Colatriano: Emmys trends show change in TV

Chelsea Colatriano

Chelsea ColatrianoThe Primetime Emmy Awards aired Sept. 22, and let me begin by saying that my Emmy ballot was completely off. Like, so horribly wrong that I should be embarrassed to be writing this article right now. That wrong.

However, when I make my Emmy predictions I always choose who I want to win and who I think is going to win.  The “who I want to win” list was more on par than the “who I think is going to win” one, so I guess that says a lot about my taste, right?

Let’s start from the top.

If you haven’t watched and haven’t looked up the winners, let’s start with the basics. “Breaking Bad” won the outstanding drama award and “Modern Family” took home an award for outstanding comedy.

End of discussion. No surprises there. That’s where my Emmy predictions went right.

Online content was very visible at the awards. This is the first year online content was honored in categories originally reserved for broadcast TV. Netflix shows such as “Arrested Development” and “House of Cards” were given numerous awards at the Creative Arts Emmys.

“The Academy created four new interactive media award categories this year to reflect the big changes in online content, but the fact that “House of Cards” broke through into the Primetime Emmys is a huge game changer,” Kristine Weatherston, assistant professor in the media studies and production department said.

The Primetime Emmys telecast airs 26 categories during the show. However, there are 77 more categories in which awards are awarded during the Creative Arts awards that aren’t even broadcast.

The interactive media award categories are not touched on in the Primetime Emmys broadcast, but the fact that Netflix-produced shows are being honored in categories that include shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men” is incredible. It illustrates just how influential online content has become.

“For online content to qualify for a major award, it has to embody the same level of quality, or better, in script, acting and production values as any of this year’s nominees,” Paul Gluck, an associated professor in the media studies and production department and general manager of TUTV, said.

As much as “online content” seems to be a buzzword, Emmy voters still seem to be skeptical about honoring these innovations with awards. Netflix content was honored with 14 nominations but only received one award – Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series: David Fincher for “House of Cards” – during the Primetime broadcast, and two awards for the Creative Arts portion – outstanding casting and outstanding cinematography for a single camera series for “House of Cards.”

The content providers that Emmy voters seem to welcome are cable and premium channels. In total, HBO led the pack with 108 nominations and took home 27 awards. The reason, I speculate, is innovation. HBO is creating interesting content and taking risks networks don’t want to take. Content creators are flocking to networks like HBO and AMC because they embrace innovation. Viewers are embracing it as well.

Weatherstone said network television is just plain boring, except for a few gems like “Scandal.” Most of the shows on network television follow a tried and true formula, like cop procedurals, sitcoms about friends sitting at a coffeehouse or the good old reality show. Yes, these are well-established formulas that are easier to bank on succeeding than a show that follows a middle-aged teacher who is diagnosed with cancer and then sets up shop as a crystal meth cook. But that one took home an outstanding drama award.

The one observation that hit home for me was that a lot of the honorees for directing and writing were women who are a part of shows that have a special place in my heart. It means a lot to me to see my idols receiving recognition for the work they have been doing. Women have been underrepresented in the industry, but that seemed to change last Sunday night.

“There were far more women nominated for Emmys this year than ever in the 65 years of the Academy,” Weatherstone said. “It is not only a great time to be part of television, but it is awesome to see more women’s voices, points of view and technical expertise in writing, directing and other male-dominated areas of production. It sets a great tone and example for the female graduates of the [media studies and production] program at Temple and future students interested in studying, writing and producing television.”

One of my personal role models is Tina Fey. To see her win for outstanding writing and female director Gail Mancuso win for outstanding directing for a comedy series, inspires me.  It’s amazing to see women rising to the top in this male-dominated field.

Chelsea Colatriano can be reached chelsea.colatriano@temple.edu.

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