Sixties out, CIA in? Looking for meaning in Emmys

By Jocelyn Noveck

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Sept. 24 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

They weren't alone. "I was flabbergasted that 'Homeland' won," said Tom O'Neil, the editor of the Gold Derby website, which follows awards shows. He added that it was particularly surprising that "Mad Men," instead of setting a happy record by winning a 5th consecutive best drama award, set a dubious one by losing all 17 awards it was nominated for.

"What's really astounding is the abrupt renunciation of 'Mad Men,'" he said. "Nobody thought their record would be the shutout record."

O'Neil's best cultural explanation? "The Emmys frequently want their winners to be weighted with meaning," he said. "'Homeland'" is a highly stylized thriller that says something important about our time."

On top of that, O'Neil added, is the sophistication factor — which he also calls the "snob factor."

"One thing you can count on with Emmy voters is that they are elitist snobs," said O'Neil. Remember the much-awarded "Frasier"? "That was about two elitist brothers squabbling over things like wine."

So "Homeland," O'Neil said, weaves sophisticated subject matter into an exciting thriller, with a snapshot of America today — all during an election year. How could voters resist?

One thing all analysts agreed on was the way in which these Emmys signaled the failure of the big broadcast networks, in the area of drama (In comedy, by contrast, ABC's "Modern Family" remains triumphant, winning its third Emmy on Sunday.)

"Think of how ashamed of themselves the broadcast networks must be," noted Bianculli, editor of the TV Worth Watching website and a teacher of film and TV at Rowan University. "Cable used to have its own awards because it wasn't good enough for Emmys. Now it's the broadcast networks that aren't good enough."

There was some good news for broadcast networks — viewership was up for the Emmys.

Nielsen estimated that 13.2 million viewers watched Sunday night's awards show on ABC. That's up from the 12.4 million who watched in 2011. And the social media measurement company Trendrr reported there were more than 1.5 million mentions of the Emmys on social media Sunday, up 29 percent from last year.

But back to those mourning "Mad Men" fans — analysts were not at all convinced that the AMC series was on a real decline. And they pointed out that in a year or two, "Homeland" could even seem old.

"Something else could come along, making a big statement, and shove it aside," said Brooks. "There is nothing like the glow of the new."

TV writer David Bauder contributed to this report.

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