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Primetime Emmys Face Category Bloat, Unfair Competition

Neil Patrick Harris will host the 65th Emmy Awards in September.

Neil Patrick Harris will host the 65th Emmy Awards in September.

Cable television shows like “Game of Thrones” and “American Horror Story” are dominating the Primetime Emmy Award nominations, leaving traditional network shows in the dust. It’s no surprise because they play by different rules. So why are the judged in the same categories?

Traditional television networks air programming under the heavy thumb of the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates what you see and hear on those networks.

In contrast, cable television shows are virtually unregulated. Anything goes and often does. Nonetheless, regular television programming must compete with cable competition, and the results are obvious. Cable shows dominate the Primetime Emmys again this year.

Click Here to See the Emmy Nominees in All Categories

Back in the day, the broadcast airways were considered to be owned by the public, and the nation’s three or four networks operated under licenses that were subject to regulation. But the extensive penetration of cable systems across the country makes that system obsolete and the FCC is an anachronism.

As long as a federal bureaucrat dictates programming on regular television channels, the playing field will never be level. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences needs to acknowledge that and judge cable and regular television shows separately. Or, it needs to lobby Congress to allow the television networks to let the creative process dictate what they air.

That’s one of the flaws in the Primetime Emmys; it cheapens the awards. Another is the incredible number of categories, which seems to ensure that almost every show will come away a winner. Awards are supposed to signify excellence, which by definition means only a few should win.

The greater the number of awards the less the significance. The Primetime Emmy awards seem to be less a salute to excellence and more of a way to stroke the television industry’s many constituent groups.

The major categories like outstanding drama and comedy series, best lead and supporting actor and actress, make sense. And it seems fair to consider mini-series and movies separately from regular series programs. But after that, every other category needs to be seriously questioned.

Is it really necessary, for example to have an award for “Outstanding Host, Reality Or Reality-Competition Program?” Is that much distinction and craft involved? And, is the award for “Outstanding Reality-Competition Program” really that different from “Outstanding Variety Series” to merit separate categories?

Why are there separate categories for “reality competition programs” and just “reality programs?” And, really, what’s the point of having a category for outstanding guest actor?

It seems the farther you go down the list of categories the stranger they get. For example is casting really worthy of an award? The Academy thinks so it hands out Emmys for casting in three categories.

And, what’s the point of having an award for “Outstanding Choreography” if shows like “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel” on PBS are forced to compete with “Dancing with the Stars and “So You Think You Can Dance.” The latter two, of course, dominate, like it was designed for them.

And how about this award: “Outstanding Cinematography for Reality Programming.” How is the cinematography so different for the the series category? Likewise there are separate awards for outstanding costumes for a series and a mini-series or movie. How are they different?

65th Primetime Emmys: Complete Nominations

But among the most bizarre are separate awards for single-camera and multi-camera hairstyling. Does single-camera styling involve only one side of the head? There’s also an award for movie or mini-series hairstyling, altogether different no doubt.

Don’t worry, make-up artists get the same treatment, plus awards are also divided by “prosthetic” and “non-prosthetic” categories.

It’s one thing to reward achievement; it’s another to pat yourself on the back. Welcome to the Emmys.

To see a complete list of Emmy Award nominees go here. And, follow TheImproper on Twitter for all the latest Emmy updates.


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