WHEN ballots for the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards are posted online next week, it will mark the beginning of what's certain to be a bumpy award season. With a writers strike interrupting the traditional TV schedule, Emmy favorites didn't have the usual 22 episodes to complete their story arcs, and some new, deserving shows ended up going off the air just as viewers got hooked.
Yet despite all the turmoil, leading exec producers working in prime time seem to have taken it all in stride. We picked the brains of four network and cable heavyweights heading into the voting period, and it looks like the Emmys haven't lost their luster -- at least according to Chuck Lorre (CBS' "Two and a Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory"), Clyde Phillips (Showtime's "Dexter"), Shonda Rhimes (ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Private Practice") and David Shore (Fox's "House").
Q: How will the writers strike and the resulting shortened season affect who gets nominated for an Emmy this year?
Chuck Lorre: I would assume that single-camera shows would probably have a more difficult time getting shows on the air because their turnaround time is much longer. In other words, they make a little movie every week, whereas on "Two and a Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory" we shoot a play with four cameras and we can do it in a week.
Clyde Phillips: It kind of depends on if [voters] actually look at the screeners or not. Assuming that they don't and that they watch television, I think the writers strike forced the cancellation or the abbreviation of some pretty good shows. Real TV viewers went to cable, where "Dexter" and other shows were able to run their full story lines. I also think the strike sent "Dexter" to CBS, and in so doing our viewership went up six- or seven-fold.
Shonda Rhimes: I feel like everybody wanted a full season to be able to tell their stories and now it's being done in a truncated fashion. But maybe that means we packed more into each episode.
David Shore: I think it means we're a lock (laughs). Who the hell knows? We're all just doing the best we can.
Q: Are you concerned about a potential SAG strike and its effects on the fall season and the Emmys?
Lorre: I can't even wrap my head around the idea of another strike.
Phillips: I think the town doesn't have an appetite for another strike and that the AMPTP and SAG will work extraordinarily hard to come to some sort of deal.
Rhimes: If it happens, it happens and we deal with it from there. But until then, it's too hard to spend time guessing.
Shore: You put your head down. You do your job.
Q: If voters could see only one episode of your show from this season, which one do you think best demonstrates the series at its best?
Lorre: The one we did with "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" was terrific, just on a technical level. [The writers from "CSI" and "Men" switched shows for an episode.]
Phillips: The episode called "The Dark Defender," which was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Timothy Schlattmann, was terrific, and the finale was amazing.
Rhimes: I feel really strongly about our "Grey's Anatomy" finale, which is called "Freedom" and is the show firing on all cylinders.
Shore: Our last two episodes of the year are fantastic.
Q: What show, besides your own, do you think should get an Emmy?
Lorre: One of the greatest pieces of work on TV this year or any year, consistently, has been [HBO's] "The Wire." The fact that it hasn't won every award including the Nobel Peace Prize astonishes me.
Phillips: I am spellbound when I watch "30 Rock." Another show that I have great admiration for is [Showtime's] "The Tudors." It is a delicious, delectable, sexy, dirty, wonderful movie every week.
Rhimes: I'm a huge, watch-the-episodes-way-more-than-once "30 Rock" fan.
Q: Is it really an honor just to be nominated?
Rhimes: The very fact that you're invited to the party is crazy and amazing and wonderful. On the other hand, there is the feeling of "always a bridesmaid, never a bride," but that's OK. I've never been a bride, either.
Shore: It's absolutely a rush to be considered one of the top shows on TV by somebody -- anybody.