The television awards show hopes that deploying Neil Patrick Harris as host and mixing up its usual format will grab viewers from 'Sunday Night Football.'
What's an awards show, like the Emmys, to do?
With just 9.3 million households tuning in last year – the lowest in the show's 60-year history – someone had to do something to try to goose interest in the Primetime Emmy Awards, the television industry's annual prize fest.
Enter Don Mischer, executive producer.
Even when they're not up against the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, awards shows today are a tricky business, he said by phone, speaking from the Nokia Theater here late in the week during an Emmy show rehearsal. "All awards shows have been sliding in the ratings," he says. "A good awards show," he adds, "has to not only do justice to the artists it honors, but it must be good entertainment."
He comes to the task this year armed with recent research about why the show was bombing with audiences.
One controversial idea – compressing, or "time-shifting," some awards to give more attention to traditional audience favorites – was rejected by the creative unions. But other ideas have produced what Mischer hopes is a streamlined and revitalized celebration.
Instead of the traditional scattershot approach, feathering in high-profile awards with the lesser-known categories, the evening will feature five themes: comedy, reality, miniseries (and movies or long form), variety, and drama. As each genre takes its turn, "we are hoping to show the most powerful, most gut-wrenching, and in some cases hilarious television of the season to set the tone for that genre," says Mischer.
The set will feature a control room with sophisticated production equipment as well as a live band onstage and a wealth of choreography, he adds.