Emmy Awards struggle to stay relevant to viewers

Sun Aug 30, 2009 10:09pm EDT
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By T.L. Stanley

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - More stars. More nominated shows. More viewers?

That's the idea, at least, behind the changes ordered up for the telecast of the 61st annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 20. Even after abandoning a controversial plan to "time-shift" eight categories to pre-taped segments, there will be plenty of new elements.

Instead of the usual five nominees, there will be six stars waiting to hear if their names are called in several major categories. With the full casts and creators of seven comedies and dramas (because of a tie) vying for the series statuettes, the Nokia Theater will be even more packed than it was last year.

But, while the efforts to freshen up the Emmys have added an element of controversy to this year's event, the question remains whether the shift will reverse the show's recent ratings slide.

According to the Don Mischer, executive producer of the CBS telecast, a shake-up was necessary to ensure the continued appeal of the show.

"The intent is to make the show more accessible and entertaining without losing the gravitas," Mischer says. "If more people watch, the Emmys win and the whole business wins."

Specific plans are still in the formative stages but could include additional viewer-friendly changes such as showing trivia and factoids about the nominees and winners to better acquaint the audience with some of the lesser-known honorees. That will cut down on comments like, "Who's that?" emanating from living rooms across the country when such cult favorites as Elisabeth Moss ("Mad Men") and Jemaine Clement ("Flight of the Conchords") are onscreen.

"All this is about connecting the viewer at home to what's happening at the Nokia Theater," Mischer says, "and to give them a reason to stick around."   Continued...

<p>Rows of Emmy Award statuettes are seen at the 2006 Creative Arts Emmys in Los Angeles in this August 19, 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>