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.