Emmys may change awards lineup. Fearing defections from awards-fatigued viewers, the TV academy may streamline the show, dropping some categories and reviving a forgotten one

By Gary Susman
Updated March 08, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Do you suffer from awards-show fatigue? The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is worried that you do. ATAS, the organization behind the Emmys, has seen the declining ratings of this season’s big trophy telecasts, and it’s also seen how Oscar producers streamlined last month’s Academy Awards by pushing some categories off the stage. Now, a source close to ATAS tells the Associated Press, the Emmys may undergo a similar crash diet, shedding some categories and reviving one all-but-forgotten award.

Like the Grammys and the Tonys, the Emmys have dozens of categories for awards, most of which are given out in a ceremony before the network telecast. The early Emmy show, called the Creative Arts Emmys, hands out prizes to editors, costumers, make-up artists, and other behind-the-scenes folks a full week before the primetime gala. According to AP’s source, ATAS is mulling moving some of the TV movie and miniseries categories — writing, directing, and supporting actor and actress — to the Creative Arts ceremony. However, the source says, the TV Academy may also add a category, Best New Television Program, that hasn’t been awarded since the early 1970s, when the prize went to such shows as All in the Family, Room 222, and Alistair Cooke’s America documentary series on PBS.

A statement from the TV Academy noted that any proposed changes to the show are still tentative. ”We are very early in the process and any changes at this point are highly speculative,” the statement said. The academy’s board of governors will meet March 16 to consider the alterations.

While the Oscar show pushed some awards into the aisles or gathered the nominees on stage, American Idol-style, before eliminating the losers, at least it kept all the awards in the show. It’s not likely that the bigwigs who write, direct, and star in longform TV projects will easily accept being booted off the Emmy telecast altogether.

The move would seem to benefit the broadcast networks at the expense of pay cable channels, since the networks have all but abandoned the TV movie and miniseries business to outlets like HBO (home of Angels in America) and Showtime (The Lion in Winter). Even so, shortening the Emmy telecast may not improve its ratings; after all, the awards galas that saw big declines this season (the People’s Choice, the Golden Globes, the Grammys) had the misfortune of airing on Sunday nights opposite ABC’s Desperate Housewives. This year’s Emmys will air Sunday, Sept. 18, on CBS.