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Emmys Telecast Revealed as Producer Don Mischer Takes THR Backstage

Jimmy Kimmel Emmy Host Key Art White - H 2012
ABC/BOB D'AMICO

The show will be divided into five genres as nominees are introduced via video interviews, political jokes are discouraged and social media plays its biggest role yet.

During rehearsals on Saturday, veteran producer Don Mischer gave The Hollywood Reporter a sneak peek at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards, which will be broadcast on ABC from the Nokia Theater on Sunday.

In an interview at the auditorium control both, Mischer -- who is leading the Emmys' production team this year — revealed that the show again is being split into "genres" — with comedy opening the evening.

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Social media will play its biggest role yet, said Mischer, with host Jimmy Kimmel live-tweeting the show. Some nominees will be introduced via video interviews, and the set will feature five giant, rotating video screens that flash graphics and video. "The screens will allow us to change the mood in the room electronically," Mischer said.

It's not easy to change up the format of a venerable awards show, but Mischer — a 15-time Emmy award winner himself — is trying.

"These shows can get too neat or too pat sometimes," Mischer said.  "As producers we hope we have surprise winners. We hope for really emotion heartfelt acceptance speeches."

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What's the line-up?

Mischer said the show again will be divided into five genres:  Comedy, reality, drama, variety, and miniseries/movies. "It just makes the whole thing more coherent," Mischer said. "I remember many, many years ago, we just scattershot the show. We would have supporting actress in a mini-series and then do the award for directing in a comedy. It was OK. But it was hard to get a sense of what happened in one genre in television. We are trying to celebrate the best of television."

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But if you're hoping to find out early in the program which show will win best drama series or best comedy series, you'll have to wait. Those awards will still be given out last. 

What does Kimmel have planned for his monologue? 

"He's going to be very much in the moment," said Mischer, slyly avoiding the question. "When the awards are being presented, he will be backstage with his writers in a room. Everything that happens, every win that happens, they are going to try to react to it, give a point of view. He's quick on his feet." 

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Any political jokes? 

"No, I've said to everybody we'd like to kind of avoid that," Mischer said. "But these shows can sometimes take off in their own direction. I was sitting in the audience as a nominee once when someone went up and made a Dan Quayle joke. The evening became a Dan Quayle bashing ceremony. There may be some winners who come up and make political statements this year. That's one thing we have no control over. I can tell you there's no politics in the presenters' comments."

How will this show differ from previous shows?

"When it comes to announcing the nominations, the options are to list the names or show clips of the show," Mischer said. "This time, we've attempted to mix it up by doing little video pieces where the nominees themselves say something." 

For example, some of the nominees were asked to respond to questions like "what makes a great comic director?" or "Do you ever get writer's block?" 

"With the stars, you can show their work, but it's harder when you're trying to give the viewing audience a sense of the writers and producers," Mischer said. "We're trying to give them a little personality."

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What about the set?

"We decided we needed a screen-heavy look," Mischer said. The stage was fashioned with five giant moving screens.  "Each genre will have a particular look. The screens will allow us to change the mood in the room electronically."

And your plans for social media?

"We're trying to really engage people in the viral community to talk and tweet," he said. "Jimmy will be tweeting during the show and who knows what else. I'm afraid to think..."

ABC also is planning to broadcast hashtags where viewers can tweet their congratulations to the award winners during the show, Mischer added.

Any surprises?

 "I wish I knew," Mischer said. "Gil Cates, who did the Oscars for so many years, used to say, 'The awards show gods either smile down on you or they don't.' What he meant by that is if you have amazing wins and unpredictable wins, it makes the evening more exciting."