Emmy Awards are starting to recognize that reality shows are becoming more of a staple in the world of television. The landscape of entertainment is changing, and thankfully so are the measures of success. The first category of awards for reality television shows was added in the early 2000’s. Last year saw the biggest number of Emmy awards granted to reality shows in one prime time season. So You Think You Can Dance, American Idol, Pirate Master, Deadliest Catch, The Amazing Race, My Life on the D-List, Survivor and Top Chef each won one award. Dancing with the Stars received two, rounding out the count for a total of ten.
Until now there were two categories for reality television shows. The programming that we have all grown to love hating was relegated to either the Reality Competition Program or Outstanding Reality Program groups. The television academy decided that this year and going forward the Outstanding Reality Program section will be split into structured and unstructured sections. That is at least until something else changes. For now, shows like Project Runway, Top Chef and The Voice fall into the Reality Competition Program. The Outstanding Structured Reality Program list of nominations include Shark Tank, Undercover Boss and Antiques Roadshow. The Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program nominations list recognizes Deadliest Catch, Flipping Out and Wahlburgers. The additional category is opening doors for shows like Wahlburgers, for example, that may not have otherwise been considered. This show chronicles the goings-on inside the burger joint ran by Mark and Donny Walhberg’s brother Paul in Boston. The Wahlburgers nomination happens to be the sixth nomination for producer Mark Wahlberg as he has received three nods for producing Entourage and two for Boardwalk Empire.
Other major changes in television are also reflected in the Emmy Awards. In 2013, Netflix was the first entity other than a traditional television network to win an Emmy. Director David Fincher won with the hit show House of Cards, which stars actor Kevin Spacey. Many thought that Spacey should have been awarded for the portrayal of his character. That, of course, would have made the win even more historic for Netflix and the academy. Even though that did not happen trends show that the redefining of what “television” includes is evolving rapidly. So whether it means the academy and other elite entities have to recognize more reality shows or more Emmy Awards going to Netflix offerings, the accolades must change with the times.
The way we watch our favorite shows have transformed over the years. Not many people remember only being able to watch what was live on the television set. Since then, recording shows on VHS tapes has changed into recording a whole series on a DVR. Shows are available for view on network websites and through their apps, or on third-party services like Hulu. Companies like Netflix have gone from simply playing content to their subscribers to producing original (and in some cases award-winning) content of their own.
That doesn’t even take into consideration the statistics about where or how people are watching shows. Tablet and mobile viewership have skyrocketed making virtually anywhere an acceptable place for some TV time. It would take a brand new conversation also to dive into the impact and increasingly good quality of web series’ and the like. So get used to hearing about more ways the Emmy Awards recognize shows in the reality category and other new categories that are sure to come.
By Alicia Brownell