The Best of Children’s Television Not Represented at this Year’s Emmys

anne with an e

Yep. The article is the title. You’re welcome.

OK, seriously, I’ll go further. Last Thursday, the nominations for the 2017 Primetime Emmys were released. Obviously, like any other year, there were varied reactions. While many people celebrated the diversity among the acting nominees, others were, of course, upset that their favorites (The LeftoversInsecure) weren’t nominated. And then there’s me, who went straight to the Children’s Program category and, for the second year in a row, felt utter disdain for the nomination list.

The nominations for Children’s Program somehow manage to lower the bar further than last year’s list. Let’s go through them, shall we? Girl Meets World (although this third and final season wasn’t as strong as the first two) deserved its nomination. As did School of Rock. I expected those two shows to get nominated again this year. However, I was hoping the other three spots would really represent what kids are watching and genuinely quality programming. That is not the case. The voters opted for an NBC airing of the Thanksgiving Parade. A parade. OK, a “90th Celebration” of a parade, but a parade nonetheless. Sesame Street received a nod for its Christmas Special. Somehow, HBO found some weird loophole that allowed Sesame Street to compete; but, unless something changed recently, a show cannot compete at both the Daytime and Primetime Emmys. And Sesame Street definitely competed at the Daytime awards this year. I know I know, “Once Upon a Sesame Street Christmas” was probably billed as a “special,” but it’s not much different from a regular episode. There are just maybe more celebrity guests than usual. But, still, this nomination is a disservice to actual primetime programming and the streaming shows that have exclusively chosen to compete at the Primetime Emmys.

Here’s a fun fact I learned from the “How an Emmy is Won” info-graphic posted on the official Emmys website: All 22,000+ members of the Academy can vote for the nominees of all the “Program” categories, that includes “Children’s Program.” Now, I’m assuming, many voters choose to opt out of voting in the Children’s Program category because they either don’t care, or don’t feel they know enough about the programs to vote for them. I’m sure there are some voters who are genuinely invested in Children’s programming and vote earnestly in the category. But, based off these nominees, I’m gonna guess that the majority of voters looked through the ballot, thought “Oh Star Wars! My grandniece loves that movie!” And voted for Star Wars Rebels. I know the show is very popular, but this is a baffling choice, mostly because, generally, animated shows compete in the Animation category, even the children ones. Why did the producers decide to compete the show in this category? Because they knew that voters cared so little about this category that that they could get away with (frankly) category fraud.

So these are our Children’s Program nominees. And, maybe this sounds selfish, but I am entitled to my opinion, and I think this overall list is massively disappointing. This category has always been wonky. But, I feel like the 2016-2017 season did children’s television better than last year…so why are the nominees worse? Why do voters refuse to acknowledge genuinely great, emotional and inventive television, and instead nominate a freaking parade? Let me go through the snubs. 1.) Amazon. Amazon has given us a lot of great children’s programming these last couple of years. The American Girl specials, at less than one hour each, are clear throwbacks to the days of Afterschool specials. And one of them (particularly DGA winner Melody 1963: Love Has to Win) should have been nominated. Along with Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, which I hope will be better appreciated in the future, because it’s truly one of the best children’s series in the history of the medium, but was sadly ignored by both the Daytime and Primetime Emmys at one point. Amazon submitted a couple other really great series for consideration. The fact that Amazon is absent from this category is a shame.

Netflix’s absence from the Children’s Program category is also bad, to put it bluntly. Back in the mid 1980’s, Kevin Sullivan’s landmark Anne of Green Gables won in this category. More than three decades later, Moira Walley-Becket’s wonderful interpretation of the story, despite unanimously positive reviews, is skunked. Goodness. If lazy voters are going to name check, they at least could have name checked “Anne of Green Gables.” And it’s just a shame that Degrassi is pretty much off the Emmy radar without ever winning in this category. They should have won seven years ago when they submitted the Peabody award winning episode “My Body is a Cage,” but they were beaten by an HBO special where famous people recorded themselves reading poetry during their off times so I don’t know why I ever have faith in this category!

And then there’s Andi Mack‘s snub. Look, I admit, my top choices are from streaming platforms, and maybe they’re a bit niche-y. But Andi Mack is a genuine hit. Good ratings, strong Twitter presence, a lot of buzz, especially concerning the big twist that’s revealed during the pilot episode. Why was it left off? I guess it doesn’t benefit from being part of a multi-billion dollar franchise.

