Emmy Nominated Writers Agree – TV No Longer is “The Idiot Box”

Easy for them to say. In fact, considering the circumstances – these folks being Emmy writing nominees and all (and as of Sunday night a few also are winners) – they’d better tell us how great TV is.

Even if, all things considered, the product should – let’s face it – be speaking for itself.

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by Ross A. Lincoln

“If there had been a Rotten Tomatoes in 1601, he would have gotten a 73.” So WGAW Vice President Howard A. Rodman compared Shakespeare to television. What he meant is that the Bard in his day was, like television until rather recently, seriously underrated and disrespected. Things change, however, and now, so Rodman asserts, whatever genre you pick out of a hat, the best work is happening on TV. That’s a good a scene-setting as one could hope for tonight’s panel discussion held at the Writers Guild Theater featuring this year’s Emmy writing nominees.

In attendance were Elliott Kalan (The Daily Show With Jon Stewart), Jane Anderson(Olive Kitteridge), Alec Berg (Silicon Valley), Joshua Brand (The Americans), Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas (Mad Men), Christine Nangle (Inside Amy Schumer) and Stephanie Gillis (The Simpsons). All are up for statuettes come Sunday, but if there were any feelings of competition or anxiety, you couldn’t tell tonight. The group, many of them close friends, delivered a lengthy, generally hilarious talk about their shows and careers and the changing television landscape.

But first, something you’ve probably been wondering since the show ended in May – the final moments of the Mad Men series finale were not metaphorical, despite the dreamlike fade into one of the most important advertisements of all time. Weiner and fellow nominee Chellas confirmed that when talking about how long in advance they knew how the show would end, with Weiner explaining that Don Draper did find himself and did go on to help create the iconic “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” commercial.

Sure, you say, you knew that. But for those of you thinking it might have been aSopranos-style moment of ambiguity, now you know. You’re welcome.

OK, another hot reveal from tonight’s panel: The Daily Show staff found out that Jon Stewart was leaving just before the news was made public. As Kalan put it, the feeling wasn’t so much surprise as it was culmination. Apparently the staff felt tremendous anxiety every time the renewal of Stewart’s contract came up, to the point of obsessive worry on the part of some newer staffer.

But the biggest takeaway from tonight’s discussion was that the massive changes television has undergone and continues to undergo looms large in the minds of the writers. From the creative opportunities to the economic challenges, it’s changing so fast it affects everything….

Read it all at Deadline