—ing things can be.”

So, how can we improve the show? We’ll work from the premise that a show is needed at all — that’s because the monies the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) receives from the Emmycast are essential to the Academy’s annual operating budget, I’ve been told.

Now, some new rules, as Bill Maher would say, for the Primetime Emmys ceremony and telecast.

First, we’re going to hold winners to a threepeat. A threepeat in achievement is quite an accomplishment. So if a person or show has won a Primetime Emmy three years in a row, they are not eligible to be nominated for a fourth year in a row. After sitting out a year they can be nominated again until they accomplish another threepeat.

Now, the first complaint you’re going to make is to say that’s BS. If the idea is to honor the “best” each year, why should one be penalized for being, in the eyes of one’s peers —  voted the "best" three years in a row by not being eligible to be voted "the best" in a following, fourth year?

Well, ATAS has made it clear that it is NOT honoring the “best” anything. The word “best” is not actually connected with any of the Primetime Emmy Awards. What the Emmys honor is “Outstanding” work, such as “Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series,“ or “Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special.”

“Outstanding“ is not “Best,” and making a distinction between the two has been a very conscious decision made by ATAS.

Next, you decide to give out 17 awards each year that will be permanent. Here are those awards:

Outstanding Comedy Series; Outstanding Drama Series; Outstanding Miniseries or Movie; Outstanding Series Featuring Primarily Talk, Commentary or Variety; Outstanding Reality Series; Outstanding Lead Actress, Comedy; Outstanding Lead Actress, Drama; Outstanding Lead Actress, Miniseries or Movie; Outstanding Lead Actor, Comedy; Outstanding Lead Actor, Drama; Outstanding Lead Actor, Miniseries or Movie; Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy; Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama, Outstanding Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie; Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy; Outstanding Supporting Actor, Drama; Outstanding Supporting Actor; Miniseries or Movie.

That’s it. By cutting nine awards out of the show you give it much more breathing room to actually become more entertaining. Yes, I’ve cut all the writing and directing awards from the show. They’ll be joining the Creative Arts edition of the Emmys. And hey, I’m a writer. But what we’ll be putting on air is a show that caters to what most viewers most want to see — the awards for acting and for the outstanding shows in the major categories.

Can this be done? Sure, if the guilds will go along with it. The time has come to make the Emmys a show that a lot more people want to watch.


  1. Agreed. Though I confess, I miss the gag reels that were the Variety Writers nominees lists. Maybe YouTube could handle the overflow? Whatever Reelz was thinking with the “ten pounds of awards in a five-pound bag” show that aired Saturday night, that didn’t work hardly at all.

  2. How about reshooting the opening Botox segment and with all else remaing the same (script, location, etc), swap the genders – Think it would be ok to show it then?
    Why is it okay for guys to get hit on TV by women? Just asking.

  3. I think the show is an hour longer than it needs to be. 🙂

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