What Can the Emmys Do to Fix Ratings?

September 13, 2018

By Max Godnick

Live from Hollywood, it's a scramble for ratings.

"Saturday Night Live" cast members Michael Che and Colin Jost on Monday night will trade in their "Weekend Update" suits for tuxedos as co-hosts of the TV industry's big night ー the 70th annual Emmy Awards. They're also joining legendary SNL creator and EP of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Lorne Michaels, in an attempt to revive the show's ailing ratings. Michaels, who has also produced a handful of sleeper-hit comedy films and heads "Late Night with Seth Meyers," will return to the award show for the first time since the late-eighties.

"Lorne Michaels has been putting together a live show for an eternity, so he knows what he's doing," managing editor of Cinemablend Sean O'Connell said Thursday in an interview with Cheddar.

But even Michaels's golden touch might not be enough.

The Emmys are consistently the lowest-rated of the four major awards shows (which include the Oscars, Grammys, and Golden Globes) and will be coming off the ceremony's second-lowest ratings ever in 2017.

But the ratings malaise is undiscriminating and near-universal ー all the major industry contests have struggled to sustain viewership in the streaming era.

"As a society, we're tired of awards shows," O'Connell said. "It's the same thing year after year after year."

In today's so-called golden age of TV, it would be fair to assume that an onslaught of prestige shows would naturally lead to a spike in audiences who want to see the awards fate of their favorites.

This year, the top contenders at the Emmys are among the most popular and critically acclaimed programs in the history of the medium.

"Game of Thrones," "The Handmaid's Tale," "Atlanta," and "Stranger Things" will be in the lineup of series hoping to hear their names called on Monday; there just may not be many fans tuning in to see that happen.

"It's show after show of really popular programming," O'Connell said of the nominees. "Maybe [the low ratings are] just because [audiences] decided they'd rather go watch some of those episodes."

Hemorrhaging ratings aside, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences will feature some of the most competitive races in recent memory.

Netflix is the most-nominated network, ending HBO's 17-year streak of dominance. But the likeliest recipients of the night's most prestigious award, "Outstanding Drama Series," hail from HBO and Hulu. It's been over a year since viewers last traveled to Westeros, and the final season of "Game of Thrones" will not arrive until 2019. Even still, its seventh season is the Emmys' most-nominated show. It will face off against the season two of the category's defending champion, Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale."

O'Connell thinks the long absence will ultimately hurt HBO's flagship series.

"'Handmaid's Tale' has stayed really relevant," he said. "It's stayed in the headlines, it's such an incredible program, I could see it dominating on Monday."

The competition is also strong in the "Outstanding Comedy" field, where mainstays "Modern Family" and "Veep" are missing for the first time since 2010. That will leave space for newcomers "Barry" and "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" to emerge as the genre's victor. O'Connell thinks Bill Hader's raved-about portrayal of a hitman-turned-actor will be rewarded.

"Sometimes the Emmys like to surprise and get ahead of the curve," he said. "I think that they could make a statement by choosing ['Barry'] as best comedy."

The 70th Primetime Emmy Awards will air Monday night on NBC.

For full interview click here.