Matthew Weiner of Mad Men. Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof of Lost. Greg Daniels of The Office. David Shore of House. Shonda Rhimes of Grey's Anatomy. These are the creative forces behind some of the most popular and influential shows on TV today, the writer/producers who create and oversee the series so often lauded by the Emmys.
Now they're protesting the decision by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to "time-shift" two of the four Emmy writing awards – drama and movie/miniseries – during the September 20 telecast. About 150 of them have signed a petition asking the Academy to reconsider.
"Since most of the showrunners on TV are writers, it seems an unfair and insulting move," said Hart Hanson, creator/showrunner of Bones, one of several writers to respond to a request for comment.
The Emmys will present eight awards prior to the live event and show only highlights of them in the telecast. The move is intended to save time and to increase the entertainment value by de-emphasizing awards given "to people that viewers are not necessarily connected to," in the words of Emmy executive producer Don Mischer at the Television Critics Association press tour.
"What are the Emmys? I thought it was excellence in television. At the Tonys, are they eliminating the playwright?" asked Lawrence Kaplow, a writer/producer with Best Drama nominee House.
The other rationale for the change, according to Mischer's remarks at the TCA, is "to make the show more about broadcasting, not about narrowcasting." That's particularly important for the Academy as they prepare to renegotiate the Emmy broadcast contract during a period of declining ratings.
Last year, the not-exactly-a-viewer-magnet cable show Mad Men took home best drama, while fellow AMC series Breaking Bad earned Bryan Cranston a win for lead actor. This year, AMC is again strong in key categories while HBO has a staggering 99 nominations.
"It sure looks like the networks, through the TV Academy, are tired of cablers like HBO and now AMC running away with the awards night again and again," said writer Adam Barken of Flashpoint. "Why 'time-shift' Dramatic One Hour writers (being the most popular scripted format on TV), but not Comedic Half Hour — it wouldn't have anything to do the fact that the One Hour will go to Mad Men, while Comedic Half Hour will go to 30 Rock, would it?"