Emmy’s Attempts at Interactivity Fall Flat

by | August 30, 2010 at 7:44 AM | Emmys 2010, TV News

Emmys Host Jimmy Fallon During a Skit (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Emmys Host Jimmy Fallon During a Skit (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

BY: Jake Coyle

Few places in broadcasting are more likely to exhibit an awkward relationship with social media than award shows. They have all tried various gimmicks, and those trotted out Sunday night by the Emmys fell flat.

There was reason to have hoped for better this time.

Hosting was Jimmy Fallon, an avid Twitter user with nearly 2.8 million followers and whose “Late Night” show has successfully embraced social media.

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Award shows, too, have become thoroughly aware of the importance of social media. Ratings for award shows in the past year — the Oscars, the Grammys, the Golden Globes — have been up, and some have attributed the boost in viewership to the Internet. Many viewers follow the chatter online while watching the broadcast.

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But while the initial reviews for the 62nd annual Emmy Awards have been mostly positive, the low point, some say, was the clunky insertion of Twitter to the NBC broadcast. Fallon gathered submissions from Twitter for introductions to Emmy presenters like Stephen Colbert and Jon Hamm.

One example, as read by Fallon: “Tina Fey: I’d hit that.”

On Twitter — where one might have expected celebration — the reaction was largely negative.

“I feel like these tweets are selected with the intention of making Fallon look much funnier in comparison,” wrote Lauren Angeline.

TV producer Tom Costello wrote: “Was the thought process behind the whole `Fallon reads tweets’ idea that he would only read the dumbest ones submitted?”

Critics agreed. Chicago Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal wondered if Fallon’s tweet reading was “NBC’s contribution to an otherwise excellent show.” New York Times critic Mike Hale went even further, pondering whether it was “proving something about the ultimate incompatibility of television and the Internet.”

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The Emmys other promoted attempt at interactivity was a backstage broadcast that aired at Emmys.com, NBC.com and Ustream.com. Cameras were positioned in places like the green room (where presenters wait before going on stage), the control room and the producer’s table.

The results largely consisted of watching people watch the TV broadcast. You could see little more than Matthew Perry sitting and watching a monitor, or Tina Fey getting her hair done.

Previous award shows — especially MTV’s Video Music Awards and Movie Awards — have experimented with something like this, but they’re unlikely to provide much entertainment until an award show devotes itself to full transparency — and that’s not likely to ever happen. Right now, any online bells and whistles are designed to merely funnel viewers to the broadcast.

The Emmys also employed a backstage “Thank You Cam” that doubles as online enticement and a bit of guilt relief for producers who quickly usher winners off the stage. The Academy Awards have done this, too, but the effect is slight.

Winners are mostly too dazed to even fathom the meaning of a “Thank You Cam,” let alone gather their thoughts for a second acceptance speech. After accepting the award for best supporting actress in a comedy (“Glee”), Jane Lynch told the camera: “I just won the Emmy for … what did I win it for?”

The “Breaking Bad” winning actors, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, took to the “Thank You Cam” together and treated it with little respect.

Cranston: “Do you have anything to be thankful of?”

Paul: “Your love, really.”

Cranston, with mock sheepishness: “Not now.”

As usual, the most effective Emmy interactivity came not from these official channels but the less-controlled instant commentary across social media, which continues to add another layer to the viewing experience.

Fallon and John Hodgman (who served as the broadcast announcer) tweeted before and during the show, frequently revealing candid and comical insight: a video documenting pre-show jitters, a photo of a Ricky Gervais’ stand-in, and, of course, wise observations like this tweet from Hodgman: “That Tom Hanks is a nice gentleman.”

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