Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Hey, it's Emmy campaign season!

Certainly it's the best time to be a TV Academy member! Shows that feel they're worthy of consideration send out screener DVD’s to members. Like I said last week, there are too many shows to keep track of, and invariably I will sample a few series that I’ve either heard of or just look interesting.

The problem with most serialized series is that you have to watch the entire season. Sending three or four selected episodes is like sending someone four random chapters of a book you hope they’ll recommend. Some shows do send the whole season (usually if there are only thirteen episodes). But they’re asking for a lot of your time.

It’s not like movie screeners. You decide whether a title is worth a couple of hours and pop it in. Are you going to devote twenty-two hours to a particular TV series you’ve heard good things about?

Also fascinating is to see just what shows are submitted for your consideration. There are always three or four horrible failed sitcoms that arrive in spiffy packaging with blurbs from websites and blogs even less influential than mine. I always think, “What a colossal waste of money. You should have spent half of this on better writers.”

This year, in addition to the screeners and codes allowing us to stream some of these entries, a lot of series are staging evenings where an episode is screened and the cast and producers are available for a Q&A. On the one hand, this is a very cool idea. And there are a couple I might attend. But here’s the thing: it seems to me the only people who are going to give up an evening and drive across town to a theater for this event are people who are already rabid fans of the show. They’d vote for the show anyway. So they’re preaching to the choir. You want to attract new fans.
Since no show campaigns harder than MAD MEN, I wonder if they’ll up the ante and do Q&A’s in your house. Note to MAD MEN: We know you’re a great show and worthy of all your nominations. Stop airing those self-serving featurettes where the cast rhapsodizes on how brilliant they are and how genius the storytelling is. At this point, all it does is create a backlash. You’re better than that. You don’t need to do it. The work more than speaks for itself.

On the other hand, I would love to see a featurette like that by the cast of ONE BIG HAPPY. Or a “night” with a Q&A. There’s a certain question I’d love to ask Ellen.

Last year Netflix took out billboards all over Southern California. Since they’re aimed at Academy members only I hope they didn’t put any out in Hemet or Pacoima. Not sure that campaign was successful.

Are all these ploys and expenditures worth it? At one time winning an Emmy was huge. The fact that CHEERS won Emmys its first season greatly helped its ratings. Lots of new people checked it out. But Emmy wins for ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT did nothing to improve the Fox show’s numbers. Today it’s less about improving ratings and more about prestige – especially for premium cable networks and streaming services. They live off of subscriptions. If the hot shows are on HBO people will subscribe or continue to subscribe even if they don’t watch those shows. Buzz is more important than bodies. And Emmys still are great buzz.

So let the campaigns continue! Keep those screeners and invites coming in. And then we can all pull our hair out when the nominations are announced. “What? How did Debra Messing get nominated and not Tatiana Maslany? It’s all bullshit! Oh well. At least I get to catch up on the whole last season of THE AMERICANS.”

16 comments:

Stormy said...

For Friday: What do you do with all the screeners you receive year after year? Is there some village in Africa or Central America that gets all the losers, like they do with the t-shirts and caps of the losing Super Bowl team?

ScottyB said...

Hm. I dunno. I get what Ken's talking about when he mentions the need (or even the inclination) to have to watch an entire season of a show rather than an eipsode or two to make a judgement that'll influence your vote one way or another. Did someone necessarily need to watch an entire season beginning to end of 'NYPD Blue' or 'Hill Street Blues' to know it was a killer, quality show?

It just seems to me that quality work will still be quality work and you'll recognize that even taken one dose at a time.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I started making a list. Too many to keep track of. So many...


Office quiet today, just 5 scripts to read, but will start later when I catch up on sleep.


Remember,
Keep re-writing
and write with your heart
and your love for movies on the big screen

Oat Willie said...

Friday question: I saw a late 90s episode of "Sports Night" on FX recently that had an anti-drug message heavily tipped into the ending (real Afterschool Special dramatics). I want to know if you writers were ever "advised" to include anti-drug content by higher ups. I noticed dope censorship during the Nancy Reagan years and some in the Clinton "I didn't inhale" years as well. There was a bit of a scandal in the Bush years as well involving the ONDCP and TV productions.

Tom Quigley said...

I remember studios and networks going all out to promote their shows, and a sitcom I was working on one year had started to be heavily promoted for the Emmys in the trades with a two-page center spread in the middle of BILLBOARD magazine, and everyone on the show was basking in the attention. So just to good-naturedly kind of burst the promotional bubble, one night during filming while one of the producer/writers named in the ad was schmoozing with a friend in the audience, I called out loudly enough so everyone around could hear me, "Hey, Billy! I saw your name in BILLBOARD the other day! There was a staple going through it!"

He looked over at me (knowing I was just busting his chops) and with mock chagrin replied "Thanks a lot!"

tavm said...

Comparing "Cheers" and "Arrested Development"-The former had likable characters and plots one relates to. The latter was too weird for mainstream audiences. Nuff said.

Ian said...

Friday Question: I'm a big fan of the Poirot series from across the pond. Do you think something comperable could be done on American network television? That is, a series that brings to life all the short stories and novels of an iconic author? Imagine a serialization of the stories of Ray Bradbury, for example.

On the subject of Poirot, have you ever written a mystery script? And do you yourself have any favorite mystery authors, novels, TV series, movies, etc?

ScottyB said...

@Ian: I'm just kidding here, but the studio suits would probably just tell you "Sorry, ol' chap -- already been done here with 'Murder, She Wrote', 'Columbo', 'Quincy, M.E.' and 'Hart To Hart'"

'Three's Company' probably qualifies as a mystery, too -- except in the sense that's it's still a mystery how it got so godforsaken-popular.

ScottyB said...

No wait -- I take the end of that last comment back. Suzanne Somers' tits. Mystery solved.

My bad.

yatesy said...

Please vote for The Americans for everything! It's an amazing show!!

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Oat Willie: the irony there might be the drug issues of SPORTS NIGHT's creator...

wg

Jay Johns said...

I second that sentiment for The Americans. I'd go so far as to say its first three seasons crush Breaking Bad's--which for me is the highest praise. We'd fortunate to see The Americans stick its landing half as well as BB did.

Unknown said...

Does BBC America promote Orpan Black? Tatiana Maslany should just get all of the acting awards. She plays both male and female, lead and supporting roles. And she is convincing enough that I sometimes forget that they are all played by the same actress.

Daniel said...

HBO ran a series called Ray Bradbury Theater back in the 1990s. They adapted a different story in each episode.

Fred said...

Ken, if you received anything from the sitcom The McCarthys, please view it and consider nominating it for something. It was the best new show this year and it broke my heart when it was cancelled. And for the record I am not Laurie Metcalfe's dad or John Ritter's ghost.

Grump said...

Patton Oswalt should get a emmy for his guest role on Battle Creek. He was exceptional. .... And The McCarthy's? Really? It was awful.