So the Emmy nominations came out yesterday, which of course is a big deal, but I’m still sort of processing the announcements and the snubs and surprises and all that, so I’m going to hold off until later this week before I really weigh in. Before I do that, I feel it’s important to let you know that I’ve had some thoughts about the awards lately, and I’d like to share them with you.
There is just so much television now, so many outlets, so many hours, it’s impossible to keep up with it all, even when part of your job is to do just that. I still haven’t had the chance to watch more stuff than I’d care to admit, and it’s frustrating. But that also means there is a lot of deserving fare that doesn’t get recognized, because even though the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has expanded the number of nominees per category, there are still far too many people and shows left out in the cold.
Back in the day, after all, there were really only three networks, and so the number of shows and performers and artisans was manageable. Those days are long gone, thanks first to cable, and then to the streaming service explosion. Netflix alone seems to drop more new shows in a month than a broadcast network does in a year, and thanks to the lack of restrictions, there’s a lot more they can do. The freedom in storytelling results in better content. Of course, the legends of streaming services being more hands off than their broadcast network competitors might have something to do with that, too, but that’s fodder for a different column.
Point is, the field of play is both crowded and stilted, and it’s for that reason that I think the Academy should start thinking outside the box, and diversify the categories to include more. More what? MORE EVERYTHING! The Emmy Awards are already spread out over a couple days, so why not make it a weekend? Toss out trophies for more specific achievements, and in the process get everyone — creators, performers, executives, and yes, the audience — more invested in the proceedings.
Thus, with all that in mind, some suggestions for categories the Emmys might not otherwise consider, but which might possibly be for the greater good.
BEST FOREIGN POLICE PROCEDURAL ENJOYED BY SENIORS
Were you aware that there is an entire subculture of senior citizens who consume British, Irish, French, and other foreign police procedurals as if they were candy? I know this because I am directly related to two of them. My parents are rabid fans of this genre, and while I’ve turned them on to a couple new shows, more often than not I’m being told of some new one I’ve never heard of from some European country that has them all hot and bothered. French shows like Spiral, Balthazar, and The Bureau (a sort of French Homeland), Denmark’s The Investigation, and British shows like Time, Bloodlands, and Line of Duty, a show from Northern Ireland that I discovered a few years ago and passed along to them (rather proud of that one, actually).
My folks go bananas for this stuff, and they talk about it with their friends incessantly, trading recommendations like Pokémon cards.
These kinds of shows just don’t get recognized here, even though they appear on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. The Oscars have Best International Feature (formerly Best Foreign Language Film, changed to accommodate foreign countries with English as their first language), so why can’t the Emmys have a similar category? For that matter, don’t stop at the police procedural, throw in comedies (like, say, Call My Agent), and straight dramas while they’re at it.
BEST Y.A. SHOW WITH LOTS OF MAGICAL STUFF IN IT
Talk about subcultures. If it feels like there’s a new show every week that has people talking and kids all atwitter, there’s a good reason. Shadow and Bone, Cursed, The Irregulars, The Bureau of Magical Things, there are tons of these, and someone just keeps churning them out. Don’t get me wrong, some of them are definitely fun — I enjoyed a good chunk of The Irregulars before it started going off the rails a bit toward the end, though I didn’t really get Shadow and Bone, despite plenty of others completely devouring it — but it’s not like any of them are actually going to get any kind of Emmy love.
Give them their own category, though, and you might just ensnare that younger demographic and instill an interest in the awards early on. There are worse ideas, lemme tell ya.
BEST SHOW THAT HAS BEEN PREMATURELY CANCELLED
Like the list for this one isn’t plenty long? Just go ahead and give this one to the audiences themselves, let them write in and vote for their favorite show that was cut short. Last year, for instance, I would have absolutely voted for Stumptown, a terrific detective show with Cobie Smulders and Jake Johnson that was killed after a single season at least partially because of the pandemic. Well written, beautifully acted — Smulders has never been better — enormously entertaining, it was a shame the show had to die. Same thing this year with Lovecraft Country, which would absolutely get a ton of votes. I suspect Cursed and Good Girls would, as well.
BEST SHOW THAT WAS SEEMINGLY CREATED BY AN ALGORITHM
This one is not entirely fair, I know, because it doesn’t pay a lot of respect to the talented people who actually create these shows, but come on, some of them are sort of … rote, aren’t they? There’s a terrific old Nichols and May sketch (that would be Mike Nichols and Elaine May, a crack comedy team in the late 1950s and early ‘60s who pretty much changed the sketch comedy game, and of course both went on to enormous filmmaking careers) that appeared at the Emmy Awards one year. May came out to present an award, and after a lengthy introduction, announced that she was presenting the award for the most mediocre TV production of the year. The “winner” was a character played by Nichols, who gave a speech in which he said the secret to his success was “taking every network note,” and that the show “had never received one letter complaining about it.”
I think we can all agree that this same sketch could take place at this year’s awards show, but the trophy could be handed out to a real show. And, a good chunk of the nominees would be from Netflix. (Hey, you put out that much content, not all of it is going to be great.)
BEST BROADCAST NETWORK DRAMA AND COMEDY
(I mean, this one is kind of self-explanatory, right?)
I can go on, but you get the picture. There are plenty of directions the Academy could go, which would honor more shows, bring in more viewers, and, most importantly, add at least a little bit of fun to the whole deal.
Because if we’ve learned anything over the last year and a half, it’s that we need more fun in our lives. Lots more.
Neil Turitz is a journalist, essayist, author, and filmmaker who has worked in and written about Hollywood for nearly 25 years, though he has never lived there. These days, he splits his time between New York City and the Berkshires. He’s not on Twitter, but you can find him on Instagram @6wordreviews.
You can read a new installation of The Accidental Turitz every Wednesday.
(Note: This week, we’ll have a bonus column from Neil with his thoughts on the Emmy nominations. Look for that on Thursday.)