Thursday, June 06, 2013

For my consideration...

For members of the TV Academy, this is the best time of year. Because this is when we get all the screener DVD’s for shows that hope to be considered for primetime Emmys.

Every day I eagerly check the mail and there are envelopes and boxes containing specials, documentaries, the best episodes of series, mini-series, British series, sometime complete series, and about three dozen programs no one has ever heard of much less seen.

It’s always such a treat despite the fact that I could probably find every single one of them either on Netflix or Hulu or On Demand or the net or my DVR. Still! They’re in my hand. They’re beautifully packaged. And every year there are at least six of these shows I had been meaning to watch but never did. Now I do. And I’m usually rewarded for my efforts. That’s how I discovered DOWNTON ABBEY (although I wasn’t rewarded this year. Ugh!)  

And some channels I don’t get on my cable system so this is my only exposure to their fare. There’s a REELZ network?  I get six Korean channels but no REELZ network. 

The one stipulation is that I not distribute these DVD's to anybody and I dutifully comply. How stupid to get thrown into prison for giving my gardener the HAPPILY DIVORCED DVD? (Of course, the truth is my gardener wouldn’t take the HAPPILY DIVORCED DVD.)

Every year I am mystified by some of the series that submit screeners. Without naming names, they have to KNOW there is no way on God’s green earth that their crappy shows would EVER be nominated for ANYTHING. Why waste the money? Spend it instead on a decent writer. I leaf through some of the entries and howl with laughter (then take out my scissors and cut them in half).

Pretty safe rules: If your show was cancelled after two airings you’re not going to beat MAD MEN for Best Drama. If your cable sitcom has never been nominated in the six years it’s been on the air, it won’t get nominated now. Elaborate packaging does not make jokes funnier.

I also wonder why some shows that are heavily serialized don’t give you the entire series if, in fact, they’re serious. Yes, each episode starts with the PREVIOUSLY ON…. recap. But if you’re not that familiar with the show or characters those things never make sense. You’re saying, “Huh? Who’s that? She’s going to get even with who? Where are we?” I’m especially surprised Netflix only gave out five selected episodes of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Huh???  From what I hear, it’s next to impossible to follow this year’s storyline if you watch every episode. Watching random segments would make my head explode.

But at the end of the day, I’m just grateful to be receiving these screeners at all. As the saying goes beggers can’t be choosers although in this case we are. And I have nominated quite a few shows and artists I would not have otherwise had I not seen their screener.  This year it's HOUSE OF CARDS.  They sent the entire season and I am now sooo hooked.  I'll be voting for it in several categories. 

Look, the Emmys are not a just system. Deserving shows and people get stiffed while other lesser-works get nominated solely for their reputation. But the picks are getting better. Would the wondrous Margo Martindale have won her Emmy for JUSTIFIED without screeners? I highly doubt it. So for that reason alone it’s a worthy practice. Now please, PBS, send me the Carole King Gershwin Award special.

32 comments:

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Highlights of the howlers, please!

wg

Johnny Walker said...

Oh man! You get the new Arrested Development on DVD/Bluray? Jealous!

Charles H. Bryan said...

I'm wondering if "Eight Kittens Fighting Over a Sock" would work better with a melodramatically produced backstory for each kitten. Y'know, where we get to see the back alley dumpster that Lil' Mister Sparkles shared with six siblings by five different fathers? The personal shame and alienation faced by Nefertiti, the hairless Sphinx kitten? Bojangles' tale of survival of torture at the hands of the those kindergarteners?

Of course, one of the remaining five would have to be a complete ass. Gotta have a villain. I don't know -- maybe Mittens takes just a little too much delight in killing mice. Or is from Al Qaeda.

I might not ever stop thinking about this.

PolyWogg said...

I've heard that some of the screeners go out for those that stand no chance because some of the talent involved somewhere in the chain has either outright negotiated it formally into their contract or informally negotiated it to show that the network / etc are actively supporting the show.

Ridiculous but enough insiders have referred to it over the years that it does seem to have some legs...

Robert Pierce said...

