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Emmy Nominations: Expanded Lists, Diluted Power

posted by Douglas Howe

The Emmy nominations were announced today, which for me is a good-news-bad-news thing. In fact, it’s bittersweet.
For the record, “30 Rock” and “Mad Men” absolutely dominated the nominations. “30 Rock” led the comedy side of the slate with an unbelievable 22 nominations while “Mad Men” had 16, the best of the drama shows. (You can find a full listing of the Emmy nominations 2009 on EW.com.)
Of my two favorites, “24” got nothing and “Boston Legal,” in its final season, got a couple of Supporting Actor nods. But that’s not why the list was bittersweet for me. This year, in an attempt to recognize the wide proliferation of shows and stars that appear on all of the various shows and channels, the nomination lists were expanded to include six or seven per category. I guess that heightens the disappointment if you don’t get nominated, but that’s not really my beef.


For me, the Emmys aren’t what they once were, and that’s a shame. First of all, there are like a million categories–just like the Grammys! How can someone keep up with them all? “Grey Gardens” won 17 nominations. Seventeen for one TV movie! And its apparent arch rival this year, something called “Into the Storm,” won 14. There are so many categories and so many nominees that being a nominee really doesn’t have the glamour and the glare of being, say, an Oscar nominee. There’s even a category called best “Guest Actor” for comedies and dramas. Pretty soon, they’ll probably have an award for “Best Cameo!”
The Emmy producers have a tough job because, in their defense, there is just so much television out there in the age we live in. With so many shows, so many types of shows, so many channels–and the need to appreciate all of them–the award has become diluted. And it’s the “so many” part of it that, I believe, has cost our country something that used to certainly draw us together and sometimes even inspire us.
I don’t want to sound too old here, but when there were just three or four networks, we all tuned in and we all talked about it the next day. Today’s generation doesn’t really know of the days when the previous night’s events on “Happy Days,” “M*A*S*H*,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “All in the Family,” or “Hill Street Blues” were the talk of the next day’s break room. Or when shows like “Cheers,” “Friends” or “Seinfeld” literally brought a language and context to many of our friendships and social constructs. “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble” wasn’t just an obscure TV movie with Travolta–very few people didn’t see it and it was as well known as many of his big screen roles.
This is not to say that television can’t inspire anyone anymore, but everything that’s wonderful about the diversity of our culture and the spread of TV shows and channels is also an aspect that makes it harder for us to come together. At least through the TV medium.
I hope the Emmys provide a great show and that the best shows get recognized. I just wish I recognized more of them!
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