Will ‘Mad Men’ and ’30 Rock’ threepeats hurt the Emmys?
In the television world, repeats are to be kept to a minimum.
As the stars gear up for Sunday’s 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards, there’s one question looming: Will it be like 2009 (and 2008) all over again?
“Mad Men” and “30 Rock” took home the night’s two biggest prizes, for drama and comedy series, respectively, both years — proof of either the excellence of the shows or the dissappointing state of the industry.
“With the Oscars, movies are different every year by nature,” said television historian Tim Brooks. “With the Emmys, it sometimes feels like you hit the rewind button when shows or actors keep getting awards for the same thing. It can be kind of discouraging to those who come up with something new and fresh and don’t get recognized. There’s a herd mentality that is tough to break.”
Will this be the year that other shows finally break in?
“With ‘Mad Men’ and ’30 Rock,’ they’re just consistently excellent shows,” said Susan Young, president of the Television Critics Assn. “You can’t fault them if either one of them wins. But there comes a point where you need to look somewhere else.”
This year, five of the 12 nominated dramas and comedies are first-timers, and newcomers make up a major portion of the performing categories.
Competing for the drama series award against “Mad Men,” a sleek 1960s Madison Avenue saga and the first basic cable show to win a top series honor, is fellow AMC show “Breaking Bad” — a feat within itself: “Three years ago, folks would probably laugh if someone told them the best dramas were coming from AMC,” Young said. Rounding out the competition is HBO’s “True Blood,” Showtime’s “Dexter,” ABC’s recently departed “Lost” and CBS’ “The Good Wife.”
“ ‘Dexter’ had a very good year,” Brooks said. “And ‘The Good Wife’ has generated a lot of buzz. For someone to steal it from ‘Mad Men,’ there has to be a special combination of buzz and strong content that voters like, and I think we’re seeing that this year.”
The low-rated but critically lauded “30 Rock,” a satirical insider’s look at life within a TV variety show, finds itself in the midst of fellow critical darlings, some with larger audiences and even greater buzz. Fox’s belle of the ball, “Glee,” earned 19 nominations. Also making a splash is ABC’s “Modern Family,” which earned a nomination, along with acting nominations for five members of its ensemble cast ( Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrell, Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara).
“ ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Glee’ are two strong contenders that have been winning a lot of accolades recently,” Young said. “I can see the possibility of an upset there. I think it’s a testament that they’re even looking at these new shows. For a while, to get recognized by the Emmys, you had to be around for a while before anyone even noticed that there was a new show out there.”
Should viewers catch what feels like a rerun of the award show, it’s not likely to affect whether they tune in, Brooks said.
“Most viewers watch for the parade of stars; who wins is sort of secondary to that,” he said. “It’s rarely like a sports event or a reality competition where they are rooting for somebody to win and/or maybe somebody to lose. Most viewers are quite blasé about that.”
Last year’s Emmys, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, rebounded from 2008’s all-time low viewership total (12 million) to 13.3 million, according to the Nielsen Co.
“And let’s be honest,” Young said. “Can anybody really get tired of seeing Jon Hamm go up there in a suit?”