Last week, this year’s Emmy Award nominees were announced with AMCâ€™s drama, Mad Men, coming away with more nominations than any other show. What a pleasant surprise, since AMC is a little-watched network — and also because the first season of Mad Men was one of the most remarkable shows on television, not only for 2007, but in the past decade. Whether the series is able to sustain its quality will be answered in the coming months when its second season begins (the season 2 premiere is next Sunday, 7/27). Still, I shouldnâ€™t be all that surprised that Mad Men and FXâ€™s Damages both received a fare share of nominations. This isnâ€™t a knock against either show (I also thoroughly enjoyed Damages), but both were created by people who worked on perennial Emmy darling The Sopranos. The Emmys have always had a tendency to throw their hats with their favorite sons and daughters — how the hell else can you explain Boston Legal and Monk getting nominated yet again? Boston Legal is well written, true, but is it better than Friday Night Lights? Hardly. And Monk barely has the laughs of My Boys or How I Met Your Mother. Yet it seems that every year Tony Shaloub, William Shatner and James Spader are nominated, along with their shows.
The truth is there is too much television to watch (as the 1,000 Emmy award categories indicate). I wager to say that you could find at least one show on any of the hundreds of channels available to keep your interest for an hour once a week. But the nominating committees arenâ€™t responsible for watching every episode of a series to make their final call — that would be next to impossible. Instead, these judges see a couple of select episodes that highlight a particular writer or certain actors. Thus, the Best Series award isnâ€™t really about how a show progressed (or went downhill) over the course of a season, or how well an actor made his character three-dimensional through 13 or 22 episodes. Is that fair? I say no. I say that if a show is going to be nominated for best series, the committee should be required to watch every single one. Itâ€™s sad that judges arenâ€™t even willing to spend a short time in the hardcore world of The Wire or the naturalistic Texan life in Friday Night Lights, as evidenced by the lack of nominations for both exemplary programs.
In the end, Iâ€™m not sure if the Emmy awards mean much to anyone outside of the immediate television industry. The awards ceremony isnâ€™t even broadcast live in Los Angeles, where all the networks reside. Unlike the Oscars, Tony Awards and Grammys, an Emmy win doesnâ€™t necessarily boost the popularity of a winning series — just ask the producers of Arrested Development. I think the disinterest in the Emmys by the general public has to do with the disposable attitude toward television. We slap down hard-earned cash for a movie, play or CD, but TV is seemingly free. Yes, we pay $100 a month for cable or satellite, but with over 200 channels, if we donâ€™t see something we like, all we have to do is switch the channel. We donâ€™t feel obligated to sit through a television show like we would a movie or play, thatâ€™s for sure. Television will always be an intimate relationship between viewer and the box. And even though us critic types try to tell you whatâ€™s good, who the hell are we to decide what you like or not? Hell, I really liked Cavemen and every critic I know crucified the show before it even aired (speaking of Emmy oversights, even though the show was a failure, I challenge anyone to show more intimate and well-done prosthetic makeup on a television series this year). It takes a great deal of trust for someone to listen to the recommendations of a TV know-it-all. Iâ€™ve only been at this job seven months; I donâ€™t even know how many folks read this column, so I donâ€™t expect everyone to listen.
This all makes the Emmy Awards a disappointment almost every year. If the public could give a shit about awards for TV, why the constant handouts to shows that are a) past their prime or b) inferior to other shows? I donâ€™t have an answer for that, except that maybe TV people are just like TV viewers: They have their own opinions and donâ€™t give a shit what critics think. I must admit that this yearâ€™s nominees, while somewhat predictable, were a more solid selection than those of years past. Hopefully next year theyâ€™ll get them all right. I guess Iâ€™ll have to tune in to see.