In a different world—the world of, say, eight or 10 years ago—I might’ve been able to write this as the column my editor asked me to write: An overview of this weekend’s Emmy awards, with some funny or wise predictions about who will win, who won’t, and just how awesome Neil Patrick Harris will be as host.
But then Netflix happened happened. And Hulu. And Amazon Prime. And Crackle. And iTunes.
What it mostly means, though, is that many of the shows and stars being honored on Sunday night are shows and stars I might not actually be watching for another two or three years. (And then, if the shows are good enough, I’ll probably devour them all in a single weekend.)
Take, for example, the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category: The nominees are Aaron Paul in Breaking Bad, Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones, Bobby Cannavale in Boardwalk Empire, Mandy Patinkin from Homeland and Jonathan Banks from Breaking Bad. Paul’s the only one of the actors I’ve seen in his nominated role, and that wasn’t even this season; I hope to get around to seeing most of these shows sometime in the next couple of years—either when they pop up on my favorite streaming service, or perhaps I’ll just buy a whole season when I’m bored and too curious to put off watching any longer.
That’s how I saw Deadwood and The Wire, both years after the fact. I didn’t start with Lost until after two seasons had gone by; same for Battlestar Galactica. (I watched the first two seasons of the show on consecutive weekends.) I ended up being huge fans of all those shows. I just wasn’t a huge fan in real time.
Of course, I’m far from alone. The cable industry lost 217,000 subscribers just in the second quarter of this year; one estimate suggests that 3.74 million households cut the cord between 2008-2012. It’s a phenomenon that’s only supposed to accelerate.
None of this will affect the Emmys anytime soon, of course: Traditions have a way of sticking even as circumstances surrounding them change, rendering them slightly less relevant. But it makes me wonder: What if there were a cord-cutting version of the Emmys?
To be eligible for the Cutties, a show would have to be in its first year of streaming availability on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or another subscription service. Given the growing number of original programs available through those services, maybe you’d also split awards into nominees for original programming and nominees for newly revived older shows.
It could be an awesome way for old shows to find new audiences and new recognition. Think about it: Patrick Stewart never received an Emmy nomination for the seven years he played Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Yet it’s endured as one of the most iconic TV performances of its era. The show didn’t arrive on Netflix until 2011; wouldn’t it have been great to see the 2012 Cutties, where Stewart finally would have received honors for the role that defines his public persona?
The Cutties could’ve done that.
In fact, there’s a precedent for this. Decades ago, kid, while the cable industry was still small and fledgling—mostly running re-runs of old network shows with the occasional original programming dropped in here and there (sound familiar?), when Andy Griffith and Braves games dominated the TBS schedule—there was such a thing as the CableACE awards, given out to channels and shows that the establishment Emmys wouldn’t bother to recognize.
These days, it’s different. All of those supporting-actor nominees I mentioned earlier? On cable shows. That never would’ve happened 15 years ago.
Cord-cutting is transforming the industry in a new, but not unfamiliar, fashion. The Cutties are my idea for the here-and-now—but don’t be surprised if its ideas are incorporated into the “real” Emmys a few years from now.
Who would you nominate for a Cuttie? Here are one humble writers noms:
Best New to streaming Drama, 2013 Cutties
*Life on Mars (Hulu)
The Shield (Hulu)
*House of Cards (Netflix)
Freaks and Geeks (Netflix)
*Original British version