Fox will be televising the 71st annual Emmy Awards for television this Sunday. All of your favorite TV shows will likely get called: “Game of Thrones” (2011–2019), “Succession” (2018–), “Pose” (2018–), “Fleabag” (2016–2019), etc. We get it. There is an overflow of good television.
Although this sounds like complaining, the copious level of quality television and how it is distributed has created a problem for the Television Academy: The Emmys are televised at the wrong time of the year.
In the era of television 1.0 and 2.0, when all television came to viewers through an actual physical television, every show shared a similar schedule. A typical television season, regardless of genre, would air from September to April or May. Consequently, the Television Academy would air the Emmys in September. It made sense. The shows would be nominated for their previous aired season, still fresh in viewers minds, as the new season began to air.
Nowadays this concept feels inconceivable, like asking someone to write you a letter and send it in the mail. Thanks to streaming television’s conquest of the medium, when television airs is irrelevant. There is no conventional release time or pilot season like there used to be. A show can debut any time of the year it’d like. Just look at the nominees this year: “Ozark” (2017–) season two came out on Aug. 31, 2018 and “Succession” (2018–) aired from June to August 2018.
This problem is only exacerbated by how many streaming shows are released all at once. If something comes into the cultural zeitgeist and is there all at once, the schedule that television and the Emmys abide by is even less relevant.
Take Netflix’s “Stranger Things” (2016–) as an example. The newest season was released on July 4. Fans of the show downed it over the Independence Day holiday weekend and had a great time doing it. Because of the nomination window and when the Emmys are scheduled, that season will not be eligible for nomination until next year. You’ll be watching the Emmys with your friends and think, “They didn’t release a new season of ‘Stranger Things,’ did they? Season 3? What even happened that season?”
There are even shows from this past year that technically fit into this nomination cycle and deserve their chance but got snubbed at least partially because of when they aired. Sam Esmail’s “Homecoming” (2018–) was dropped on Amazon Prime on Nov. 2, 2018. It was critically acclaimed for its 70’s-paranoia-thriller style and brilliant performances, but then it got a zero Emmy nominations. How does Julia Roberts not at least get a nomination?
Could at least some of it be due to recency bias? Only one of the seven actresses nominated for Best Leading Actress in a Drama is nominated for a season that aired before “Homecoming:” Laura Linney in “Ozark” (2017–), and one that came out the same weekend: Robin Wright in “House of Cards” (2013–2018).
There is too much good television happening year-round, with each show briefly in our attention span and the cultural discourse and then out the other side, for shows to have to wait a year or more to be rewarded. That brings us to the ultimate and best solution: The Emmys shouldn’t be moved to a different time of the year, but rather duplicated.
Rather than continue to revolve around the antiquated television schedule, the Emmys should just reflect a regular calendar. There would be the first Emmys award show for shows that aired or released between January and June. The show could be sometime during July. Then, for shows airing between July and December, there would be an awards show in January. The Television Academy could work with the Motion Picture Academy to find the right time and fit it in around the Golden Globes and Oscars.
This schedule could still even accommodate network television shows. After all, the Academy shouldn’t just bow down to the new delivery service entirely. Network television still has the capability to create good television. The July awards show would allow for any show that aired on the traditional September to May schedule to be nominated.
With a biannual show, the Television Academy would be forward thinking. It would be staying on top of the ball and more directly inserting itself into the conversation around television shows, something the Academy who gave the Best Picture award to Green Book could learn from.