HBO shows: unfair advantage in the Emmy nominations?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Patrick Sun, Jul 24, 2001.

  1. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    It seems to me that HBO has an unfair advantage when it comes to garnering Emmy nominations because they are able to show R-rated material in their original programs (Oz, Sopranos, Sex In The City, etc) which gives them an unfair edge over programs that need to conform to FCC regulations and limited to showing PG-rated material for the network's own original programs.
    HBO shows are able to use the adult language/nudity/violence needed to make their programs more "biting" and provides more leeway to provide adult programming which may bias the Emmy nominations.
    Agree or disagree?
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  2. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Disagree. The total absence of shows such as "Gilmore Girls" and "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" from the list of Emmy nominations, for example, seems to re-inforce that the Emmy voters are a conservative, hidebound lot who probably wouldn't necessarily appreciate edgy or biting that much.
    What HBO does have is a much smaller slate of shows to promote than any of the other networks and/or studios, many of them (from what I'm told) damn good. So they're in a better position to campaign.
    Or, they may have access to the same mind-altering substances Miramax uses to make the likes of Chocolat and The Cider House Rules Oscar contenders.
     
  3. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    With all due respect, Patrick, your question is effectively a rehash of the memo circulated by NBC network president Robert Wright about two months ago, in which he whined about how the networks can't compete with The Sopranos because they can't show sex and violence to the same degree. Wright missed the mark, and so does your question.
    The ability to show "R"-rated content is only one aspect of the freedom that HBO allows its creative talent. The single greatest freedom offered by HBO is the freedom from interference and oversight, something that has been repeatedly cited by creators of successful HBO shows such as David Chase and Alan Ball. That's a big reason why HBO routinely attracts major talent that you're unlikely to find working on network TV (directors like Mike Nichols and Norman Jewison; actors like Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh).
    HBO didn't get those Emmy nominations with sex and violence; it got them with good material, skillfully and creatively presented. It can be just as shamelessly pandering and self-promoting as any major network (G-String Divas, anyone?). But it's also figured out that there's an audience for quality, and that the best way to get quality is to let top talent do what they're good at. I don't think the major networks have that lesson down yet.
    One other critical point: HBO isn't a slave to ratings the way the networks are. If it thinks a show is worthy, it will give it a chance to find an audience. It ordered a second season of Six Feet Under before the first episode even aired; a regular network would have canceled the show if the first two weeks didn't draw big enough ratings. Think of the good shows that networks have dumped because they weren't instant ratings stars (Action, Grosse Pointe, Wonderland, to name a few).
    M.
    [Edited last by Michael Reuben on July 24, 2001 at 10:20 AM]
     
  4. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    I'll just say that I was ignorant of the memo. This question came to me as I was thinking about the amazing number of Emmy nominations that HBO racked up a week or two ago.
    Here's the thing: I wonder how much less we'd like Six Feet Under if it didn't include the racy adult content. The same with The Sopranos. And good grief, the dialogue alone in Sex In The City would never make it past network censors.
    (I'm not a prude, but I'm just raising this point just to see if it was the titillation factor from the HBO shows that allows for more meatier "action" and dialogue, and thus garner more "support" from nominating process because these are the kind of shows that appeal to the voters, more 'real' life action and dialogue). I admit to loving the adult aspect to these HBO shows.
    I'm not saying you can't do quality TV shows devoid of salty language, sex and murders, but they do seem to attract the right demographics. BTW, I discovered "Gilmore Girls" this summer, and Wow! the dialogue alone is to die for.
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  5. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    Don't forget, HBO shows also aren't forced to fit into a 45-minute four-act-plus-teaser structure. I've read that the running time for "The Sopranos" can vary between 40 minutes and 60, depending on what the script needs. Not to mention that a program on HBO doesn't have to worry that the audience will flip away during an ad break, so there's no need for little mini-cliffhangers every ten minutes.
    HBO does have certain creative advantages, no question. Sure, swearing/violence/sex is one of them, but the creative freedom extends far beyond that.
    Is it an "unfair" advantage? Maybe from a network's perspective. Then again, it could be argued that broadcast networks are becoming obsolete, in which case the likes of HBO should be burying them.
     
  6. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Here's a link to a story on Wright's letter. I remember print articles with more extensive quotations, but I didn't keep them.
    Network TV is capable of plenty of adult content, even under current limitations. They may not be able to show as much or say certain words (the list is shrinking), but there's hardly a topic they can't broach. The three shows I listed (all canceled) went pretty far, and NYPD Blue still has its moments.
     
