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Making Room on the Mantel

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Awards season is here, with the 68th Primetime Emmys going down at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles Sept. 18, the Critics’ Choice Awards handed out in December and the Golden Globes and SAG Awards on tap for January. In this era of as many as 450 scripted original shows, some top show-makers believe it’s more important than ever to be awarded for your work.

Several shows with modest profiles, including Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Amazon’s Transparent, CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and USA Network’s Mr. Robot, parlayed surprising Golden Globe wins in recent years into increased exposure for the series, and some prestige for the host network.

Several top TV producers say that, as the number of quality shows goes up, the significance of the top awards also increases as they hustle to make their series stand out. “Business-wise, it’s really meaningful,” said David Zucker, executive producer on The Man in theHigh Castle, the Amazon drama that’s up for four Primetime Emmys. “The fact that the landscape is as crowded as it is, it means something to be able to garner attention by being recognized in that way.”

Even a nomination is a substantial booster of morale around the set. “What’s more satisfying for us is, people we work with get recognized,” added Zucker. “It feels great for them to have that acknowledgement of their peers.”

Sarah Treem, showrunner on Showtime’s The Affair, says awards recognition is particularly meaningful for a series that’s critically, but perhaps not commercially, cherished. “It’s very important for us, a prestige drama that does not crack the ceiling with viewership,” she said.

Treem added that she’s “very thrilled” that the series’ Maura Tierney was nominated for an Emmy, after winning a supporting actress Golden Globe in January.

David E. Kelley, who’s been producing hit dramas for decades, thinks awarded shows may have gotten a bigger bang in the era of four main networks, when viewers had far fewer series to keep straight. Picket Fences, Kelley noted, was a struggling show when it was a surprise Emmy winner in 1993. (It repeated in 1994.) “Twenty million viewers heard it was the best drama,” said Kelley, who’s now producing legal drama Goliath at Amazon. “That got a few to follow.”

Rajiv Menon, cultural analyst at branding outfit TruthCo., says a big win drives ratings on broadcast, and earns respect for emerging networks such as Netflix and Amazon. “They’ve built their brand on risk taking and expanding the boundaries of storytelling,” he said. “Awards show that’s a legitimate media strategy.”

An Emmy or Golden Globe can steer more quality projects to a producer, and win them more green lights from networks. It’s also a fun stroll on the red carpet. “What an incredible time to be making dramatic television,” said Zucker. “It’s nice just to be invited to the party.”