Monday, August 22, 2011

{alltv} Emmy Watch: Burning Questions Answered

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With the Emmy Awards just weeks away, TV Academy voters are due to turn in their final ballots on August 26. Then it's on to the accountants, who will tabulate the results in time for the live Emmy telecast, hosted by Jane Lynch (September 18 on Fox). Here are a few burning questions coming out of this year's Emmys.

Is this the year that American Idol finally wins?

The singing competition may very well be the Susan Lucci of the reality competition world. Despite its reign as TV's undisputed primetime champ, Idol doesn't fare nearly as well in the Emmy vote. The show has been up for the top reality-competition Emmy a consecutive nine times, but has lost every year (an Emmy record).

Part of that streak has to do with The Amazing Race, which dominated the category until last year, when Top Chef won. This year, Idol's renaissance and resilient ratings could finally do the trick, hopes executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. "We've got such strong vibes from the last season, and such good will from the public and the press," he says. "If we don't win it this year, we'll never win it."

Lythgoe hopes the TV Academy will consider splitting the reality-competition Emmy into two categories: One for on-location, post-produced shows like Race and Top Chef, and another for live studio shows like Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

Why do some comedies and dramas seem to be in the wrong category?

Nurse Jackie star Edie Falco ruffled a few feathers last year when she called her win as best comedy actress "ridiculous... I'm not funny." But this year, she's back in the category, along with Laura Linney, the star of The Big C — another half-hour that's not a traditional comedy. On the flip side, Andre Braugher is nominated as a supporting actor in a drama series for Men of a Certain Age, a show with plenty of comedy.

As comedic dramas and dramatic comedies flood the airwaves, figuring out which Emmy category to place those shows is an ongoing conundrum for the TV Academy. The group is loathe to add any more categories, such as a "dramedy" competition, to the mix. For now, that means it's up to producers to decide where their show fits. That's why Desperate Housewives is still considered a comedy, yet Grey's Anatomy is a drama.

How did controversial miniseries The Kennedys land 10 nominations?

For a little-seen network like ReelzChannel, which acquired The Kennedys after History dumped it, the miniseries was an opportunity to enter the big leagues. Given the negative press surrounding The Kennedys, the project could have faded away with little Emmy attention. But ReelzChannel opted to pay for a big campaign that included trade magazine ads and DVD mailers to all 15,000 TV Academy members. The network also submitted The Kennedys in 22 different categories, and it paid off with those 10 nods, including best movie or miniseries.

"We felt an obligation to put forth some sort of effort," says CEO Stan E. Hubbard, who nonetheless credits the project for the nomination haul. "The Kennedys stood on its own and earned those nominations."

Why is Louis C.K. such a hot shot this year?

The comedian's standup act and his acclaimed but low-budget FX series Louie wouldn't seem like Emmy fodder. But as critics continue to rave about all things Louis C.K., TV Academy voters stood up and noticed. Not only did he land a nomination for best actor in a comedy, for Louie, but the FX show also landed him a comedy series writing nomination.

Meanwhile, the standup's Epix special Louis C.K.: Hilarious landed him an Emmy nomination for writing a variety, music or comedy special, as well as another nod four outstanding picture editing (yes, he does that too). It's Louis C.K.'s first four nominations, all in one year. "It's crazy," he says. "It's for doing four totally different things, and all the things I do, basically. I was not expecting that much."

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