The Emmys signal the end of the era of primetime television

The Emmys signal the end of the era of primetime television

As the cast members of “Succession” headed to the Emmy Theater on Monday night to grab their statues for the show's final season, they used this opportunity as a final chance to say goodbye.

Kissing his co-star Brian Cox on the lips, Kieran Culkin gave a tearful speech as he accepted the award for Best Actor in a Drama. Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook, who each also won acting awards, gave a loving tribute to their fellow cast members. “Succession” creator Jesse Armstrong concluded the evening by accepting the best drama award for the third and final time, saying, “We can now leave the theater.”

It all had an end-of-era feel at Monday night's Emmy Awards. “Succession” was one of several nominated shows with farewell seasons, joined by a roster that included “Ted Lasso,” “Better Call Saul,” “Barry,” “Atlanta” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”

But that wasn't the only reason there was an elegiac theme on Monday night. In many ways, the ceremony felt like a bookend to the so-called Peak TV era itself.

Almost every year from 2010 through 2023, the number of scripted TV shows in the United States rose, reaching 599 scripted TV shows last year.

He may never reach those heights again.

For more than a year now, studios and networks — including streaming giants like Netflix, cable companies like HBO and FX, and streaming channels — have stopped ordering new series. Executives, concerned about bleeding money from their streaming services, customers cutting the cable cord and a soft advertising market, have instead focused more on profitability. Strikes by screenwriters and actors that lasted months last year also contributed to the slowdown.

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With a more frugal approach, there is widespread fear throughout the industry about the ramifications of deflation.

The list of Emmy nominations provides a quick overview. The number of dramas networks and studios submitted for Emmys fell by 5 percent, according to the Television Academy, which organizes the awards. Shares for limited series were down 16 percent, and comedies were down 19 percent.

At Monday night's afterparties, there was a great deal of concern about how thin the potential lineup for the upcoming Emmy Awards might be.

Some types of television appear to be at some degree of risk. Limited series – consisting of six to ten episodes, have generated a lot of buzz over the past decade, especially after the debut of “True Detective” in 2014 and the premiere of “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” in in 2016, and the beginning of the series “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” in 2017. “Big Little Lies” was a hallmark of the era of primetime television. The shows stood out in part because of the big stars and lavish budgets involved.

At the 2021 Emmys, the Outstanding Limited Series statuette was the final award presented. This has long been a classification for Best Drama, and marked the organizers' recognition that the category had become the most prestigious television award.

Not anymore.

As part of programming budget cuts, executives now see far less benefit in deploying generous resources for a show that ends a few weeks later.

Again, investing in series with a lot of seasons is a much bigger priority. There's a good chance the TV will start to look a lot like the TV of a couple of decades ago.

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Executives at Max, the Warner Bros. streaming service Discovery, formerly known as HBO Max, is looking for a medical drama. “Suits,” a 2000s legal thriller from USA Network, became an unexpected hit last summer, after millions of people began watching reruns of the series on Netflix. “Next year, you're probably going to see a bunch of lawyer shows,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos said at an investor conference last month.

It's worth noting that Hulu recently ordered a project from star producer Ryan Murphy that will chronicle an all-female divorce law firm.

Of course, quality television in the era of peak television is not going away. “The Bear,” a Best Comedy winner and current favorite, will return for the upcoming Emmys. Also returning are “Abbott Elementary,” the beloved ABC sitcom, and “The Last of Us,” HBO’s hit video game adaptation that won Emmys.

Even the original story of “Caliphate” seems tailor-made for the new era of television. When HBO executives commissioned the series, they wanted to put their spin on a classic television genre — a family drama — but their expectations were low. The show didn't require the budgets of “Game of Thrones” or “Stranger Things.” It was light on the stars. Armstrong was not yet a brand name. However, it was a huge success.

Less than an hour after the Emmys ended, when Armstrong was asked at a news conference where he was headed next, he demurred.

Instead, he was thinking about the past.

He said: “This group of people, I do not expect the issue of succession to ever be repeated.” “I hope to do interesting work the rest of my life. But I'm quite comfortable with the feeling that I may never be involved in something quite good.”

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