Hi Ken,

What's your take on the direction of content creating via new technology, i.e. the internet - webshows all the way to $50,000,000 productions? And is there a stigma in the TV Academy against "online only" content?

Richard Rothrock said...

Exactly right, PolyWogg. The talent involved has negotiated that screeners of their stuff be sent out. Just like some movie talent negotiates a mandatory "To Be Considered" ad for the Oscars must be run in the trades whether they stand a chance of being nominated or not. Some of those ads are pretty funny too.

Anonymous said...

REELZ shows a good healthy amount of Cheers, Wings and Becker reruns, everyday. -Scott

Keith said...

Holy cow, is the season four Arrested Development storyline confusing. I'm going to write a spec script (because I want to). I've now watched the whole season twice while taking extensive notes. I think I got a handle on it, but I'm not sure. Certainly this shouldn't be required of a normal viewer. Thankfully Ben Stiller's "since we're explaining stuff we both already know..." scenes were in there or I'd be totally lost.

An Emmy Voter said...

There was one actress several years ago who took it upon herself to send out a screener (it was on VHS) of her best episodes. I am in the writers' branch and didn't get it, but was visiting an actor who did, and who was on her show. I made a comment about the expense, and the actor said he felt the actress wasn't really looking for a nomination (or award), but just wanted to send out a signal that yes, she was still alive and kicking. Lo and behold, she got a nomination and then actually won the award. This could have easily backfired, but the planets aligned, and it worked and I thought "Good for you." Of course there are those desperate campaigns from actors that really make you question their sanity, but that's another story. I will predict, however, that an unawarded actress who has campaigned shamelessly in the past will win this year for a guest appearance. At this point, I'm kind of rooting for her.

Cap'n Bob said...

You have a gardener? La-dee-dah! Can I borrow him?

Cap'n Bob said...

Make that gardner. It's early. I was awakened at the crack of dawn by some guy calling to apologize for a delayed order I received.

HCarvalho said...

What was your reaction to sunday's episode of Game of Thrones? It's rare an episode to cause such an uproar, didn't happened since the end of Sopranos.

Janet T said...

Thanks for the House of Cards votes- I too am sooo hooked on this series-well it and The Newsroom, which has me wishing the bright days of summer away until it begins again in July.

Anonymous said...

Ken, here is the Carole King link from pbs.org.

http://video.pbs.org/video/2365018129

Pam aka sisterzip

John said...

Not that this has anything to do with DVD sets For Your Consideration, but it is blog related -- The Big Lead website posted a 20th anniversary piece on the Orioles-Mariners brawl (didn't realize until now the fight occurred on D-Day, but I suppose that's kind of fitting).

Phillip B said...

So suppose all of these videos were posted to a password protected site, along you to watch them on-line and the "powers that be" could tell who you were, and what you watched.

Would you participate in the process and fill out your ballot on-line?

Ken Levine said...

No. I prefer the flexibility of having my own DVD and can watch it anytime and on any machine I want.

Cap'n Bob -- do you have anything else to be besides be the daily grammar police?

Unknown said...

Friday question:
Have you ever submitted a piece to NPR? With your radio, baseball and show business experience, I would think you would be able to become a contributor. Also, they would plug your book as part of the introduction. More sales! ;-)

Kathryn

Wendy M. Grossman said...

To Emmy voter: I thought as much. But also, it's perfectly possible to be proud of the work *you* did on a piece that you know overall is dreck. (Hard if you're a writer, but easier if you're an actor, guest star, director, cinematographer, etc.)

Ken: Actually, *I*'m the grammar police. I just subcontract to Cap'n Bob. And clearly I need to replace him because "gardener" a) is correct, and b) would only be a spelling, not grammar, mistake if it weren't.

The really interesting thing about screener DVDs is that the reason they're so fussy about your not showing them to anyone is that they leak out into file-sharing sites (less of an issue with Emmy consideration discs; a bigger one with advance screeners sent to the press before season premieres and Academy Awards screeners and movie review DVDs). In the UK, it's gotten so they relieve movie reviewers of their mobile phones before letting them into press screenings lest one of them video and upload what's on the screen. The movie reviewers are greatly offended by this, and I suspect it hasn't helped the reviews the movies get in the long run.

wg

Igor said...

