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Editorial: Emmy's Winning Idea

Last week, many in Hollywood's creative community rose up and protested the decision by the Television Academy to pre-tape and edit down parts of this year's Sept. 20 Emmy Awards telecast on CBS. In particular, the writers' guilds on both sides of the country sounded off on the decision to put eight awards in the category of not-ready-for (live) primetime.

This may not be a popular statement in many parts of Hollywood, but anything that could possibly make the Emmys a better television show makes all the sense in the world.

First, you have to take into account the back story. The Emmy Awards as a television show is struggling, coming off a record low last year of slightly more than 12 million viewers, along with the reality-host debacle.

It is hindered by the fact that it doesn't lend itself to the great musical acts that have helped buoy the Grammys and Tonys recently (though it will have How I Met Your Mother's Neil Patrick Harris, who was universally lauded for his Tony hosting turn).

And this year, after moving from Sept. 20 and then back to that original date, it is resigned to lining up against a Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants National Football League contest that is bound to do a nice number. That is, assuming more Giants players don't bring anything they shouldn't into nightclubs, and Dallas quarterback Tony Romo gets over his breakup with Jessica Simpson.

But the conflict comes between what the Emmy Awards ought to celebrate, and what it should look like as an actual television show. Those two things rarely go hand in hand.

The shows most people watch, such as the CBS crime dramas, aren't exactly Emmy darlings. But lots of Emmy favorites, from AMC's Mad Men to many high-quality movies and miniseries, don't bring in the mass audiences. That's been the challenge of the Emmys since the cable networks began upping the quality of their original programming and siphoning off audiences more and more from the broadcast networks.

The Television Academy doesn't want to see more stories about plummeting ratings, and knows it has to take steps to turn the tide. So this year, one step it decided to take was to tighten up parts of the show to streamline the entertainment offerings.

Harris defended the moves to television critics last week, saying, “It's certainly not out of a lack of respect.” Instead, he said, it's about delivering “the best show we can to the audience.”

Makes sense to us. With all the obstacles the Academy has to growing ratings this year, we have to believe it should do whatever it can to make—wait for it—the most awesome television show ever.