  7. John Berggren

    John Berggren Producer

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    The lack of limitations of cable programming go well beyond the use of profanity, sexuality, and violence. I have found that because shows aren't confined to be 44.25 minutes per hour, nor confined to being a specific structure each week (creat reasonable commercial breaks, fit within the 42-odd minutes allowed as a result of commercials, etc), the act structure can be more fluid. Characters also seem to develop more fully as concerns over syndication stripping and such aren't as prevalent. I would also say that every time a creator is on Fresh Air at NPR, they always delight in the fact that they are given complete freedom and autonomy to develop their project.
    Just look at what that would have done for people like JM Stracysnski (SP) with Crusade... or many other series. I watched "Bette" and Nathan Lane's horrible sitcom thinking how wonderful if they had brought their talents to cable instead.
    Cable also offers flexibility with the season. Some shows have 13 episodes per season, others have 22. I imagine if a creator wanted to do 7, or 17, or 52 - he or she would be given that opportunity.
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  8. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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  9. Adam Tyner

    Adam Tyner Screenwriter

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    Do they have an advantage, Patrick? Sure, but I wouldn't say it's an unfair advantage.
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  10. Mike St.Louis

    Mike St.Louis Supporting Actor

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    Another good thing about HBO is that they don't have to start a new season in the fall.
    I like the fact that they are giving David Chase the freedom to take some time off before starting a new season of Sopranos. Sure it will be a long wait for the fans but the trade-off is another top-notch season with cast and crew refreshed. This also gives them more time to pursue other projects.
    I thought about this a few years ago with X-Files. Wouldn't it be good if CC and company could take a year off and then come back fresh instead of cranking out 22 episodes to make FOX's deadlines? I think the show would have been better the last few years if there wasn't as much time pressure.
     
  11. David McKean

    David McKean Auditioning

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  12. Patrick_S

    Patrick_S Producer

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  13. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    Well, that's my beef. I don't think it's about scheduling, per se, but rather freedom of content. Network shows simply can't compete in the arena of racier content. They have too many network censors/execs telling them that advertisers will pull out if they push the envelope too far. HBO can put just about anything they want in their shows with no fears of advertising revenue reprisals. The networks can't.
    Maybe the model is skewed, but I don't think many of us would subscribe solely to CBS, NBC, ABC, et al, given their current output if still limited to the content guidelines.
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  14. Glenn Overholt

    Glenn Overholt Producer

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    I was going to really disagree with you at first, Patrick. The HBO scrips are well written, and I enjoy the racier content, but I do like some of the 'G' rated network shows too.
    Now however, I see your point and agree. We want the racier stuff, and HBO is where to get it, good writing notwithstanding. Maybe the writing will go downhill in a few years/decades, but there is still something else missing from this whole equation.
    As only an example, NYPD Blue has had some 'good stuff'. It should remain on at ten PM. (Yeah, I'm climbing into the networks and ratings stuff). The shows that are on at 8 I feel are very inappropriate for pre-teens, especially ages 8 and under, that probably crash out at 9, when slightly better stuff comes on.
    Boston Public is a perfectly good example of this. I love the show, but I don't think their plots are appropriate for wee tykes. But then the networks, (in the same time slot, mind you) will show 'feminine protection commericals'. Am I glad that my son is grown. I can't imagine explaining that to a 6 year old boy, but I'm sure that the networks get paid enough to put it on. What are they thinking?
    I saw Disney's Hercules last night, and thought it was way too violent to be rated 'G'. I'm waiting for some 6 year old to strangle a classmate, a-la Bevis & Butthead.
    Glenn
     
  15. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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  16. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

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    Sex, violence, and r-rated language alone are not the reasons HBO shows get nominated. They are very well written shows with great acting. If that criteria was used for movies American Pie would have been nominated for 10 oscars.
     
  17. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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    I did say "many of us" which I meant millions of "us". [​IMG]
    Currently, due to my cable modem situation, I get HBO free (the cable company had to take off the choke for the low channel frequencies, so channel 15/HBO is now viewable on my cable feed). I would be put in a quandary if I had to pay for HBO (early in life, I decided not to subscribe to any premium pay channels, no matter the content), and now I do wonder if I would be tempted to pay for HBO if it were taken away from me now... [​IMG]
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  18. Michael Reuben

    Michael Reuben Studio Mogul

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    Can't fool me, Patrick, 'cause I've read your posts on Six Feet Under. If your HBO feed gets pulled while that show is still running, your cable company can name their price. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    M.
     
  19. Patrick Sun

    Patrick Sun Moderator
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  20. David McKean

    David McKean Auditioning

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    The racier content is just an gimmick to get you to tune in. Once you actually do, you watch the shows because of the well written scripts and better acting than is typical on network television. But I think networks are slowly catching up to HBO. Larry Sanders wouldn't have worked on network television 10 year ago, but I almost think the networks could get away with something like it today.
     

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