Reviving the Emmys

Neil Patrick Harris made some great strides in reviving the annual Primetime Emmy Awards. I personally walked away from the evening event (which only ran two minutes long without feeling at all rushed) impressed and, most importantly, entertained. He did it with some proven programming techniuqes and a large amount of irreverence. (Update: According to the Rash Report, The Emmys had 11% more viewers than last year in the ad-centric adult
18-49 demographic, as preliminary prime-time ratings indicate a 4.2/11
rating and share.)
Here are some of the basic, and not so basic, tactics he employed, TV and Radio programmers take note!

Most noticeable was the segmenting of the categories, good old fashioned block programing. He and his production team decided that jumping from genre to genre, TV’s way of providing variety in this show, would result in the show’s usual dismal rating performance. They realized, like so many do these days of unlimited choices, that trying to offer multiple types of content of interest to an audience with different areas of interest, trying to appeal to everybody, results in nobody being satisfied. This equals tune-out.

By dividing the awards and the show into Comedy, Reality, Variety, and Drama the production team allowed viewers that ability to surf away from the show when they weren’t interested in the genre. In short, they decided not to try and please all of the people all of the time, and instead please some of the people some of the time. For me, I enjoyed the awards in which I was interested and watch some football when I wasn’t.

Harris also decided that the host should, well, host! He got rid of the voice-over announcer introductions and did it himself. Wow, what a concept; a host that hosts!

His use of John Hodgman as the guy who shared little known and some made-up facts about winners was a nice touch, though the volume could have louder so they could be enjoyed.

Some of the hold over “audience participation” pieces should not have been held over. “Vote for the Emmy Breakthrough Performance” fell flat. Are there really any breakthrough performances that anyone really cares about? Perhaps they needed something for the spokeswoman with the British accent to do since Harris took on the intro duties this “voice” usually does. Hey a contract is a contract, right?

The running gag with the “Best Seat In the Housewinner was funny and accomplished enough audience participation for me.

Finally, the production team took the “imminent demise of broadcast TV” talk head-on. As you know, I come from radio so I’ve dealt with the “death of a medium” for years and I tried to never avoid taking on the conversation. That’s what the Emmy team did this year with their “Dr. Horrible” video that interrupted (Kanye not included) the Ernst and Young voting explanation. Dr. Horrible (played by Harris himself) pointed out the benefits of screen size, so small it doesn’t show blemishes, and uninterrupted content, highlighted by a buffering prompt. Sweet! The appearance of Captain Hammer made for some great sight gags and sound effects. Well done!

TV, just like any other traditional medium, has challenges ahead. They won’t be challenges from technology so much as choice, a topic not addressed in the video. That said, entertainment like Dr. Horrible and it’s YouTube style production probably wouldn’t have been seen on TV just a few years ago. (Watch for a pilot coming to ________ television network soon.)

I’m not sure that the Emmys Can be Nominated for an Emmy, but it should. That is if they allow anything other than Mad Men and 30 Rock to be nominated…but that’s another topic…for the love of Pete.