The CBS Emmy campaign for its very good show The Good Wife, boils down to this: we produce three times as many episodes as those cable guys, where are our Best Drama awards? CBS' Emmy mailer pointed out that shows with nearly two-thirds as many episodes have awards heaped on them, and its time for Florrick, Agos and Associates to get some recognition, according to The Hollywood Reporter. As a gambit to get The Good Wife an few Emmys, this campaign is a little tacky. But CBS has a point. Cable shows benefit from a prestige factor broadcast shows lack, and the disparity in episode mandates plays a big part in that.
"To maintain the kind of quality over the course of 22 episodes, and this year featuring two of the most talked-about, tweeted-about story points in recent television history, is definitely worthy of recognition" CBS TV Studios president David Stapf told The Hollywood Reporter. Pointing out the merits of the show, like its great acting, in-depth storytelling, and the fact that it's not about dark and broody white men, would have been a more compelling, less whiny strategy. But Stapf is right — the perception is that The Good Wife is good in spite of how many episodes it churns out, not because of it.
Cable shows make money off subscriptions, so they don't have to worry about ratings or season lengths to the same extent. That gives them a chance to be better, or at least to seem like they are more focused on craft than views. And for years cable networks have benefited from that perception at the Emmys. In 2012, The New York Times wrote "Sunday’s Emmy Awards show on ABC was like a cable eclipse of the networks." That year not a single broadcast show was nominated for best drama. When you add in all the other broadcast foils — there's a loss of realness when you can't show nudity or cursing, most broadcast dramas shows suck — it's easy to see how The Good Wife loses major prestige points. You can't argue with CBS for pointing that out.
The thing is, CBS is the main source of its own problems. Fox has shown that 13 episodes seasons are viable with Sleepy Hollow and The Following. (Those shows won't be reaping many Emmys either, but that's likely due to genre bias and critical loathing, respectively.) No one is going to reward CBS for making things harder on itself. It's even hard to argue that the show has been shut out. Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi have both won Emmys for acting, and the show has been nominated 30 times. And if we're being perfectly honest, it's hard to feel bad for the network that keeps renewing NCIS and The Big Bang Theory.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.