News Article

The Emmys Have Big Problems. Luckily, We Have Solutions

Our ideas for a better way to celebrate TV's big night with more Neil Patrick Harris and no Howie Mandel

One moment said it all about last week's Emmy Awards. Did you see when Bones' David Boreanaz presented the Outstanding Guest Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series awards alongside The Hills' Lauren Conrad? Usually the most affable of actors, Boreanaz, introduced by Heidi Klum as star of The Bones, could barely bring himself to look at Conrad. His dead stare and body language said, ''I was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, two great shows this academy barely even acknowledged. Now I'm acting in another hit show, and I have to hand out an award with a reality star? Get me outta here!''

And, indeed, many of us wanted outta there. The 60th annual Emmy Awards scored the lowest ratings since 1990 (12.3 million viewers, down from 13 million last year — see below), and more Americans wanted to watch their Sunday night football. The use of five reality-show hosts — Klum, Howie Mandel, Ryan Seacrest, Tom Bergeron, and Jeff Probst — to emcee the night led to more awkward pauses than the 90210 cast trying to order something off a KFC menu.

What to do to fix the Emmys? Start with these ideas:
· MAKE NEIL PATRICK HARRIS THE NEW HOST. The smooth guy uttered the most succinct critique of the night — ''Thanks to Howie Mandel's prattling, our bit has been cut'' — and that's typical of his ad-lib aplomb.

· CUT IT TO TWO HOURS. What to remove? Here's a start: Don't bother airing the Best Miniseries/TV Movie categories. The industry long ago ceded this genre to HBO (last year: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee; this year: John Adams and Recount). There's already a nonbroadcast, pre-Emmy Awards ceremony for lesser categories, so let the cabler get its predictable slew of trophies off-camera.

· REFINE THE NOSTALGIA. Instead of an onslaught of embarrassingly rushed salutes (the Laugh-In tribute was so...sad), pick one show and dive deep into its history, with the best scenes and whichever surviving stars would make the most coherent, emotional presentation. Look at the smartly done TV Land Awards for pointers on this.

· SHOW US CLIPS FROM NOMINATED SHOWS. But here's the key: not just any clips. Since it's now made public in advance which episodes actors submit for Emmy consideration, broadcast a few moments of the performances they chose as their best work to the Emmy panels. This would make home viewers instant Emmy judges, adding an element of interactive fun. And, hmmm — d'you think handing out a viewers' choice award or two would result in some fresh or underrated shows being recognized? I think it might. Battlestar Galactica, there would be hope for you yet!

· OH, YEAH — THAT NEW REALITY-SHOW-HOSTING AWARD, SNAGGED BY PROBST? That's going to get as tedious as the reality-show award. We love The Amazing Race (but after a sixth win, a snooze on the Emmys) and we adore the Probster, but, really, these folks don't need their own award. To the television academy: Have the guts to announce it was a one-time experiment that failed, and use the time to let trained performers entertain us, as God and Lucille Ball intended. And spare us the future spectacle of Heidi Montag in a red wig doing a Lucy tribute.

See what our PopWatchers had to say about the Emmy's on our blog!


TUNING OUT
Emmy viewership has fluctuated over the years, but lately it's been on a steady losing streak.
VIEWERS IN MILLIONS:
2001 17.1
2002 20.0
2003 17.9
2004 13.8
2005 18.7
2006 16.2
2007 13.0
2008 12.3
SOURCE: Nielsen Media Research

Originally posted Sep 26, 2008 Published in issue #1014 Oct 03, 2008 Order article reprints
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