As the cast of “Succession” marched up to the Emmy stage on Monday night to pick up their idols for the show’s final season, they used it as one last opportunity to say goodbye.
Kieran Culkin gave a tearful speech as he accepted the award for Best Actor in a Drama, after kissing his co-star Brian Cox on the lips. Matthew Macfadyen and Sarah Snook, who also won acting awards, paid loving tribute to fellow cast members. And “Succession” creator Jesse Armstrong closed the night by accepting the award for best drama for the third and final time and saying: “We can now leave the stage.”
It all added up to a sense of the end of an era at Monday night’s Emmy Awards. “Succession” was one of several nominated shows having farewell seasons, joining a list that included “Ted Lasso,” “Better Call Saul,” “Barry,” “Atlanta” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” .
But that wasn’t the only reason Monday night was an elegy. In many ways the ceremony felt like the end of the so-called Peak TV era.
Nearly every year from 2010 to 2023, the number of TV programs in the United States increased, reaching 599 scripted television shows last year.
It may never reach those heights again.
For over a year now, studios and networks — including streaming giants like Netflix, cable giants like HBO and FX, and broadcast channels — have put the brakes on new series orders. Executives worried about cash drain from their streaming services, customers cutting cable cords and a soft advertising market have instead placed more emphasis on profitability. The months-long strike by screenwriters and actors last year also contributed to the recession.
With a more austere outlook, there is widespread fear across the industry about the consequences of a contraction.
The list of Emmy nomination submissions gives a snapshot. The number of dramas submitted by networks and studios for Emmy consideration declined 5 percent, according to the Television Academy, which organizes the awards. Entries declined 16 percent for limited series and 19 percent for comedies.
At the after-parties on Monday night, there was a lot of anger over how thin the lineup will be for the next Emmys.
Some television genres appear to be at risk to some degree. Limited series – shows of six to 10 episodes that became a sensation in the last decade, especially after the 2014 debut of “True Detective”, the 2016 premiere of “American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson” and the 2017 debut of ” ” After. Big Little Lies” – a hallmark of the Peak TV era. The show stood out somewhat because of its big stars and huge budget.
At the 2021 Emmys, the statuette for Best Limited Series was the final award presented. This had long been the designation for Best Drama, and it signaled acknowledgment by organizers that the category had become television’s most prestigious award.
As part of programming budget cuts, executives now see little benefit in deploying lavish resources on a show that ends in a matter of weeks.
Once again, investing in a series with multiple seasons is a huge priority. And there’s a good chance that television will end up looking a lot like the television of a few decades ago.
Executives at Warner Bros.’s Discovery streaming service, formerly known as HBO Max, are looking for a medical drama. USA Network’s 2010 legal procedural “Suits” became an unexpected streaming hit last summer, when millions of people started watching reruns of the show on Netflix. “Next year, you’ll probably see a bunch of lawyer shows,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s co-chief executive, said at an investor conference last month.
Wisely, Hulu recently ordered a project from star creator Ryan Murphy that will tell the history of an all-female divorce law firm.
Of course, Peak TV-era quality television isn’t going away. Best-comedy winner and already beloved favorite “The Bear” will be back for the next Emmys. Also returning are ABC’s beloved sitcom “Abbott Elementary” and HBO’s hit adaptation of the video game “The Last of Us,” which won multiple Emmy Awards.
Even the origin story of “Succession” seems tailor-made for the new television age. When HBO executives ordered 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 have the budget of “Game of Thrones” or “Stranger Things.” It was light on the stars. Armstrong was not yet a brand name. And yet, it became a hit.
Less than an hour after the Emmys ceremony ended, when Armstrong was asked at a press conference what he would do next, he demurred.
Instead, he reflected on the past.
“This group of people, I don’t expect it to ever be repeated,” he said of “Succession.” “I hope to continue doing interesting work throughout my life. But I am quite comfortable with the realization that I will never be able to engage in any good work.”