Broadcast networks aren't happy about Emmys

Television • Despite many fine dramas, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW are shut out.
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Are all the best TV shows on cable? Absolutely not.

Yet cable has more than its share of Emmy nominations. There isn't a single broadcast network nominee in the Best Drama category, and ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and The CW are similarly underrepresented across the Emmy spectrum.

Which is ticking the broadcast networks off. NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt pointed specifically to the snub for his series "Parenthood."

"It doesn't get the Emmy nominations," Greenblatt said. "It doesn't get the accolades. It's one of the best shows on television, and I wish it had more of that acclaim. And it really had a great season this past year."

He's not anti-cable. Before he came to NBC in 2011, he produced nine-time Emmy winner "Six Feet Under" for HBO, and he was the president of Showtime from 2003-10.

And he's not slamming this year's list of Best Drama nominees: AMC's "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men"; PBS' "Downton Abbey"; HBO's "Game of Thrones"; Showtime's "Homeland"; and Netflix's "House of Cards."

"Those are all great shows," he said. "But we have great shows that don't have a chance."

These days when the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences looks at broadcast TV, "there's just this sort of negative, 'Oh, the bastard child is now broadcast television,' " Greenblatt said. "We don't get credit for 'Community' and 'Parks and Rec' and 'Parenthood' and some of the great quality shows that we have. Our peers in this industry, they just look at the shiny new bulb in the cable world."

For that matter, the streaming service Netflix got a best-drama nomination. And there is definitely an elitist streak to the Emmy voters, whose heads are turned by little-watched shows such as HBO's "Girls" the way a baby is distracted by jingling, shiny keys.

You never can underestimate the power of HBO's high-priced campaigns to win votes. It's not for its programming alone that the pay-cable channel leads the field with 108 nominations this year — more than CBS and NBC, which tied for second with 53 apiece, combined.

In addition to big advertising campaigns, HBO sent DVDs of 29 of its programs to more than 15,000 members of the Academy.

It's not exactly a level playing field. Cable networks (and Netflix) operate under a different financial plan.

"Showtime can put on one show a year," Greenblatt said, exaggerating a bit. "Trust me, if we could put on one show a year, it would be the best show you ever saw because we'd have 85 million people working on one show, handcrafting every word."

Well, more people doesn't necessarily make a show better. TV's scrap heap is littered with shows that failed in no small part because network executives interfered.

But it is true that cable networks put more resources into a smaller number of shows than broadcast networks.

"It's hard to put 'The Good Wife' up against 'Game of Thrones,' " said Leslie Moonves, CBS president and CEO.

"The Good Wife" is, arguably, one of the best dramas on TV. Maybe it wouldn't win the Best Drama Emmy, but it ought to be nominated.

And whereas "Game of Thrones" turns out 10 episodes per season, "The Good Wife" produces 22 superior hours — a considerable achievement all by itself.

" 'Game of Thrones' probably cost three times as much and takes three times as long to shoot," Moonves said.

(The "GOT" budget is estimated between $6 million and $10 million per episode; "Good Wife" is estimated at $2 million per episode.)

Like Greenblatt, Moonves isn't criticizing the shows that received nominations. He called "Game of Thrones" a "brilliant good show. I love it as much as anybody. …

"But there are some terrific shows on networks that do get passed over, and the competition from cable has become pretty extreme."

This is, of course, a tempest in a very small teapot. This is Hollywood's version of being inside the Beltway — a story that few outside the industry are even aware of, let alone care about.

And don't get the idea that everyone in the TV industry is obsessed by this.

"I sure don't care," said "The Good Wife" creator/writer/executive producer Robert King. "I love how many great shows there are out there. I mean, this was a really good year if you think about it and you think about some of the shows coming up."

He rejected the suggestion that there should be a separate category for series that produce 22 episodes per season.

"It will be a consolation," King said. "I mean, it should be all about quality."

"The Good Wife" star Julianna Margulies said she has but one pet peeve about this issue.

"I wish people would stop saying, 'For a network show, you're so great,' " she said. "Put us on cable. We'll stand right up there, too.

"It's nice that there's smart programming out there and that television has embraced really complicated characters and great storylines. I think we should celebrate it instead of pitting us against each other." —

Emmy Awards

Neil Patrick Harris will host the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday, Sept. 22. In Utah, the telecast will air live at 6 p.m. on CBS/Channel 2.