Friday, July 10, 2009


I figured I'd post this now, so it doesn't look like sour grapes next week.

Recently, I've had a few interesting conversations with reporters discussing the Emmy nominations. Their standard questions -- Do you expect to earn any nominations? Do you care?

The short answer is no and fuck, yes. The long answer began years ago on The Shield. After the noms and win of the genre-bending first season of Shawn Ryan's show, The Shield never got Emmy love again (nor any Golden Globe, SAG, WGA, DGA, or TCA love for that matter). We scratched our heads in the following seasons, watching network dreck pull in win after win, wondering whose dick we weren't sucking. We'd rationalize our loss and ridicule all the winners. Mean-spirited attacks would get us feeling better about ourselves and enable us to get back to work. Until the following July. Clearly we weren't the only ones frustrated. Year after year, articles surface the day after the awards decrying the injustice of the process. So recently I've tried to put a little more thought than vengeance into my analysis. These were my conclusions. The Emmys are voted on by Academy of Television Arts and Science members. They are individuals who work in the industry in every capacity. They earn the right to join the academy and qualify to vote (here’s a great link that explains the process in detail Members are not critics or experts; they are hard working men and women with opinions. Most are way too busy to watch television at all, never mind ALL television. So screeners are sent out of the shows for people to watch at their convenience.

I myself am not a member of the Academy -- at least I don't think I am -- I'm not really much of a joiner. But if I were, this would be my voting strategy --

A. I’d judge the packaging of the screeners. Who spent the most money, who was the most inventive, who really, really wants my vote.

B. I’d only watch the screeners of shows I was curious about (like the awesome shark attacks on Discovery) or rewatch episodes of shows I really like (Lost, BSG). Then I’d give the screeners away to our house keepers. Their kids love them.

C. I would vote for all the shows that employed my friends and family.

D. I'd vote for all the shows that I actually watch. For me, that's about 3 ½ shows.

E. Finally, and this is the important one, I'd vote for all the shows that EVERYONE says are good. I’d trust the hype, because I’m just too busy to watch all this shit.

I'd be willing to bet that 90% of the Academy votes using the above parameters. So what does that mean? Well, two things come into play. First, you have to look at the numbers and play the ODDS. Each week, 10-15 million people watch The Mentalist, 1.5 million people watch The Shield. If you apply that ratio to academy members, clearly more people are watching the CBS show. So using rule “D” above, more people will be voting for The Mentalist than The Shield. What about Mad Men you ask? No one watches Mad Men; they get less than a million viewers each week. That’s where the second factor comes into play -- HYPE. If you can buy and generate enough buzz, you can create a "given status". Rule “E” above. Mad Men has reached that status. I'm not saying the show doesn't deserve to be nominated, it does, it's one of the 3 ½ shows I actually watch. But I promise you, more than half the academy members penciling in Mad Men have never seen a bloody episode. They are voting for it because they've heard it's great. So if my theories are correct, the awards can only be uneven. They have to be, it’s a human system. We're very tired, a little lazy, and completely imperfect.

So, do I think Sons of Anarchy will get any nominations? No, we will not. I think the perception of the first season, both critically and within the industry, was that we got off to a slow start and then ultimately became a good show. We can't compete with the ODDS of network numbers and we don’t have enough HYPE to push us into a nomination. Hopefully we can hit the ground running this year and generate positive buzz for season two. Nothing would make me happier than to reach "given status".

But I'm guessing that come this Thursday I'll have to glean my joy from meanness of spirit, as I rationalization and ridicule the shows that earned a nomination.


East Coast said...

I'll give ya an award Kurt,..... Best new Biker show in MANY years award.

The committee would like to acknowledge the effort to portray actual biker life, with a hint of Hollywood smoke and fire added in. Your tireless efforts bringing good television to the private sector that most of society chooses to ignore, are greatly appreciated, Please come pick up your 1/2 gallon of Crown Royal trophy. hehehe

Ride Free Brother,
Support 81

Unknown said...

Who cares what the academy thinks?

In a matter of six weeks last fall, through nothing more than word of mouth, my roomate and I got approximately 50 people on our college campus addicted to SAMCRO. And you can be sure that when season two rolls around, each one of those people will multiply it by another fifty.

Before long, Sons will be more than a given -- it will be a happening.

Keep up the good work, and on a side note: Please hold the Democrats as accountable as you held Republicans when they were in office -- trillions of dollars into debt, and unemployment still rising -- food for thought, Kurt.

- TA

Unknown said...

Your show has the appreciation of millions. It's not a trophy that represents the respect of your peers in the industry, but it counts for something.

Perogyo said...

Now you have to share the other 2.5 shows. Don't leave us hanging!

Anonymous said...

Kurt,you don,t have to post this,just watch it.Ernie Kovacs was from .Trenton,N.J.. He was a breath of fresh air in early TV and I will always love him.Like the guy in the middle,your day will come.Hang in there.
(you tube link)

MixedDrink said...

