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Fix the Emmys

Cable and network programs are very different from each other, and shouldn't compete on the same standards.

by James Leroy Wilson
September 25, 2013

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Fix the Emmys

College Football Crown Update: Baylor remains undefeated, and therefore retains the College Football Crown. For the history of the Crown, go here.

The Emmys were on Sunday night. I didn't watch.

It's not that I don't like awards shows. I like the comedy, or attempts at it. But the Emmys are unfair.

How so? Cable series, including those on premium channels, compete with series on free network channels.

There are two problems with this.

The first is that the FCC regulates and censors broadcast television. That constrains what can be shown and said. It's true commercial cable generally abides by the same network standards, but they're under no obligation. Thus, a show like the FX Channel's Louie or Comedy Central's South Park can get away with some profanity. Non-commercial HBO and Showtime can get away with a lot more in terms of violence, nudity, and profanity.

I don't believe violence, nudity, or profanity makes a show better. That depends on what the show is about. But the greater leeway and artistic license can be a strong advantage. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss's character as the Vice President on HBO's Veep relies on vulgarity a lot. This isn't to offend the audience, it is to tell the audience what kind of personality she has. While winning Best Actress in a Comedy Series, she had an advantage over network competitors.

The second reason the competititon is unfair is that cable shows are supposed to be better, and shows on premium channels should be the best of all.

Why is that? Because viewers pay more to watch those channnels. For that reason alone, one should expect better content.

Also,cable series air fewer episodes each season. That means better plots and writing per episode, generally.

They often have bigger budgets, especially on the premium channels. And, the fewer episodes, often 8-13 per season, allow more top talent to star in a cable series while also having the time to have a productive movie career. Network programs, on the other hand, often have grueling 22 episodes per season. That generally makes for more sub-par episodes per season.

It's true that network sitcoms have continued to win best comedy series year after year, with the only exception HBO's Sex and the City a dozen years ago. But that probably helps prove the point: sitcomes are usualy half the length of dramas. If for no other reason, that makes creative brilliance easier to achieve in sitcomes week after week. The last network best drama came in 2006 (Fox's 24).

Cable movies, miniseries, and comedy/variety shows also seem to dominate over the networks, who seem rarely to even produce them anymore.

Cable television used to have their own ACE Awards. They should be brought back to honor their own. Leave the Emmys to those who have to grind out far more entertainment content every year.

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