Andy Dehnart, reality TV critic and writer/publisher of realityblurred.com, offers his take on what should be nominated in the reality categories for this year’s primetime Emmy Awards, and what programs should be left off the list.
While the announcement of the primetime Emmy nominations on Thursday may offer some suspense and drama for producers, broadcasters and fans of scripted TV shows, those in the reality-based programming sphere probably won’t be as lucky.
That The Amazing Race has won the outstanding reality competition program Emmy every single year is, to me, absurd, but it’s even worse that the exact same shows have been nominated for the past three years straight in that category: Race, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Project Runway, and Top Chef.
It’s not that these programs are not deserving. It’s just that there are other series worthy of recognition, especially when shows like Race, Idol and Dancing have had seasons that, in some cases, still get big numbers but aren’t as strong creatively compared to previous seasons. Still, it’s a safe bet these shows will be nominated again, with the possible exception of Runway, which has lost its soul since its move to Lifetime.
What could fill its place? So You Think You Can Dance also had a relatively weak year last year, but it deserves recognition, especially as Idol is losing its luster. Two Mark Burnett competitions could also fit in: NBC’s The Celebrity Apprentice, which is consistently the best-produced celebrity reality show, and ABC’s Shark Tank, which was underappreciated but still well-produced and engaging. One dark horse I’d like to see nominated: The Next Food Network Star, which gets better with each season.
The newest reality category, that of outstanding host, is likely to mirror its sibling category, reality competitions, and nominate the same people again – though what Heidi Klum is doing there is anyone’s guess (she’s a fantastic judge but barely does any hosting). So You Think You Can Dance‘s Cat Deeley deserves that sixth spot, as she manages to infuse her hosting with energy that doesn’t call attention to herself, and she also guides the unseemly eviction process with great empathy.
There’s been more variation in the non-competition/outstanding reality program category, but it’s also more frustrating, as last year’s nominee list proved: Dirty Jobs; Antiques Roadshow; Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List; Dog Whisperer and MythBusters are all completely different kinds of series. Alas, that’s the consequence of categorization, which also impacts scripted series. While the category is usually populated by cable series, CBS’ hit Undercover Boss could fit in as a response to both its ratings success and relevance in a recession.
The two cable series that most deserve nominations – and that should replace tired nominees such as Antiques Roadshow and Dog Whisperer – are A&E’s Hoarders, non-fiction television’s most engaging depiction of mental illness, and Animal Planet’s Whale Wars, which in its second and third seasons proved itself to be the best-produced, most riveting docudrama on TV today.
Or perhaps, like so many previous years, the Academy will stick to the familiar, even if that means ignoring the deserving.
Andy Dehnart publishes realityblurred.com, and his writing and reporting has appeared on NPR and in The Daily Beast, msnbc.com and elsewhere, and he writes a regular column for Realscreen about reality television trends.