I like your theory Kurt and bottom line: yes, the voting process for all this shows is a bunch of BS. There is not way these people have the time to watch everything and the majority does go by hearsay.

I think US the people that are hardcore to your show don't give a $^%$# about those award shows because we know that what you have going on is top level. But I understand in wanting to have some 'official' recognition within the industry. Well, how about we hold our own fan-based awards? We could come up with our own categories, have a poll and unveil the winners the same day as the Emmy Awards? I think us the fans of your show are take-charge people. I for one I'm up for setting it up! Any other takers? What you think Kurt?

BTW, I'm always pimping your show and gotten manyy ppl addicted to it, including peeps in The Netherlands and Denmark who stream it onlne. Keep up the kick a$$ work and I can not wait for September 8!

Jacob said...

Kurt, you know what was a great show that never got any of those awards that people foolishly think justifies the value of the show?

"The Wire."

I put "The Shield" and "Sons of Anarchy" alongside "The Wire" as some of the best television shows I've seen.

You are a great talent and I'm sure I'm not the only one that appreciates the hard work.

I am so looking forward to the second season.

Caffiend said...

From the San Francisco Chronicle's Tim Goodman, he seems like minded and offers up his opinions on the Emmys including SOA and The Shield as well as Mad Men and Generation Kill. Not sure about Mad Men as I haven't seen that, but the rest are all very solid in my mind.

Jacob, ditto on The Wire. I was sad to see that go, but I understood the need. That was truly a phenomenal cast.

Kurt, I've pre-ordered my copy of Season 1. Please spend your $0.47 share of that sale well!

Unknown said...

Two of my good friends get Academy votes, so they get all the screeners for the Oscars.

You are dead on with how the process works. I get a lot of the screeners, they vote for the ones they've seen/heard hype about, and that's it.

The Shield was one of the best shows in the history of TV, and is the reason I've followed your career since then. So fuck awards. The Shield got you FANS, man. People who watch your shit just because it's your shit.

That's way better.

Sling Blade said...

It's been my experience that the truly worthwhile shows that have followings long after the glitter ones have been forgotten are the ones that are so unique that their own peers don't recognize them.

Anyone that asks me about SOA will get high praise and referral to online and eventual DVD episodes.
I am and will be a fan of SOA and Kurt.

Outsider said...

I think the world of "The Shield" and "SOA" scare alot of people because they cut a little too close to the quick, to the underlying gladiator school ethos that drives Corporate Fiefdom, Obedience School America as much as it drives Prison America.

"The Sopranos" could be explained away in people's minds with the thought...'oh those wacky wiseguys from little italy' ..even though it was an allegory about America at large.

But "The Shield" and "SOA" are more disquieting because, like other things that are distinctly The CIA, The Navy Seals, Vegas, Graceland and Neverland, Vince from Shawow's "Ho Fight a Cause for Concern", John Benet, Debra Lafave and OJ....those shows reveal that something is violently askew at the core of our Slaughterhouse America

BTW I just played an old dog bike gang elder named 'Gin' in a gang called "The Crew" in The Butcher Brothers new Biker/Horror Film....we shot in 'The Penngrove Motorcycle Company' in Penngrove, Ca. next to Petaluma....the Store Proprietors ain't in the Academy....but You got their Vote for Real

Unknown said...

I think the (primetime) emmys have more or less a commercial purpose. Certainly in the US where TV is actually only made for advertisers (that's true in other countries too, but a little less though). With that in mind and watching the emmy nominations and winners for about the last decade you can clearly see that there is a lot attention for new shows and not only for shows that are in a lot of people's opinion outstanding. And that last point is where the emmys are "officially" meant for. It's just a commercial thing. I don't think the advertising industry is actually buying votes for shows or persons (they just can't, certainly not with this crisis up their anus). But they certainly have a lot of people who vote for them, people who make commercials or people who are otherwise connected to this business.

The same counts for the Golden Globes, some say it's American imperialism, and there certainly hides some truth in that, but it certainly is also an idea to get focus on shows so people watch the advertisements. Your work is - and how sad that may sound - just on TV to sell advertisements. And because your own show Sons of Anarchy isn't able to generate the hype required for an emmy and the show that kinda like gave you your name "The Shield" was just finished, there is a big chance you end up without the recognition you might deserve.

For the best example I prefer to use 24. It's an "ok" show, in some people's eyes a great show, but certainly not outstanding. The reason it sells so well is because it features Keither Sutherland. Sutherland is a good guy, good actor, but after all he is a product, he is a bit like the Will Smith of television at the moment. There is a certain hype around some people and some shows that make them more valuable than they actually are.

You might end up wanting to redefine the emmys so they get to the "right people", but no decision will satisfy everybody in this world. And in the end, who decides what is "good" or what is "excellence in television"!?

alohalani said...

SoA was nominated for "Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music" ! :)

Based on your theory Kurt, I'd say this means the voters only watched the opening credits. :) Hey, it's a start!

