Emmy voters mired by favoritism
Ceremony rewards same shows and people
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 02:09
The 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards were announced this past Sunday, giving the public a telling picture of how the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences views the state of pop culture and mass media. The Primetime Emmys are considered by most as the gold standard for television awards. They set the trend for what is considered good television and what is not, and they provide a benchmark against which every show can judge its own artistic merit.
The Primetime Emmys tend to be a conservative organization. Their picks for the most outstanding programs are usually more standard shows that don’t push the boundaries of television. They also tend to reward the same programs and people year after year, even if the quality has gone down.
Since becoming an official category in 2003, the award for outstanding reality competition program has been won by “The Amazing Race” nine out of 10 years. Shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “The Voice” have had much higher ratings than “The Amazing Race,” while shows like “Survivor” and “American Idol” made much larger cultural impacts in their prime. Still, none of those shows have ever won the top prize for reality programs. It is surprising that the Emmys are so stuck on rewarding this one program, but its consistent victory speaks volumes about the Academy’s tendency to choose a show and then dote on that show year after year.
“I think its ironic that ‘The Amazing Race’ has won all these awards over ‘Survivor,’ because it lacks the interpersonal conflict that ‘Survivor’ has,” senior, Tufts Community Union President and “Survivor” megafan Wyatt Cadley said. “‘Survivor’ was Mark Burnett’s first and best show, yet ‘Amazing Race’ wins all these awards. Even people who don’t watch ‘Survivor’ are familiar with the show. I don’t think someone could say that about ‘The Amazing Race,’ though.”
A similar trend appears in the Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series category. This division is large enough to encompass a variety of shows and yet “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” has won the category every single year since 2003. These are 10 years when the Emmys didn’t reward other important variety, music or comedy programs including Conan O’Brien’s major television comeback, the groundbreaking “The Chapelle Show” (2003-2006), “Saturday Night Live’s” political humor before the 2008 presidential election and many other worthy shows. Not even “The Daily Show’s” spin-off, “The Colbert Report,” has won the big prize, despite having many of the same writers and covering much of the same territory as its parent show. It’s as if the academy has gotten in such a habit of voting for “The Daily Show” that they have completely shut themselves off from rewarding other equally, if not more, deserving programs. This favoritism certainly isn’t lost on fans of “The Daily Show’s” competitors, either.
“All of SNL’s digital shorts are just hilarious. They are some of the funniest things I’ve ever seen on TV,” senior Ariel Ortiz said. “Also, all of SNL’s political stuff is so important and spot on. It’s amazing. They definitely deserved to win at least once in these past few years. Especially since the quality of ‘The Daily Show’ has really gone way downhill since the 2008 election was over. They really haven’t had as much to talk about since then.”
The Emmy’s category for Outstanding Television Miniseries falls into much of the same trap. This category, which in 2011 merged with the television movie category, has been won by either an HBO or PBS program eight out of the last nine years running. Before the categories combined, HBO won nine out of the last 10 Outstanding Made for Television Movie awards, including the last seven in a row.
HBO’s dominance in the category might seem logical given that HBO tends to have more money to spend on its programs and has fewer restrictions on its material because it is a subscription station. Still, it is strange that no other cable or broadcast station has won as much as HBO, especially given its production of highly acclaimed and revolutionary television movies like ABC’s “A Raisin in the Sun” (2008).
Furthermore, HBO programs don’t just dominate the outstanding miniseries and television movie award — they dominate the entire category. The program that wins the top prizes usually takes the outstanding directing, writing and/or acting awards as well. This year saw HBO’s “Game Change” (2012) take the top prize, as well as the writing, direction and lead actress awards, despite exceptionally strong competition from “Sherlock” and “American Horror Story.” Junior and avid television-watcher Audrey Abelleira is one of many fans displeased by this outcome.
“I’m surprised ‘American Horror Story’ didn’t win. My friends and I all loved the show,” she said. “There haven’t been many great horror TV shows like this before. Plus ‘Game Change’ was pretty boring. The movie just recreated a bunch of scenes and interviews that people already saw and heard about when the 2008 campaign was going on. It really didn’t deserve to win all those Emmys.”