Thoughts on genre, language, grammar, and other
rhetorical and linguistic norms
rhetorical and linguistic norms
And the Emmy went to . . .
Following up on my Emmy preshow posted Sunday before the awards, where I speculated about whether the Emmy voters would prefer more traditional versions of a genre or vote for more innovative ones.
So which shows won Emmys in 2016? The more conventional versions of the genre, or the more innovative ones?
Here’s how they match up with my original ranking:
Comedy: Winner Veep
I ranked Veep high on the conventionality list, second only to Modern Family. I do think the show does the traditional sit-com, but it does it spectacularly well. And the Emmy voters seem to agree.
Julia Louis-Dreyfuss had one of the best genre comments of the whole Emmy broadcast (and references to genres were surprisingly common this year, I found as I was live-tweeting the show).
Veep has torn down the wall between comedy and politics. It started out as a political satire but now seems like a documentary”
Drama: Winner Game of Thrones
I ranked Game of Thrones as the least conventional drama, so score one for genre-busting (but more below)
According to Entertainment, Game of Thrones was the top winner in all awards, with 12 Emmys won. It has won 38 Emmys since its beginning, making it the show with the most awards ever.
Reality-Competition: Winner The Voice
I considered The Voice the most conventional of the shows, hearkening back to old-time talent shows. I’m surprised by its beating out The Amazing Race, but maybe that show has run its course (pun intended).
Shows with the Most Wins
Another way to look at whether Emmy winners are more conventional or innovative is to look at which shows won the most awards of all kinds, not just the top in its overall category.
As I said, Game of Thrones is the big winner, this year and in history, with 12 trophies this year.
Next on the list is the Outstanding Limited Series The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. It certainly deserved its many awards (but wow, what competition in that category, with the equally deserving American Crime and Fargo).
Then it drops down to Grease: Live, with 5 awards. Talk about your conventional show! An old-timey live broadcast of a Broadway show from 1971 and movie from 1978.
Genre-conventional or Genre-busting?
With Game of Thrones the big winner, it might seem that genre-busting wins hands down. And it does. But I noted the problem with the Drama category. “Drama” seems less important than the multiple other genres its shows represent. Game of Thrones fits clearly into the genre of fantasy. Based on a wildly popular series of books that are sold as fantasy, I don’t think people would first say, “Oh, there’s an unconventional drama.” Instead, they might say, “What a great fantasy series!”
As LJ commented in her tweet during the broadcast
Drama is a category that is probably past due for a makeover, to make it a meaningful category for the people who use it. But it may take more time until other genres have enough representatives to have competition. Because these are, after all, award categories. Megan Faver Hardline noted the genre-busting of Tatiana Maslany winning lead actress for Orphan Black, a drama that busts out of drama and maybe even out of sci-fi--in the process busting the genre of the Emmy award itself
If only one fantasy, or one science fiction show, or one genre-buster rises to the top, then a loose catch-all category is needed. But just needing a label doesn’t make drama a genuine genre, in this context. To be a genre, drama needs to do something.
The rising category of “Limited Series” complicates and helps this discussion. Those shows were among the best dramas of the year, if that term has any meaning, but they’re classified by the number of episodes rather than what they do. In these days of streaming episodes, it might not matter much whether a program has 6 or 13 episodes. What matters more is that the limited series has a story arc that allows it to complete its action. American Crime even changes its setting, characters, and stories each year. Game of Thrones, as a drama series, just keeps keeping on--adding, killing, and even resurrecting its characters to keep its story going. If the label “drama” is to be a meaningful genre, let it be applied to the currently labeled Limited Series shows. Like classical dramas or Shakespearean plays, they tell a dramatic story and allow us resolution.
Interesting to play with what's conventional and what's innovative, a distinction harder to make than we might think. The most genre-busting programs often turn out to be ones that aren't genre-busting at all. They're just a different genre.
If you have 13 minutes, check out the youtube video of the Top 10 Out-of-Genre Episodes in TV series. How many of those out-of-genre moments are very much in-the-genre of a different genre?