This year's Emmys were among the lowest-rated in history, and ever since Sunday night, industry types have been trying to figure out what went wrong. Was it the five reality hosts? The low-rated nature of many of the winners and nominees? The fact that fewer people are watching live TV at all these days?
Obviously, it's too late to save this year's broadcast — but I'm looking toward the future. From what I saw, both behind the scenes and on TV, I think the Emmys can still be salvaged. Here are the top five ways I'd do it:
No. 5: Give out more awards. I'm not saying to make the show longer. Believe me, I would never say that. But there are approximately a gazillion Emmy categories, and most of them don't even make the TV broadcast. Why not stage the Outstanding Choreography routines live? Or do some sort of costume gallery like the Oscars broadcast often does? And the guest stars — such a big part of so many shows — should absolutely get their awards on the big night. There are some cool things that most of us never get to see, and putting them in the show would cut down on all that filler.
No. 4: Pay tribute to TV the right way. I really enjoyed the classic TV lines montage that opened this year's Emmys, and seeing the famous sets like Seinfeld's diner recreated on the Nokia Theatre stage was pretty cool. But the Laugh-In montage was a bust, and all the reality TV blather just highlighted what annoys so many of us about TV these days. When I'm watching a celebration of the best of television, I shouldn't leave feeling embarrassed for the medium.
To see my top three, just
No. 3: Let the winners speak . . . Honestly. It's a three-hour show. There are maybe two dozen awards. We wouldn't miss much if we cut a few "comedy" bits in exchange for hearing more from the winners whom the Emmys are supposedly honoring. When you're turning up the music on Tom Hanks — probably the biggest star at the Emmys — and cutting some speeches entirely, you're doing something wrong. Sure, winners shouldn't get to talk forever, but a full 30 or 45 seconds before the music kicks in wouldn't be so bad, right?
No. 2: . . . and don't censor what they have to say. If the producers wouldn't normally bleep a word or cut away from a speech because of FCC indecency regulations, they shouldn't do it on Emmy night. It's awkward and uncomfortable for everyone.
No. 1: Ditch the host. Just do it. Go cold turkey. I don't care if they've already lined up Ellen, Ricky Gervais, or even the ghost of George Carlin himself — skip the host altogether next time. The Golden Globes do it, and (with the exception of last year's strike-induced fiasco) that's one of the more delightful awards shows around. Plus, as Gervais showed this year — and as I'm sure Kristin Chenoweth and Neil Patrick Harris would have, given the chance — the nominees and presenters are plenty funny all on their own. Just let them run the show.