They're Real, But Are They Spectacular?Competition dominates Emmys' reality categories, with 'Amazing Race' still a favorite 6/17/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Much more goes into producing
reality shows—whether competition
or documentary style—than
meets the eye. Or perhaps it does all meet the
eye, from The Voice’s slick professional performances
to Dancing With the Stars’ beautifully
choreographed live numbers to The Amazing
Race’s logistical challenges. But viewers are so
used to seeing these seamless shows that they
take all of that production for granted. That, at
least, may be the perspective of network executives
who are hoping their shows get the chance
to vie for statues on Emmy night.
“Every week, our team makes The Voice look
like an awards show, complete with unique
choreography, band set-up, lights, hair, makeup
and costumes,” says Paul Telegdy, NBC president
of alternative and late-night programming.
“Each performance is so diligently and lovingly
prepared for the audience.”
The Voice is a heavy favorite this year to be
nominated as best reality competition series,
repeating last year’s nomination. Per usual, The
Voice is expected to be up against CBS’ perennial
winner, The Amazing Race. Amazing Race
has won this category every year since 2003,
the year that the Academy of Television Arts and
Sciences (ATAS) created the category, except for
2010, when it was upset by Bravo’s Top Chef,
which is also likely to be nominated this year.
Those three—Amazing Race, The Voice and Top
Chef—have to be considered this category’s leading
contenders, although other strong possibilities
include ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, Fox’s
So You Think You Can Dance and Lifetime’s Project
Runway, all of which were nominated last year.
Two heavyweights, Fox’s American Idol and CBS’
Survivor, were not nominated last year and thus
can’t be considered shoo-ins for nods.
In any case, reality producers are pining for
an upset. Amazing Race has been so dominant
that if the Emmy reality competition category
were itself a reality show, it would have only one
all-star. “For such an inventive genre, at a certain
point that diversity has to be celebrated,” argues
John Saade, ABC executive VP, alternative series
and late night.
‘Dynasty’, ‘Boss’ Likely to Face Off
Reality competition and reality series have
blown up in the past year, with A&E’s Duck
Dynasty one of the highest-rated shows on TV.
While ratings don’t guarantee nominations, it
might be hard for Emmy voters to ignore that
show in the oustanding reality program category.
“What makes [Duck Dynasty] worthy of an
Emmy are the same reasons that people watch
it: It’s an innovative reality show that appeals to
multiple age groups. In the past, there’s been a
sense that bad behavior makes good television.
This show bucks the trend and is a rare example
of good behavior making good television,” says
David McKillop, A&E executive VP/GM.
Last year, Duck Dynasty wasn’t even on Emmy’s
radar, with CBS’ Undercover Boss taking
home the outstanding reality program trophy.
Undercover Boss remains a strong contender this
year, along with ABC’s Shark Tank and Discovery
Channel’s Mythbusters and the Emmy-winning
Deadliest Catch, which this season told the story
of how Captain Phil’s sons are carrying on the
family crab-fishing business following their father’s
passing in 2010. “This season, one of the
main stories was about the tension and struggle
of next-generation captains coming up through
this competitive world,” says Eileen O’Neill, Discovery
president and general manager.
In a possible precursor to the Emmys, at
last week’s Critics’ Choice Awards, The Voice
was named best reality competition series,
while Duck Dynasty tied with Sundance’s Push
Girls as best reality series.
In the end, what reality show producers are
seeking—and hope to see honored at the Emmys—
are new ways to tell stories. Says Jennifer
Bresnan, CBS executive VP of alternative programming:
“For me, the great challenge and the
great thrill is to find that perspective that puts
a new lens on something we’ve been looking
at this whole time. That’s what’s exciting about
what we do: the perspective and the context.”