Overall, youth media was underrepresented at this year’s Emmys. As problematic as the show was, teen drama 13 Reasons Why struck a chord with many young fans, yet received 0 nominations. If this show aired on ABC and it was the 1987, the show would have dominated. But, in the era “peak TV,” there is no room for teen dramatic television. Other shows received a few nominations here and there. Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love received a surprise nomination for Best Television Movie. I didn’t like this installment of the film series as much as the first one, but I’ll take it! KC Undercover received a nod for Cinematography. Kiddie versions of Masterchef and So You Think You Can Dance also received nominations. The only genuine victories for youth media came from NBC’s airing of Hairspray (the first NBC live musical to receive a nomination for Special Class Program since Sound of Music) and Stranger Things (which, among many others, received nods for Drama Series and for its young star Millie Bobby Brown). This is Us also received a lot of nominations. It’s a great show that’s appropriate enough for the family, but, in my opinion, it’s not a “family drama” in the same vein of 7th Heaven or The Fosters, because the young characters don’t have as much agency and as big of a presence. They’re just cute little tykes that primarily serve to further the story lines of the adult characters.

A Series of Unfortunate Events, even though the show is clearly aimed towards children, was not submitted for consideration in the Children’s category. It was submitted as a Comedy Series.* Maybe the producers thought Neil Patrick Harris was a big enough star to get away with it. I’ve thought since the ballots were released that this was a huge mistake. It’s a Children’s series! But producers, and the voting body as a whole, do not take the category seriously. It’s seen as a “lesser category,” because children’s television isn’t taken seriously, because young people aren’t allowed to experience quality television, which is why “peak TV” does not include or consider children’s programming, and which is why a parade and an extra long episode of a daytime preschool series and an animated show are included in the Children’s Program category.

*(A Series of Unfortunate Events only received one nomination for music composition, which is crazy because it’s one of the most visually stunning shows of the season. If the movie from 13 years ago can get 4 Oscar nominations, then I don’t understand why the more the faithful series can only manage one Emmy nomination. What an oversight!)

This long is rant just confirms what I’ve always believed should be the case: there should be a separate Emmys for Children’s Programming. A “Children’s Emmy.” We have Emmys for Sports programming, for news programming (local and national), even for International shows (aka, the International Emmys). I think another type of Emmys should be created exclusively for Children’s programming, where the best directing, writing, producing, performances, and other technical crafts associated with children’s television are awarded. The Primetime Emmys only devote one category for Children’s television. The Daytime Emmys are better, they actually have separate categories for direction and writing, even a category for Best Performance in a Children’s Series. They even had those categories for “Children’s Specials” (TV Movies), before daytime children’s specials became extinct by the mid 2000’s and those categories were retired. This sort of arrangement made sense for a while, because during the 80’s and 90’s, most television for children played during the daytime, mornings for preschoolers, and after school for young adults. Nowadays, there are as many (if not more) children’s television shows playing in primetime as there are in the daytime. And with so much children’s programming premiering on streaming platforms, the line between daytime and primetime is getting blurrier. And, now, since Sesame Street is allowed to compete at both awards, is it really worth attempting to split children shows by daytime and primetime?

All the “children’s” categories from both the Daytime and Primetime Emmys should be removed and a new Emmy group for Children’s television should honor all the children’s shows airing jointly. Of course, there would be multiple categories: Outstanding Preschool Show, Outstanding Children’s Series, Outstanding Teen/Youth Series, Outstanding Animated Series, Outstanding Non-Fiction Program, Outstanding Special. Categories that honor direction, writing, performance, and creative arts would also be recognized. Voters would actually be professionals who work in children’s television, or at least have enough passion for it to take the voting seriously.

Youth media is special. It’s different from adult television. It deserves to be considered and recognized, not pushed aside and forgotten in the “Creative Arts Awards.” Having a separate Emmys for Children’s television would allow producers of programs like A Series of Unfortunate Events, one of the DCOMs, or any the programs on Freeform to submit for these awards, because the shows would actually be given a fair shot. Generally, a show nominated in “Children’s Program” aren’t nominated elsewhere, in any of the other categories. A Children’s Emmy would actually allow the technical achievements of children’s series to be considered and recognized. Because, frankly, Anne with an E, had some of the best cinematography and editing of the season…but as a “kiddie show,” it will barely be given a look by voters who have a hard enough time keeping up with the adult series.

Until this actually happens, or until there’s some overhaul as to how how nominees are chosen, I can’t help but believe that the Directors Guild and Writers Guild awards more accurately represent the best in children’s television than the Primetime Emmys. In all other cases, the Primetime Emmys would be the hallmark, the glass ceiling, of quality television. But, when it comes to youth programming, I don’t think the Primetime Emmys have much authority anymore. They blew it this year. Maybe next year will be better, but I won’t hold my breath.

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One thought on “The Best of Children’s Television Not Represented at this Year’s Emmys

  1. Pingback: 2017 Primetime Emmy Categories Reviews | Lifestories

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