It's crunch time for Primetime Emmys executive producer Don Mischer. The live TV veteran and his production partners Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare face a daunting task on Aug. 25: Hand out 26 awards (more than most televised awards shows), give host Seth Meyers room to shine, keep the show entertaining and make sure it ends in three hours.
"On any live show, you can work on it for three years and the last month you work around the clock," Mischer says of the frenzy in the past few weeks to finalize this year's show, which airs Monday on NBC at 8/7c and 5 p.m. on the West Coast. "A lot of things aren't decided until the last few weeks."
Luckily, Mischer has been producing big TV events for nearly 40 years. "The big chunks of the show are laid out, now we're looking for the connective tissue and how to create the moments that people remember," Haykel says. "It's like putting all the ingredients together so you have the right chemical reaction."
Mischer says the most daunting task is trying to end the show right at 11 p.m. ET. There's no longer any wiggle room, and here's why: The Emmys now air live on the West Coast at 5 p.m., with a rebroadcast immediately following at 8 p.m. If the telecast spills over, that rebroadcast starts late, pushing the end of it out of primetime. Mischer says local TV stations aren't happy when their late newscasts are bumped back due to awards show overruns.
"You have a lot of stations with local news and that's very important to them," he says. "They put a lot of pressure on the network, who in turn puts pressure on us, to bring the show in on time. As much as we squirm and squiggle and hate having to tighten things up, there's no question that generally it makes the show better."
When the Emmys or any awards show starts to run long, producers usually start cutting back on clips of nominated shows. When TV Guide Magazine spoke to Mischer last week, he was in the middle of figuring out how to whittle down how many clips will run. "There has been so much good work this year nominated for an Emmy, we have to decide where do we have opportunities to show that work in terms of the nominees," he says. "Unfortunately we can't show as much as we'd like."
Here are a few big numbers behind the show:
How many people work on the telecast? 250. The staff begins small in the spring, but as crewmembers are hired and production gets underway, the team swells.
Number of countries that air the Primetime Emmys: 150. The telecast is broadcast in 30 languages, with a potential audience of 600 million.
How much time is allotted for an acceptance speech before the music starts? 45 seconds. "We wish we could make it longer," Mischer says. "For some people it's a major moment in their lives and careers. But we have no option when it comes to going long."
Number of statuettes on hand at the Nokia Theatre, to make sure every winner gets one: 130.
What's the length of the live telecast's time delay, in the event of an obscenity? 5 seconds.
How many presenters? Approximately 40, including Amy Poehler, Julia Roberts and Kerry Washington.
Tally of songs the orchestra will have on hand to perform: 100 pieces. "When you work with a musical director for the first time on this show, that is one of the hardest concepts for them to get their head around, that every category has the option of five themes to be played on a split second's notice," Haykel says.
How many seat fillers? 275.
Number of names that will make it into the "In Memoriam" reel: 40 to 45. "It has become probably one of the most popular items in the program," Mischer says. "It's difficult to make decisions about who will be in and who will not be in. Honestly, it's kind of agonizing. It's a decision made by the TV Academy with input from us and the network. It's not something taken lightly. We go back and forth on it."
What happens if the show ends early? Mischer chuckles at the notion. "Very seldom do you have to pad the show," he says. "It would be nice to have an experience like that every now and then. I don't recall ever being that fortunate. Maybe we'd go back and show a super slow-mo of people getting out of their seats."