For the last two years, I’ve taken to the World Wide Internet to aimlessly float Emmy predictions out into the wind. The should win/will win argument is time-tested and fun, and last year, the fabulous Michael Hunley (from the Pop Goes The Culture blog) and I made the exercise a bit more interesting, adding a friendly wager into who could predict the most winners. Naturally, he lost, forcing him to retire from the Emmy-predicting world for the time being if only because the defeat forced him to actually watch that Katy Perry movie before writing about it weeks after the ceremony.
Yeah, I’d probably quit, too.
This year, it’s time to do things a little different. No predictions (oh, like you really care, anyway). No should win/will win debate. No silly proclamations or grand statements about how Aaron Paul is the best supporting actor in the history of television or how it’s criminal that “The Big Bang Theory” continues to actually win awards. Nope. None of that. No prognostication. No fun.
Instead — and because this is a blog about Internet Television, remember — it makes more sense to devote this space to … you guessed it: Netflix’s arrival at the Emmy bash.
“While cable giant HBO had to wait almost a decade for its first series Emmy award (‘Sex and the City’ won in 2001), Netflix’s original programming has the potential to achieve the same feat less than 12 months after it started to produce its own original programming,” Yahoo’s Daniel Bettridge wrote a couple hours ago. “Clearly they’re doing something right. … Should Netflix walk away with a win (or several wins) on Sunday night, you can expect most of Monday’s headlines to focus on the video-streaming service. But even if they don’t win, it doesn’t really matter; the fact that they’ve been invited at all is proof enough that the industry is about to change.”
Precisely. Netflix’s arrival at the Emmy party isn’t just a giant step for the streaming content movement; it’s also a nod toward how much power quality programming now has. For the longest time, it didn’t matter if you were producing complex, interesting narratives with addicting character development because if it wasn’t accessible enough, Emmy didn’t have the time to deal with it (to think that “The Wire” never won anything still boggles my mind). These days, however, if you take the time to produce an adequate product, you’ll be recognized one way or the other, be it throughout the growingly influential social media world or within the recent swell of so-called professional television critics. Smarter TV is winning out and we as viewers are far better for it.
Therefore, this needs to be said: Take away the intellectual fashion statement that loving shows such as “Mad Men” or “Breaking Bad” suggests, and the notion that the rise of Internet Television is imminent becomes at least mildly compromised. Like it or not, there is still an air of elitism that goes along with using the phrase “Oh, I don’t even have cable” when finding yourself in a conversation with someone who loves the Kardashians (I’m guilty of it just as much as anyone else because, well, I haven’t had cable for years now). That pretentious precept has broken the world of TV consumerism wide open. I mean, just imagine if you could tell people you don’t have cable … and your favorite show is offered exclusively on Netflix. Not only do you suggest you are smarter than the average bear; but you also suggest that you are a forward-thinker as well.
All of this has combined to make Internet streaming services the shiny brand new toy in a subculture obsessed with shiny brand new toys. To think that these shows even have a shot at being recognized among the industry’s elite is sort of like thinking movies would eventually be available on discs … in 1989. It would never happen, people thought, because the technology and quality could exist only in a world where flying cars roamed the sky and pets were nothing more than mechanical dogs.
Twenty years later, however, we had $5 DVD bins all throughout major retailers and the decision to settle for just a plain, old run-of-the-mill disc seemed outdated (hello, Blu-ray). The same is applicable here: In 20 years, people will look at traditional cable networks with a sense of nostalgia and it will be absurd to think that there was a day when it was actually a big deal to have a Netflix series nominated for a prime-time Emmy.
That’s why Sunday matters. That’s why Sunday will be historical.
“When the Maryland workers building the sets for ‘House of Cards’ started sawing and hammering the offices and homes of characters like Francis and Claire Underwood 20 months ago in Harford County,“ The (Baltimore) Sun‘s David Zurawik wrote earlier today, “most of them were thinking only of earning a steady paycheck, not being part of TV history.”
Oh, but here we stand, a year and a half later, on the verge of that very history being made. One win, five wins, 10 wins or no wins, Sunday night will be an awfully important night in the evolution of the television industry. Because even if “House of Cards,” “Arrested Development” or any of the other Netflix series go home empty handed, they will have at the very least carved out a spot at the big boys table for similar outlets to occupy in years to come. Some have argued we are currently living in a Golden Era of television, yes. But more importantly — and with the Emmy ceremony now a mere 48 hours away — it’s a also a Brand New Day for the way we approach the medium as a whole.
And with Emmy’s blessing, the trend is now set to expand far beyond expectations even the most optimistic forecaster could have ever predicted. It’s now set to expand toward heights once reserved for only those flying cars. It’s now set, of course, to turn the future into the now.