Over the past decade, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has struggled to inject more populism into the Oscars. Solutions, which had no impact on a steady decline in viewership, included increasing the number of Best Picture nominees and the idea of a “popular film” category, ultimately settling this year of a glorified Twitter poll in which fans of Zack Snyder and Johnny Depp fought to invalidate the entire effort.
But the Emmys are not the Oscars.
Although it never attracted the audiences that flocked to the Oscars in their heyday, the Emmys are fundamentally a more mainstream show. For years, it was because television was a three-channel universe and most shows, even the bombshells, attracted the kind of audience that would now make it a juggernaut. But even today, Emmy voters have preferred shows like game of thrones and leaned toward recognizable movie stars migrating to the small screen.
You wouldn’t know it from a corner of the speech that greeted the nominations for the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards last month. Using Paramount Network Yellowstone as a totally unrepresentative example, naysayers dusted off the usual annoying ducks that Emmy voters are out of touch with “The People,” along with predictable accusations related to the woke coastal elite and the tyranny of blue states.
Anyone who complains, however, that a show based on the ephemeral notion of “quality” has some responsibility to honor Yellowstone because it’s popular? Please watch again, because if there’s anything that stands out about Emmy nominations this year, it’s that Emmy voters have gone out of their way to embrace populism — or at least populism. as far as we can define it given that no one knows who is watching anything streaming.
The days of the Emmys being dominated by broadcast networks are obviously over and will likely never return unless CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox and The CW re-evaluate their mandates. But look! There are Abbott Elementary School, at the forefront in the categories of comedy, not only in the series, but in all areas of theater. It’s a broadcast hit! Could Emmy voters have shown more love for It’s us in its final season? Absolutely, but otherwise it’s not like there are so many shows out there aspiring to do more than reach the widest possible audience.
Populism is not just a mathematical formula for audience size. Yes, AbbottThe competition includes entertainment shows inside the baseball like Calm your enthusiasm, hacks and, somewhat, barry – but barry is first and foremost a blockbuster comedy, as mainstream a genre as there are, unless you want to talk about underdog sports (Ted Lasso) or vampires (What we do in the shadows). Maybe Only murders in the building corresponds to some aspects of “coastal” and “elite”, but is represented by two-thirds of three amigos and a beloved Disney star.
The drama series nominees are even more in tune with the times. Due to some superficial similarities in their plots, some people will always scoff Succession as Yellowstone with cable news instead of cows and no viewers instead of the biggest television audience. Good.
But what about the rest of the drama series nominees? squid game was an international sensation; although i have no idea what that means, i do know that korean drama entered the conversation with a premise of childhood games as a death sport designed to strike a chord with literally n any human who has ever played a playground game. Speaking of engineering for popularity, stranger things was a lab-mixed, nostalgia-fueled combination of Stephen King and Steven Spielberg hits, the entertainment equivalent of a labradoodle. Imagine criticizing a labradoodle owner for having elitist taste in pets.
The argument that Yellowstone and shows like that are discriminated against because of the ideology based on that particular insinuation that Taylor Sheridan and George Will are fellow coffee drinkers. In place, Yellowstone is just a slightly centrist drama in a genre traditionally very slightly to the right. If TV shows could vote, Yellowstone and Emmy favorite (and, according to Netflix, huge hit) ozark would likely support the same candidates.
If you want to criticize Emmy voters for avoiding red state television, hope you also take umbrage on behalf of shows like Reservation dogs Where someone somewhere, with their Oklahoma and Kansas settings. These two would be front and center if the Emmys truly and truly reflected the content celebrated by the woke elite and snobbish TV critics. Collectively, they received the same number of nominations – zero – as Yellowstone. It is the same number as better things and As we seeonly one less than Pachinko and Russian dollrespectively.
The Emmys don’t honor the television equivalent of arthouse films, but none of that will affect NBC television’s ratings, more or less than television’s next year will be a blockbuster if they give 20 nominations to The list of terminals.
This story first appeared in the August 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.