by Walter Brasch
Once again, as expected, the people who give out Emmy nominations skunked NCIS.
No nominations for acting. None for writing. Not one for directing or producing. Not even a nomination in what the industry calls the minor awards—sound editing, stunt coordination, and dozens of others.
The one-hour drama, with light overtones, is the most-watched drama in television, but the Industry doesn’t think it’s worth any awards. And yet, every one of its primary actors, led by Mark Harmon, could give acting lessons to those who were nominated.
It took years for TV Guide’s haughty editors to give major stories to NCIS or even highlight individual episodes. Perhaps it’s because NCIS appeals more to the people who don’t live in L.A. or New York.
Also skunked were USA’s Royal Pains and TNT’s Major Crimes, both excellent light dramas that, like NCIS, are well-acted, well-written, and well-directed.
Also overlooked by the Industry when they were in production were several outstanding light dramas, among them USA’s White Collar, Burn Notice, and Psych and TNT’s Leverage and The Closer.
There may be several reasons why these shows, and others, aren’t nominated.
First, the actors work on their craft, show up on time, rehearse, deliver excellent performances, and then go home to their families and friends. They don’t do a lot of TV guest appearances on the morning and late night shows. Most don’t go to the Hollywood parties, where they can schmooze and cuddle up with fellow performers who can cast just the right kind of votes. And, most important, the actors of NCIS, NCIS: New Orleans, and the USA and TNT shows generally don’t appear regularly in the tabloids.
Writers and directors tend to stay in the background, melting into the scenery. None are asked to appear on talk shows; very few are even asked to appear in court. Nevertheless, the writing and directing of the overlooked shows is easily among the best that Hollywood has to offer.
Another reason is that the studios and networks that these shows appear on don’t do much to promote them. CBS, which could have spent a few hundred thousand of its millions of profit promoting NCIS, CSI, and Criminal Minds, seems to think the money is better spent promoting Two Broke Girls and the last remains of Two and a Half Men. USA is owned by NBC/Universal, which pushes its NBC shows, paying premium rental prices for Sunset Blvd. billboards and for ads in major show-biz publications. And, of course, NBC shoves the actors onto the talk shows, especially the ones broadcast by NBC.
Royal Pains is a drama of concierge medicine in the Hamptons. But, USA snuck the seventh season of the popular show onto the air with almost no promotion, and stuck it into a 10 p.m. slot, possibly hoping it would flatline and leave a vacancy for another one-hour drama.
For some reason, the Industry doesn’t like light drama, a perception also emphasized in the Oscars. And, it doesn’t seem to like actors who don’t overact, but subject themselves to the quality of writing.
Last week, when NCIS, about to begin its 13th season in September, was overlooked, it was 4th in the Nielsen ratings. And that was for a re-run.
[Dr. Brasch is a journalist and multi-media writer/producer. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an overall look at the process and effects of high-volume horizontal fracturing.]