One moment said it all about last Sunday’s Emmy Awards. Did you see when Bones‘ David Boreanaz presented the Outstanding Guest Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series awards alongside The Hills‘ Lauren Conrad? Usually the most affable of actors, Boreanaz, introduced by Heidi Klum as star of The Bones, could barely bring himself to look at Conrad. His dead stare and body-language said, "I was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, two great shows this academy barely even acknowledged. Now I’m acting in another hit show, and I have to hand out an award with a reality star? Get me outta here!"
And, indeed, many of us wanted outta there. The 60th annual Emmy Awards scored the lowest ratings since 1990 (12.3 million viewers, down from 13 million last year), and more Americans wanted to watch their Sunday night football. The use of five reality-show hosts — Klum, Howie Mandel, Ryan Seacrest, Tom Bergeron, and Jeff Probst — to emcee the night led to more awkward pauses than the 90210 cast trying to order something off a KFC menu.
What to do to fix the Emmys? Start with these ideas.
• Make Neil Patrick Harris the new host. The smooth guy uttered the most succinct critique of the night—"Thanks to Howie Mandel’s prattling, our bit has been cut"—and that’s typical of his ad-lib aplomb.
• Cut it to two hours. What to remove? Here’s a start: Don’t bother airing the Best Miniseries/TV-Movie categories. The industry long ago ceded this genre to HBO (last year: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee; this year: John Adams and Recount). There’s already a nonbroadcast, pre-Emmy Awards ceremony for lesser categories, so let the cabler get its predictable slew of trophies off-camera.
• Refine the nostalgia. Instead of an onslaught of embarrassinglyrushed salutes (the Laugh-In tribute was so…sad), pick one show anddive deep into its history, with the best scenes and whatever survivingstars would make the most coherent, emotional presentation. Look at thesmartly done TV Land Awards for pointers on this.
• Show us clips from nominated shows. But here’s the key: not just anyclips. Since it’s now made public in advance which episodes actorssubmit for Emmy consideration, broadcast a few moments of theperformances they chose as their best work to the Emmy panels. Thiswould make home viewers instant Emmy judges, adding an element ofinteractive fun. And, hmmm—d’you think handing out a viewers’-choiceaward or two would result in some fresh or underrated shows beingrecognized? I think it might. Battlestar Galactica, there would behope for you yet!.
• Oh yeah—that new reality-show-hosting award, snagged by Probst?That’s going to get as tedious as the reality-show award. We love TheAmazing Race (but after a sixth win, a snooze on the Emmys) and weadore the Probster, but, really, these folks don’t need their ownaward. To the television academy: Have the guts to announce it was aone-time experiment that failed, and use the time to let trainedperformers entertain us, as God and Lucille Ball intended. And spare usthe future spectacle of Heidi Montag in a red wig doing a Lucy tribute.