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How to Make the Emmys Watchable Again (Hint: It Involves Drinking Games)

By Brian Byrd | Think Pieces | August 27, 2014 |

By Brian Byrd | Think Pieces | August 27, 2014 |

Emmy ratings are in. And depending on whether your morning gin is half full, or TOP ME OFF RIGHT NOW STRIPPER/WAITRESS, the numbers are either encouraging or disappointing. Monday night’s ceremony was the second-most-watched Emmy telecast since 2006. Great! The 15.6 million people who saw Seth Meyers get Renegaded by Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon is about two million less than tuned in for last year’s ceremonies on CBS. Disaster!

Ratings however, are an increasingly irrelevant metric. Everyone knows it doesn’t matter how many people actually watch something. The number of thoughtful 140-character observations generated during a telecast is the new bellwether. An awards shows scientifically can’t succeed unless @AssChoad312 tweets his opinion about it. And apparently, @AssChoad312 was too busy finishing his quantum dynamics dissertation to give a shit about the Emmys.


According to the Washington Post, the Emmys weren’t even trending on Twitter by 9:30 pm Eastern (the time zone where our species’ best and brightest reside, COURTNEY). Goddamn you, @AssChoad312.

Ordinarily, we’d laugh at social media statistics like they just hurt themselves doing Crossfit. But this year’s Emmys did feel painfully stale. Same format, same winners, same jokes. For a medium that’s thrived through a willingness to constantly redraw boundaries, structuring its signature night around a format less innovate than plain Cheerios is a bad look.

So what’s the solution? Complain about it and move onto the next thing without offering solutions, exactly right! The Emmys aren’t broken. But they could be improved by incorporating some fresh ideas.

Hand Out Fewer Awards

The Grammys retooled its format in 2011 to reduce the number of televised awards. Ratings have been strong since. Grammy producers realized that viewers want to see stars perform, not receive trophies. Sorry Reality-Competition Program, Writing for a Miniseries, Writing for a Variety Special, Directing for a Variety Special, and Directing for a Miniseries. Please pick up your Emmy prior to the ceremony.

Use the time created to spotlight snubbed or overlooked performances. I realize this sounds counterintuitive, but add a Best Newcomer or Best Breakthrough award to showcase six first-time-to-TV actors and actresses that missed out on the prestige categories because there’s just too much great TV. Or better yet, find a way to hype the medium. Have every major outlet submit a sizzle reel with first-look footage from their best five shows for the coming year. Mash them all together in a five minute trailer for television. Let fans vote for their favorites online. Everyone wins.

Reconsider the Bits Between Awards

“Be more like the Golden Globes” is typically horrific advice. But the Emmys could stand to loosen up. Yeah, the Oscar selfie was lame and contrived … and incredibly popular. Last year’s Academy Awards finally took advantage of what so many people love about awards shows — stars in a live setting. What was the best thing about Monday’s show? The Bryan Cranston-JLD kiss. The Emmys should actively create more moments like that.

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Instead of showing clips from the nominated shows, bring a random sampling of actors from different shows onstage to reenact milestone scenes. Draw names from a hat, or pull suggestions from social media. Can you imagine Peter Dinklage, Tony Hale and Allison Tolman performing the showdown in Walt’s house from “Ozymandias?” Or Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Kathy Bates and Julianna Margulies batting around “Veep” dialogue for a few minutes? Have Jim Parsons bounce his face off Maggie Smith’s dumper during a musical performance. Whatever, just mix it up.

Borrow from Kimmel and ask the host to read terrible tweets about his performance live on the air. Take a page from Fallon’s playbook and have celebrities compete in a live beer pong game. Create a mini tournament — Best Comedy cast nominees on one side of the bracket, Best Drama on the other. Each cast has one fan teammate chosen at random from an online contest. Winning genre gets an honorary Stanley Cup-style Emmy that they have to defend each year in a different game. WHO WOULDN’T WATCH THE TITS OUT OF THIS?

Explore Revised Voting Processes

Rewarding the same shows and performances year after year isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as the honor is deserved. “Modern Family” winning Best Comedy five years running is whatever we call the opposite of deserved. “Fuckshittery,” I think is the term.

We can blame voters, but let’s not give the process a pass. The single-episode submission format serves a purpose when trying to choose five or six finalists from a hundred nominees. Having a panel of a dozen people evaluate television’s best shows or performances on the strength of one 60-minute episode is absurd. Invite critics and entertainment writers into the fold. They watch far more television than the current voting groups, which would alleviate the small-sample-size problem and bring more expert voices into the discussion.

Not all these ideas will work. Who cares? Just try new things. There’s room in awards show land for new ideas. The Emmys would do its genre proud by being pioneers on this front.

Brian Byrd will beat the pants off of you in beer pong. Follow him on Twitter.

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