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Emmy Awards get makeover

Taped interviews will replace some speeches
/ Source: The Associated Press

Emmy officials decided against an extreme makeover for the ceremony but are cutting back on acceptance speeches in a bid to woo more viewers.

As winners in some categories walk to the stage, short taped interviews with them will be played in lieu of “spontaneous” remarks, it was announced Wednesday.

Stars, unsurprisingly, are exempt. Writers and directors aren’t.

The change was approved Tuesday night by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ board of governors. It retreated from a proposal that would have reduced the number of awards presented.

“We have set a course which we believe will result in a new and invigorated Emmy Awards telecast,” said Dick Askin, academy chairman and chief executive officer.

The ceremony will continue to recognize TV’s best but at a “better pace” that’s more entertaining, he said.

Focus groups with viewers, as well as industry opinion, shaped the plan that could be compared to a rescue operation.

Last year, the Emmys sank to their second-lowest ratings ever, drawing fewer than 14 million viewers for the three-hour show. Length isn’t the issue, though: the 2002 ceremony clocked in at 3 hours, 15 minutes, but was watched by nearly 20 million.

It’s generally assumed that viewers lose interest when a ceremony’s star power drops — in other words, when too little time is given to actors and too much goes to the unknowns who toil behind the cameras.

But the idea of bumping awards in some writing and directing categories, among others, from the main ceremony met with resistance from industry guilds whose approval was required.

Instead, certain winners will be expected to keep their on-stage comments to “thank you” after their videotaped interviews are screened.

Eight writing and directing categories are affected, and the new approach may be expanded to some other categories.

A proposal to revive a best new series award, last given in 1973, was tabled but could be decided before this year’s ceremony.

The reappraisal of the show began at a board meeting in late 2004, the academy said.

A total of 27 awards will be presented at the Sept. 18 ceremony. Other honors, including for technical achievement and guest actors and actresses in series, will be given at a ceremony held a week before.