Mmm, donuts..The list of shows from which Emmy nominations are made came out today and I think it's worth some debate here.
This is the list created by academy members for which the nods are chosen, not the actual nominations mind you. Everything about these lists are subjective, but it still strikes me the gap that exists between shows that are of supposedly high quality, and those that people actually watch. Take for example two shows on NBC, Heroes and Friday Night Lights. If you don't know the history, Heroes was the best new drama of 2007 but kind of flailed about in its strike-shortened sophomore season. Even so, it still pulled in competitive numbers -- 8-11 million overall and very strong in the demo. FNL is a critical darling that hardly anybody watches, and it has gotten so bad that NBC went looking for a partner to help pay for its production so they could salvage it for another year. According to FNL's wiki page, the show has "consistently placed below 50 in the Nielsen rankings."
Friday Night Lights made the short list for dramatic series while Heroes was left out in the cold.
And maybe that was justified, Heroes did kind of stink this year, but it also smashed FNL in the ratings. That's the problem I have with the awards system where quality is hung around a show's neck as an accomplishment without the accompanying accomplishment. At some point you have to question the wisdom -- or lack thereof -- shown by both institutions (Emmy and Oscar) that consistently votes against the apparent wishes of the public. I mean yeah, it's their institution, their rules, their game if they want it to be that way, but why do we respect, admire, and hold them in such high esteem when they keep giving awards to shows and movies that the public universally reject as worth seeing?
This isn't about institutionalized awards vs. the people's awards either, this is about one small group having an entirely different definition of quality and success that differs from the overwhelming majority.
That's the catch.
It's easy to say something is junk and something else is great, but when nobody watches that great thing and a lot of people watch that junk, at what point does the definition of quality change? Obviously the people who watch shows or films in large numbers don't think the stuff they are watching is junk, and every other measure of quality rests on their shoulders so why not that one too? The institutions vote with ballots but the people vote with their wallets and their personal time, and as advertisers will tell you, the latter is the only thing that matters to them.
At some point if the awards organizations don't stop going in the other direction so often, the people who watch those shows are going to have to reevaluate the value of them, because it's pretty insulting and snobbish to unilaterally declare a show the best of its genre that by all valuable metrics is a complete and utter failure. It's not just disagreeable, it's intellectually bankrupt. While Heroes and FNL are just examples, there are many others to be found, and no I'm not really arguing that awards should be handed out based only on financial success and ratings.
First of all every network claims that every show ever made was produced at a loss, so no show would ever win that one. And ratings aren't always a better indication of quality, I know that too.
But it's still ridiculous when a show like FNL that may be really great gets a nod when it took DirecTV stepping in to pay for half its production -- because so few people watch it -- while other shows that struggled creatively still had doubled if not tripled up on them in audience size. And then there are shows of equal critical acclaim that struggle equally in the ratings (relatively speaking) like Battlestar that did get a nod last year but was left out this year.
On a related note, remember a few weeks ago when Katherine Heigl said she had withdrawn her name from consideration because she wasn't given Emmy-worthy material to work with? Her show, Grey's Anatomy, made the preliminary list for Outstanding Drama Series. Considering the huge ratings that show still gets, it appears that everyone in the world agrees on this point: Heigl is kind of an idiot.