‘Louie,’ The Emmys, And The Future Of Television

During last night’s Emmy liveblog, Libby said something that clarified my frustration with the fact that Louie didn’t win anything (in addition to the fact that I feel like I’ll never get to see Louis C.K. make an awards-show speech): “Louie is changing the landscape of television and entertainment as we know it,” she typed. “I know that I should just be grateful that I get to experience his amazing work and that the Emmys even know he exists. But what would we be if we didn’t keep hoping for something better?”

It’s great to see directors like Martin Scorsese wanting to work in television, I feel like Boardwalk Empire always had an advantage in that HBO spent $5 million on its core set and between $20 and $30 million on the pilot. You really have to try hard to make a show that looks bad for that amount of money, or to actively hire actors who don’t have chemistry. It’s much, much harder to do that for $250,000. C.K. has to be on all the time, he always has to hit his marks on the writing, his personal connections are what pull in interesting guest stars. It’s like gymnasts getting points for the difficulty of the routine.

And in a world of declining cable subscriptions and an irreversible push towards multi-platform viewing, I’d guess that scripted television is probably going to have to either get cheaper, or become a lusher spectacle supported by extremely high overseas syndication prices. Shows will have to go the Louie route on one extreme or the Game of Thrones route on the other. And there are more gorgeous, expensive scripted shows (it’ll be interesting to see if network viewers and international deals come out in numbers that will support Terra Nova) than there are extremely cheap, extremely smart ones right now. It’s just as important to recognize the innovators in the latter category than the former, especially if they’re the ones who eventually save us from the networks’ cost-savings love affairs with reality television.