You know we’re in a new age of television when cable network HBO is seen as the old guard.
At last night’s Emmy Awards, HBO came out as the major winner, with programs produced by the network taking the top Emmys prizes of Best Drama Series (“Game of Thrones”) and Best Comedy Series (“Veep”).
Pop culture’s buzziest shows are increasingly coming from cable networks like HBO (also the home of “Silicon Valley,” “Girls,” and “True Detective”), Showtime (“Homeland” and “Penny Dreadful”), or Starz (“Outlander”) or streaming services like Netflix (“House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”) and Hulu (“The Mindy Project”). The main networks like NBC or CBS can seem lost in the conversation.
Last year, broadcast shows had taken some of the Emmy Awards major categories, but that wasn’t always the case this year. ABC’s “Modern Family” had been the king of the Best Comedy Series prize in the last several years, with “Modern” taking the award five times. This year, “Modern” was unseated by HBO’s “Veep.” In addition, “Modern” actor Ty Burrell won the Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy series last year, a prize he’d won once before. This year, actor Tony Hale of “Veep” took the award.
Jim Parsons, frequent winner of the Emmy for best actor in a comedy series for his work on CBS's "The Big Bang Theory," missed out on the prize this year and it went to an actor in a streaming show. Jeffrey Tambor took the prize for his Amazon show “Transparent.”
Broadcast networks were still present at the Emmys, albeit in only a couple of major categories. Actress Viola Davis won the Emmy for best actress in a drama series, taking the award for her work on the ABC show “How to Get Away With Murder” (Julianna Margulies of CBS’s “The Good Wife” won last year, so the prize was kept among the broadcast networks). And Allison Janney won the Emmy again for best supporting actress in a comedy series for her work on the CBS show “Mom.”
Otherwise, the major prizes were spread out among cable and streaming services. Jon Hamm won the award for best actor in a drama series for his appearances on the AMC show “Mad Men,” while Uzo Aduba won the Emmy for best supporting actress in a drama series for Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black.” Peter Dinklage won the best supporting actor in a drama series Emmy for “Thrones” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus took the Emmy for best actress in a comedy series for “Veep.”
Who’s winning when it comes to broadcast, cable, or streaming? Audiences are certainly benefiting. We’re living in a time of an almost unprecedented amount of quality TV is being produced. An opening joke by Emmys host Andy Samberg had him going into a bunker in an attempt to watch all the worthwhile TV shows. In past years, the best drama series has had TV shows facing off that weren’t just the best of the year – they were shows that often lead critics’ lists of the best programs of all time, like “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “Thrones,” and “Homeland.”
Streaming services may be dominating the conversation when it comes to their talent rosters. The little-known Yahoo Screen gained showrunner Dan Harmon when it picked up the critically acclaimed canceled NBC comedy “Community.” After NBC decided against Tina Fey’s show “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” she went over to Netflix, while Hulu gained Mindy Kaling after Fox canceled her show “The Mindy Project.” Big names like Brad Pitt and Idris Elba are working on films with Netflix.
But ABC has a valuable asset: a relationship with Disney. Because the company is behind classic animated films and is the home of Marvel Comics characters, ABC can air the hit series “Once Upon a Time,” which follows fairy tale characters, and the Marvel shows “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and “Agent Carter.”
ABC also has a powerful strength in showrunner Shonda Rhimes. She’s the creator of and/or executive producer on ABC’s hit shows “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” Her lineup of shows makes up the top-rated ABC Thursday lineup.
NBC has a big talent with Michael Schur as well. Schur created NBC’s “Parks and Recreation,” which was nominated this year for best comedy series, and the network recently ordered a new show from Schur, who also served as a writer on NBC’s beloved sitcom “The Office.” NBC also ordered a pilot from Fey and “Kimmy” co-creator Robert Carlock, so that could be an asset down the road, too.
Fox is also doing well with their comedy “The Last Man on Earth” and the music drama “Empire.” Both were new shows last year that quickly became hits and earned Emmy nominations. It’s early in the shows’ runs to see whether the programs can maintain their momentum, but they’re both doing well so far. Fox’s comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” is also popular.
And CBS is still hitting a home run with its show “The Good Wife.” Actors Alan Cumming and Christine Baranski earned Emmy nods this year for their work on the show and the program has a strong fan base.