Ken wrote: "Elaborate packaging does not make jokes funnier."

Perhaps as to TV shows, but otherwise I beg to differ. (If I must beg.)

How else to explain the success of "ethnic* comedians" known for their ethnicity-based humor.

(* - For present purposes, "ethnic" includes a comedian's: Weight, sexual orientation, etc.)

I'm certainly not saying these comedians are not otherwise funny, but I don't think Mel Brooks, Louie Anderson, and Ru Paul would do well with the each-other's material.

Each one's "elaborate packaging" makes his/her jokes funnier.

OTOH, it would be interesting to see them try.

Igor said...

Friday question:

Gilligan or the Professor?

thomas tucker said...

THe original House of Cards was excellent. I'll be interested in seeing how it compares to this remake.

Mac said...

You got the entire House of Cards? Result!
I get WGA screeners, which come with dire warnings of jail or $25,000 fines. I've given a couple to my niece with the express understanding that if it gets copied she's going to be sold to an East European brothel to pay the fine. It's always a joy when a screener pops through the letterbox, even if it's the worst piece of crap I wouldn't watch at gunpoint - it's free!

jbryant said...

I hope THE AMERICANS gets lots of love this year. I don't know if the BBC's RIPPER STREET is eligible, but it has a lot of deserving work both in front of and behind the camera. Actors I'd like to see considered for nomination include Vera Farmiga (BATES MOTEL), Hayden Panettiere (NASHVILLE), Jack Huston (BOARDWALK EMPIRE), Kevin Rahm (MAD MEN), Gina Torres and Rick Hoffman (SUITS), Nick Searcy and Walton Goggins (JUSTIFIED), Liam Cunningham and Charles Dance (GAME OF THRONES), many others.

Canda said...

I'm sure Studios or Production Companies that want to continue their relationship with a writer will make the DVDs and submit them for consideration, no matter how poor the series was that they did.

They may feel the writer has a good one in him/her.
Plenty of examples of writers who failed with one series, then turned around and created a huge hit.

D. McEwan said...

If you've never seen the original British House of Cards trilogy with Ian Richardson (Includes To Play The King and The Final Cut), by all means see it. It's one of the greatest television shows ever, on a par with (and from a production-values stand-point, superior to) I, Claudius.

Pat Reeder said...

Your comment about the shows that make no sense without long recaps reminds me of an old Bob & Ray sketch. It was a radio soap opera that never got around to the show because Bob and Ray would say, "As you'll recall, in our last episode," then fill up the entire time describing all the horrible and ridiculous things characters you'd never heard of had done to each other in the last episode.

XJill said...

You should watch Orphan Black. I'm assuming BBCA sent screeners.

Johnny Walker said...

Doh, I just actually read the post (instead of looking at the picture) and see that Netflix are only sending out select episodes of Arrested Development. Baffling.

Wendy, I've been to several "press screenings" here in London, and I'm not a member of the press, so I can see why they might be upping the security. That said, nobody took my phone when I saw Into Darkness or The Avengers -- but The Avengers had a weird embargo: We were allowed to Tweet our thoughts on the film, but nothing else.

Sherri said...

Orphan Black, definitely! Tatiana Maslany deserves a nomination for a fabulous job playing umpteen parts and making them all completely different and good.

jill said...

I'm not hearing much about Laura Linney in The Big C. Beautifully acted and written based on my layman's opinion.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Johnny: it's possible my information is out of date. I know I was on a radio show a few years ago with a film critic who was really incensed about it, and the MPAA guy on the phone tried to spin it that screeners didn't leak any more, which is just not true (or wasn't then).

As for actors I'd like to see get some Emmy recognition this year, I'll add Josh Charles and Christine Baranski on THE GOOD WIFE, Chip Esten on NASHVILLE (my favorite new show for this year, and in addition to Panettiere), and any of the non Jim Parsons (much as I adore his work) actors on THE BIG BANG THEORY. I don't think Simon Helberg has gotten anything like the acknowledgement he deserves, nor Kunal Nayyar.