It’s a fact of life that anyone who is either a fan of TV or covers it for a living has to deal with, even in 2011: By and large, motion pictures are still higher in the entertainment pecking order than TV.
It doesn’t matter that “Mad Men” or “Sons of Anarchy” or any number of shows are of higher quality than 95 percent of big-screen offerings these days. And it doesn’t matter that people are watching TV on screens that are almost as big as a small multiplex screen. Movies are “bigger” and its stars are “bigger,” at least in the eye of most of the public.
Unfortunately, the same holds true for the awards. And it stinks.
As big a deal as the Emmys are to people who are TV geeks like us, in the grand scheme of things, it feels less essential than most of the other major awards shows. The winners are often forgotten a few weeks after the hardware is given out, to the point where it’s a surprise to find out who is an Emmy winner and who isn’t (for instance, did you remember that Patricia Arquette is an Emmy winner? Neither did we; she won in 2005 for “Medium”).
On the other hand, if you win an Oscar the honorific “Academy Award winner” precedes your name for the rest of your life. You see it and its more annoying cousin, “Academy Award nominee,” in advertisements for movies and TV shows in which those actors appear. However, you rarely see the honorific “Emmy Award winner” for more than a few weeks after the ceremony, even on the show for which the actor won the award. There are plenty of Oscar winners who’ve also won Emmys, but the Emmy award is never publicized. Even winning a Golden Globe, while not as prestigious as the Oscar, also seems to trail you for life, even if you’re a never-was like Pia Zadora.
Why is this? With the Globes, it’s easy: The show has positioned itself as the pre-Oscars, and the glow it gets from coming a month or so before the big show helps up its image, even though most actors and journalists know it’s a big joke. And just the fact that TV stars are rubbing elbows with movie stars — “Look! There’s Chris Colfer talking to Matt Damon!” — automatically ups the ante.
But when it comes down to Emmys vs. Oscars, it’s a bit more complicated than just TV vs. movies. Even though both academies give a ton of awards, the Oscars are more defined. There are no separate awards for best comedy, best drama, or best indie movie. It’s just best picture, best actor, best actress, etc. Natalie Portman was the best leading film actress last year, period. It’s that distinction that makes Oscar winners stick in people’s minds more.
Don’t get us wrong, though: This isn’t a call for the television academy to consolidate awards. It might make for some vigorous debate, but it would also shut out many shows that are deserving of recognition. The different categories are right for the vast world of television. But the flurry of Emmys tends to make the winners indistinguishable from each other, which makes being recognized as an Emmy winner something that’s nice, but not exactly a career-maker. And, in a world where we’d rather watch “The Walking Dead” over “Transformers,” that’s something that needs to change.
Do you think Emmy winners get shortchanged compare to their Oscar- or Globe-winning counterparts?