Emmy ceremony to proceed in real time


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It has been a season of reversals for the Primetime Emmy Awards. First, the ceremony was shifted from Sept. 20, only to be returned to that date two weeks later. Now, in an even bigger about-face, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has scrapped a plan to time-shift eight categories on this year's broadcast after a firestorm of criticism from the creative community.

As a result, all 28 categories slated for the CBS broadcast will be awarded live.

"This decision was made to mend relationships within the television community and to allow executive producer Don Mischer to focus his full attention on producing the creative elements in the telecast," TV academy chairman and CEO John Shaffner said. "Our goal is to celebrate the year in television and honor excellence and this year's great achievements with the support of our industry colleagues and our telecast partner."

Last month, Mischer proposed and ATAS' board of governors voted to approve a time-shift of eight awards.

The proposal included mostly longform categories: best movie and best miniseries; writing for movie/miniseries; directing for movie/miniseries; supporting actor and actress in TV movie/miniseries; writing for drama series; and directing for variety, music and comedy series.

"We try to make the Emmys more relevant to mainstream viewers while honoring the choice of the academy properly and appropriately," Mischer said at the time.

But the move drew criticism from the WGA, DGA, SAG and several networks, including HBO, which dominates the longform field. More than 100 writer-producers, including Shonda Rhimes, Seth MacFarlane, Matthew Weiner and John Wells, signed a letter protesting the decision.

That petition was the wake-up call for the Academy that created the momentum to scrap the plan, WGA West president Patric Verrone said.

"It's important that the TV Academy appreciates the power that writers and showrunners wield when they work together and they are a force to be reckoned with," he said.

A main point of contention was that the plan had been drafted without input from the guilds.

After the ill-fated time-shifting announcement, there have been phone conversations between the Academy and WGA.

"There will be more going forward to prevent unilateral decisions like this being made without consulting with a very important part of the creative process -- writers," Verrone said.

The creative community's public outcry over the plan spilled into the recent Television Critics Assn. press tour, where talent and executives univocally condemned the idea and CBS execs were forced to defend it.

With the backlash showing no signs of subsiding, ATAS, after consulting with CBS, decided to back off.

Mischer said the decision to keep all Emmy categories live "was made because ultimately it is in the best interest of the show" and "in the best interest of the entertainment industry."

"We had attempted to make room in the show for more live performances. However, our community did not embrace the plan, which is a very important consideration," he said.

This year's Emmycast is a crucial one for the academy coming off last year's ceremony, which hit an all-time ratings low, and entering the final year of its contract with the broadcast networks.

With ratings for other main awards shows rebounding, the academy and CBS have been looking for ways to liven up the telecast, which includes more categories awarded live than its counterparts.
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