BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - With the proliferation of televised awards shows, the Emmys have lost some of their luster even as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences prepares to reward some of the best storytelling in any visual medium.
This year the Emmys have buzz on their side with popular first-year series "Glee" and "Modern Family" up for multiple nominations.
"It is a crazy-good year for TV," notes Jimmy Fallon, the star of NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" who will host the awards telecast Sunday.
Television Academy Chairman John Shaffner agreed that the level of quality celebrated this year is elevated. But Shaffner also acknowledged the challenges the Emmy telecast has faced in the past and how it overcame them last year. In part it was an energetic, classy host in Neil Patrick Harris, but Shaffner also credited returning Emmy telecast producer Don Mischer.
"Don really brought something special to the program last year, and maybe he's finally cracked the code of this particular, challenged telecast in that we're really focusing on the genre and we're talking about the year in review of each of those genre categories," Shaffner said. "So as an audience member, you can have a chance to relive the moments, whether it's an Emmy-nominated show or not, of the year in television."
The Emmy pre-show will air at 7 p.m. EDT, followed by the awards show itself at 8 p.m. Unlike in the recent past, the Emmys will air live on the East Coast and the West Coast, something that's becoming the norm (see: The Golden Globes) as telecast producers seek to draw viewers who might otherwise learn the identity of trophy winners via social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
"It's been 30 years since it's been done that way," Mischer said. Both to satisfy affiliates on the East Coast who don't want 11 p.m. newscasts delayed and because the telecast will repeat at 8 p.m. on the West Coast, ending on time will be a priority.
"If you can keep it going and keep it tight and keep it moving, it just makes for a better experience all the way around," Mischer said, "so we do try and control that."
No Emmy telecast would be complete without some controversy. This year there was discontent from reality-show hosts who saw their category moved off-air in favor of giving the Emmy's Bob Hope Humanitarian Award to George Clooney, a TV star-turned movie star with the potential to goose the Emmy telecast's ratings.
"We are giving 27 awards out, more awards per act than any other show on television," Mischer said. "... There's not as much flexibility in cutting things as sometimes you wish when you're producing. There are agreements with guilds about listing nominees, for instance, for guest actor and actress in a comedy, in drama. ... The host award is one that was optional all along for reality television, so it was one that we had no commitment to in terms of whether it had to be on the show or not."
One area where the awards will try to avoid upset: Cutting off speeches. Producers say they hate to do it, but this year, if they do have to cut a winner off, that person will be walked to an Internet kiosk backstage where he or she can rattle off the list of names of people to thank and have it broadcast online.
For Fallon, hosting the Emmys gives him a platform to introduce himself to viewers who don't see him on "Late Night."
"It's such a bigger audience," he said. "It's a great opportunity for me and for more people to see my type of humor."
He said his years on "Saturday Night Live" taught him about the rigors of live TV and what's appropriate.
"Coming from 'Saturday Night Live,' we kind of know how far you can push things and what's even enjoyable," Fallon said. "I mean, I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable, you know. I want to make people laugh. I want to make the show moving and be entertaining."