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TCA: Emmys Trio Defends Changes to Awards Telecast - Broadcasting & Cable

TCA: Emmys Trio Defends Changes to Awards Telecast

Producer Don Mischer, ATAS chief John Shaffner and host Neil Patrick Harris screen sample clip of how "time-shifted" categories would play
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TCA: Complete Coverage of the TV Critics Press Tour

During its presentation at the Television Critics
Association press tour Aug. 3, CBS screened a roughly-edited sample clip showing
how the so-called "time-shifted" Emmy categories will play in this year's
kudofest.

The session started minutes after the WGA West issued a
statement in the afternoon joining their East Coast counterparts
in protesting
a change to the Sept. 20 show on CBS that will see awards in eight categories--two
each for writing, directing, producing and acting--handed out before the
telecast beams live, then edited and aired during the show.

The sample award--based on an actual award given out during
last year's Emmy telecast--included the announcement of the nominees, the
announcement of the winner, reactions and a full acceptance speech. It ran 50
seconds, after having 1 minute and 20 seconds edited out, according to the
telecast's executive producer Don Mischer.

Mischer said that there was no existing example from any
award show similar enough to what he has planned to point to. He also said he
suspects part of the rancor over the change is rooted in misconceptions that
these awards would be given out in a quick montage or just a running list as
some other shows do with some of their nods.

Mischer, Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chairman
John Shaffner and this year's Emmys host Neil Patrick Harris said they hoped
members of the TV community's concerns would be assuaged once they learn the
details of how the show will be changed--and why.

When asked about the writer's petition disagreeing with the
change, Harris, who appeared via satellite, said he has "the utmost respect"
for writers and that he thinks "there is a little bit of a miscommunication of
what the time shift means."

As Harris explains it, "we are just trying to edit down the
standing and the hugging and the walking down the aisle. Frankly the writers'
speeches are usually some of the best. We're trying, if anything, to highlight
them more."

He said he didn't know about the petition or how upset the
writers are, adding, "I hope they won't be when they see what we're doing."

Last year's telecast on ABC, which was hosted by multiple
reality-show host personalities, was slammed by critics and suffered in the
ratings. Mischer, who has not produced the Emmys for five years, called last
year's show a low point for the Emmys. He emphasized that all of the changes
for this year's show are meant to improve the show's entertainment and
promotional value.

"We're looking to put entertainment into the show; we're
looking to put things into the show that hold people and grab people," Mischer
said. "We are also going to try to connect the show to the big picture ... We're
really hoping to create a stronger connection with the audiences. We'll be
doing this while still presenting 28 awards."

The Emmys feature those 28 awards in less than three hours
of air time. That is far more than other televised awards shows, which all run
longer. The Grammys, for example, give out 10 awards over 3.5 hours and in
three hours the Tonys gives out 14.

"Any producer who comes in--and if an executive says to you
‘What are you going to do with this show?'--you have to take awards off the
show. Nobody has 28," Mischer said. "But we don't want to do that. We are
trying to figure out ways to let everyone get recognized."

The pre-taped awards will mean attendees will likely have to
be in their seats 45 minutes earlier than in the past, and they'll have to walk
the red carpet an hour earlier, the group said. In the spirit of things,
Shaffner said he will not do his annual speech.

  "As they often say, we can all rise together,"
Shaffner said after the presentation. "We have to get over each other."

With the extra time, Mischer plans to break down the show for
the first time into genres--comedy series, drama series, reality series, variety and the
long-form genres. Upon introducing each genre, the telecast will feature
highlights from programs-whether nominated or not-within each genre. 

"If I were HBO, I would really think that that's a strength
not a weakness," Mischer said, as the plan promises to highlight heftier clips
of the TV content being celebrated.

CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler acknowledged
earlier in the day during her executive Q&A at press tour that last year's
low-rated telecast was a big sign that the telecast was ripe for tinkering.

"Coming out of the telecast last year, everybody in this
business knew we had to make a change. And, look, change is not easy," she
said. "The bottom line is the Emmys are about the celebration of the television
business. We're all in this business together."

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