“Welcome to the pre-Emmy nominations campaign lunch,” one cable network exec deadpanned as I walked into the first (and organizers hope annual) Critics’ Choice Television Awards on Monday afternoon at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The event, created by the Broadcast Critics Association to complement the now 17-year-old Critics Choice Movie Awards and plant its flag officially in Emmy season, will be aired Wednesday on ReelzChannel, a rather obscure network that bills itself as “TV about Movies” but in this case will be “TV about TV.” Timed to occur during the Emmy nomination voting period (ballots aren’t due until this Friday), these awards, which drew many nominees, showrunners and execs and a big media turnout for red-carpet interviews, are another cog in the promotional wheel that has turned Emmy season into an advertising bonanza for many media outlets (yes, ads run on Deadline, too), and one that seems to be rivaling Oscar season for its pure visceral assault on potential voters. Actually, as a longtime member of the TV Academy, I would say the attention — not to mention cold hard cash — being lavished on trying to land nominations is more elaborate and intense than it has ever been. And maybe just a bit of overkill.
There are electronic billboards around L.A. soliciting votes (Steve Carell in The Office, anyone?) not to mention bus-shelter posters, Q&As everywhere (I have moderated my share), a months-long advertising blitz in trade papers and the Los Angeles Times (which recently had a full-on front-page ad wrap with their newspaper logo so that when readers opened their paper, they didn’t see the usual headlines but rather an Emmy bid for the stars of Men Of A Certain Age) and so much more.
Then there are all the lavish DVD boxes sent to the over-15,000-strong membership. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences put a stop to this kind of blatant pandering to voters by enacting specific guidelines strictly outlawing promotional opportunities sent with screeners of award hopefuls. The TV Academy has not done this (although they should), which is why some days at Emmy time the mail brings loads of fun stuff for voters to unwrap. HBO, which usuually dominates Emmy noms, sent its traditional boxes packed with series, specials, movies and docs, but other outlets feeling the need to be noticed came up with attention-getting devices like the pop-up card from How I Met Your Mother; the monopoly-style board game for The Big Bang Theory; the children’s book-style layout for Fox’s Raising Hope; a lenticular showing two sides of RuPaul for his reality show on Logo; numerous elaborate glossy DVD-laden brochures and/or foldout packages for the likes of Glee, Modern Family, Hot In Cleveland, Community, The Good Wife, Friday Night Lights (including the final 13 episodes of the series); and the shows of Starz, FX, Showtime, TNT, WE, NBC Universal, History Channel, Discovery and others. AMC had one of the most sophisticated mailings and included the entire seasons of Mad Men and The Walking Dead as well as episodes from their other series.
The most garish bid for attention was an ill-conceived item from Warner Bros Television, which sent a big red box (inside another big box) that was adorned with its series’ names and contained seven very slick 4-foot long (by a little less than 2 feet wide) vertical banners with individual series DVDs awkwardly stuffed into the bottom part of each one (Two and a Half Men was MIA in this package, though).
After sifting through all this stuff, at least Fox gave voters a laugh with their annual solicitation for the animated perennial loser Family Guy, an unfolding DVD package that featured such sayings as “It’s been this way for eight years, and it’s starting to hurt morale,” then, “We paid for a Golden Globe and didn’t get it, so we’re owed an award,” then, “Here’s a free DVD to give to your nephew,” and finally, “This screener has one frame of porn. Find the porn.” (more…)