Anonymous said...

I'd agree about who cares what the academy thinks, but suspect it does matter - financially.
Draw for commercials, etc., which would influence Sutter's budget for the show.
Also, why shouldn't good, hard work pay off in accolades.
I tried watching "Mad Men". Just how does one manage to make one hour feel like five? Is that the talent the networks keep crowing about?
Each and every member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences can blow me. And no, I don't have the proper equitment for that.
But they just suck that much.

Kevin Michaels said...

You were dead on with your post and I've been bitching about this for the past day - it's borderline criminal that The Shield (and Michael, Walton, and CCH) didn't receive ANY recognition, as well as no directing or writing noms? And nothing other than opening credits for Sons? Not even recognition for Katey's work or at least a nom for some outstanding music week after week??? Come on - Hugh Laurie over Chiklis? Shatner???? Seriously- this is the best we can do?

I think this whole process is so seriously dated. 40 years ago there were 3 networks from which to choose nominations. Now, you've got 10 times that number to choose from - there is much more interesting work being played on channels outside of the "Big 3", like F/X - USA - TNT - HBO - Sci Fi (or Syfy or whatever its new logo is). Does anybody really watch ABC - NBC - CBS. It's 95% reality show crap anyway and CSI or Law & Order clones. Maybe it's time to increase the number of nominees in the categories....

Unknown said...

WOW seems to fit my conclusion as well.

Boston Girl said...

I am just a TV viewer an not in the industry.

I have loved SOA from the start. I came into The Shield later on and once I started watching I loved it. I am a fan of The Shield, SOA, Mad Men and Rescue Me. I like that FX takes on these cuttting edge shows, excluding Mad Men which I believe is on Bravo.

Why have I not seen Charlie Hunnam, Ron Pearlman or Katey Sagal on any of the late night talk shows? I could see Charlie being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon.

If they could get out there on the you talk shows don't you think that would help with the BUZZ and to get people interested in SOA. Once they see the show I bet they get hooked.

Get Charlie out there on the Talk Shows. He such a doll and just melts a girls heart.

Luv ya.

g said...

What causes hype?
The sopranos-uniqueness (a gangster going to a shrink), the sexual tension between the shrink and the gangster, Gandolfini's charisma
Mad Men-many very good looking actors, uniqueness (the 60s), lots of sex, show off, money and especially the secrets each character has which slowly revels.
And it's great shows.
What are the hype assets of SOA? handsome leading role (although the hair cut and loose clothes distract it, the other bikers are much less appealing), Katey Sagal charisma and motorcycles. Is it enough?

Unknown said...

"...within the industry, was that we got off to a slow start and then ultimately became a good show."

That is exactly how I felt. No offense, but the first couple of shows just were off a bit.

After that the characters really developed and hit it off. It's pretty much my favorite show on TV(worked in TV so I don't watch much since 98% of it sucks).

I just wish you guys would do full seasons. I think you guys could really expand your base if you could get 24ish episodes or so instead of 13. It's a long time to wait a calendar year for the show to come back.

In America's modern existense what is out of sight is out of mind.

I am eagerly waiting for September to get here buddy. The only other thing would be if I could get a job at bluebush :D I ride bikes and worked for ABC.

EJL said...

For what its worth I think the lack of awards is testament to the nature of the show. If you look at the nominated shows they are easy to watch. What I mean by that is they are shows everyday people can come home from a job they don't like, sit arms length from someone they don't want to be sitting next too and drone out without having thinking/feeling/digesting/questioning etc.
Shield and SOA are shows that get under your skin while taking you to dark places. You cannot be a passive viewer of these shows. I would argue that audiences want to switch off their brains and waste away the hours before the fall asleep only to do it all over again the next day. Its not right

Anonymous said...

Don't take this the wrong way But, I could give half a fuck about how many awards a show wins.

I watch shows that appeal to my sick twisted mind and make me think that this shit really happens?
I have been a fan of The Shield and SOA not even knowing who you or most anyone else was.
The first time i watched The Shield was the episode where he goes into the interview room with a phonebook in hand.
"I grew up in LA and know how heavy an LA phonebook can be."
Then tells that pedo mf'er That "I'm a different kind of cop" Then proceeds to school the pedo in the old school ways of police work, i was hooked from there. thou not all the episodes where of that caliber overall a very good show overall.
The same with SOA i had no idea until i went digging around to see if there would be a season 3 that i found out who you where and read a bit of what you have written, your stance on friendships, and a few other things. We are like minded folks. I just have a sick mind and no writing talent.

Anyways,The first episode in season 2 that Gemma gets "taken" Got me close to the disturbed level limit as i have ever been watching a show. Even with my own sick fucking mind, and got me "thinking," not just "watching" a "show". That is the type of tv that is needed everywhere, no offense intended, just respect when i say. "They need a whole bunch of "Kurt Suttters" out there writing and producing TV shows. Weather you win awards or not."