Much like the Oscars, the Emmys are awards that honor the actors, directors, editors, writers, producers, and all the creative talents that go into making high quality television. And like the Oscars, the Emmys has a big gala event, broadcast live on primetime television, with secret ballots and moments of suspense as we await the names of the winners.
But unlike its Hollywood cousin, the Emmy awards are actually a series of events for the various categories of TV shows (e.g., drama, sitcoms, live shows, soap opera, news, sports, cable, children shows) as well as local shows that only air regionally (think Evening News). As such, there are several award shows in various area-specific ceremonies held all through the year. But for most of us, it’s the Primetime Emmys that we love; the one we’re compelled to watch to see if our favorite show (like Madmen, Breaking Bad or The Walking Dead) will be named the best on TV. So since we’re such TV (and movie) fanatics, we asked the same question again, “How did this all begin?”
When the Oscars started in 1929, television hadn’t even been invented yet. Even after World War II, televisions were only in 4,000 homes in Los Angeles; and in only about 50,000 homes across the United States. It took only a little time for the new industry to grow to the point that an awards show would make sense. It’s no wonder that the first Emmy Awards, presented on January 25, 1949 at the Hollywood Athletic Club, was a small dinner ceremony that was not broadcast.
As it turns out, the fledgling Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) created the Emmys to honor shows produced and aired locally in the Los Angeles area as part of a public relations opportunity. And the ATAS founder, Syd Cassyd, really just wanted the Academy to be a serious forum where issues about the young TV industry could be discussed. Glam was of no interest to Cassyd and he even opposed the idea of handing out awards, like that other Hollywood based Academy. Fortunately for us, some of the other founders wanted to emulate the Oscars, so in the early 1950’s the ATAS expanded the Emmys into a national event and presented awards to TV shows that were broadcast nationwide.
Now this is where the story gets a little complicated. Most of the TV shows in the 1950’s were still broadcasting from New York; so not to be outdone by their West Coast brethren, a few top level TV producers created the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) in 1955. The NATAS was formed in New York to serve members on the East Coast, and help supervise the Emmys. The NATAS also established regional chapters throughout the U.S., with each one developing their own local Emmy awards show for local programming. ATAS and NATAS merged to oversee the national Emmys, but both organizations maintained separate control of regional ceremonies that honored local programming.
Soon there were several regional Emmy award shows and one national award show. To further complicate things, in the early, 1970’s; the Daytime Emmys began to honor soap opera and daytime talk shows that were usually shunned by the Primetime awards. Then other groups began to have their own Emmy awards, and now we have local, regional and national Emmy award shows that cater to different segments of the television industry. In 1977, due to various conflicts, the ATAS and the NATAS split apart but agreed to share ownership of the Emmy statue and trademark, and with each responsible for administering a specific set of award shows.
While there may be many versions of the Emmys in any given year, it is the Primetime Emmys that captivates us each Fall. The most recent awards were given out last September 22, 2012, at the Nokia Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles. It was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, with AMC’s Mad Men — last year’s winner for best drama series — and the FX series American Horror Story topping the list with 17 nominations apiece. As a sign of how much things have changed in recent years, all of the drama series nominated for “Best Show” were on non-traditional networks: Boardwalk Empire (HBO); Breaking Bad (AMC); Downton Abbey (PBS); Game of Thrones (HBO); Homeland (Showtime); and Mad Men (AMC). In fact, HBO led all of the networks with 81 nominations. And it seems that all this competition is making television better than ever. It’s great for us, the viewer, to have all these wonderful award winning shows to watch. Now we just have to make room on our DVRs to record all of our favorite series.
Copyright – New Show Studios 2013