How the Paley Center Can Make a Winning Emmy Alternative in 5 Easy Steps
Emmy counterprogramming is a familiar venture -- and a totally failed one. Variety has it that the Paley Center is working with network TV to come up with an alternative award show to the Emmys. The idea feels absurd, but the ceremony has mainly honored cable series in recent years, even though it always airs on NBC, ABC, Fox, or -- like this year -- CBS. Thus, the networks feel obligated to save a little face with a new statue handout. The problem is, the "Emmy alternative" has been attempted before, and always to little avail. The American Film Institute's awards, The TV Guide Awards, and the American Television Awards have all tried and come up short. Movieline believes the "un-Emmys" could be a real success, but only when the following suggestions are heeded.
Rule #1: Don't emulate the Emmy handout.
Recreating the Emmys -- even without considering the aforementioned precedents -- is a bad idea. The spectrum of knockoff award shows has long ingrained skepticism in viewers, and critics would kill a knockoff forever before ratings did. Worse, no news outlet would grant an Emmy imitator the same glut of obsessive coverage. The key is not to honor Best Drama, or Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy/Musical, or Best Miniseries Editing; the crux of Paley's honors should stand apart from the Emmys. Frankly, they should strive for a ceremony where viewers don't even think about those trophies during the proceedings. A general copycat would be worse than dubious; it'd be meaningless.
Rule #2: Honor a single person.
It sounds more Kennedy Center than Paley Center, but the "tribute" award ceremony is a relatively untapped market on network TV. It could be argued that the reputation of such events have been hindered by the Oscars' Irving Thalberg Award, a painstaking, lengthy part of an already epic ceremony. But once that exaltation is separated and given its own time slot, the event has room to be funnier and less traditional than a series of podium ramblings. Think Comedy Central's Friar's Club Roasts, but sans stand-up humor. I'd love to watch a show where current network stars pay tribute to a great like Betty White -- the universally lovable type who your Alec Baldwins, Steve Carells, and Modern Family casts could gamely deify.
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