Genre shows have always been the red-headed stepchildren of network TV. That's why "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" never won -- heck, was never nominated -- in a lead Emmy category. It's why "Firefly" and "Jericho" were unceremoniously cancelled by trigger-happy execs years before their time. And it's also why envelope-pushing, groundbreaking series such as "Fringe" never seem to receive the accolades they so richly deserve, regardless of how awesome John Noble is.
Sure, "True Blood" and "The Walking Dead" are occasionally allowed to defy the genre curse because they're cable shows -- though they're also somewhat less consistent in quality -- but generally, us Whovians, Trekkies, Browncoats, Nerd Herders and the like have become accustomed to having our tastes ignored or disparaged by mainstream awards ceremonies like the Golden Globes and Emmys.
If there's one award ceremony we can occasionally count on to reflect our nerdy interests, it's the People's Choice Awards, largely because we're the ones doing the voting, so no actual energy has to be expended by industry insiders in coming up with a winner. It's a point of pride for many fans who vote non-stop for weeks to try and earn their favorite shows the recognition they merit, whether it's tweeting out People's Choice nominations or developing carpal tunnel entering TV Guide's Fan Favorite cover contest, in which an underrated show can win a coveted place on the magazine's front cover through a Facebook poll.
The CW's "Supernatural," a resilient and unpredictable drama, now in its seventh season, which currently averages just under two million viewers per episode, for example, is a show that has always relied on avid fan engagement. Its paltry rating is thanks, in part, to its unenviable Friday night time slot opposite Fox's equally quirky "Fringe," because all genre shows are inevitably relegated to the so-called end-of-week "Death Slot" when networks grow bored of trying to pair them with incompatible time slot companions (see also: "Chuck" and "Grimm" on NBC).
It's not heavily promoted on The CW's line-up -- which is understandable, given that shows in their seventh years don't generally pick up a slew of new viewers -- but it was still the recipient of TV Guide's very first Fan Favorite Cover, and the winner of two People's Choice Awards last night.
So why complain about a genre TV conspiracy? Because, despite the fact that one of "Supernatural's" wins was the prestigious "Favorite Network TV Drama" award, up against ratings heavy-hitters like "The Good Wife," "Grey's Anatomy," "House" and The CW's most successful show, "The Vampire Diaries," the People's Choice Awards producers neglected to announce its victory during the live show. Instead, both of "Supernatural" wins, for Drama and Sci-fi/Fantasy, were broadcast during the pre-show coverage, which streamed online and was aired on Reelzchannel, but many fans weren't aware, judging by some of the Twitter reactions last night.
Obviously, it would be impossible to fit 43 awards categories into a two-hour live telecast that already seemed embarrassingly over-saturated with product placement, sponsorship tie-ins (the cheesy CVS segment, in particular, was utterly cringe-inducing) and incessant commercials, as well as two ill-advised performances from Demi Lovato and Faith Hill. We don't expect CBS to bend the laws of physics, here.
But, can you imagine the Emmy producers neglecting to tell the world which show the television academy had deemed the best network drama of the year? For that matter, can you imagine CBS turning down a chance to tell the world that "the people" voted "The Good Wife" as their favorite network drama, had the CBS legal show won last night instead of "Supernatural"? Though the People's Choice Awards declined to issue an official statement, a rep reiterated that due to time constraints, only 14 of the 43 awards could be broadcast, and that "all winners are invited to the show. Knowing that there would not be space in the show, 'Supernatural' created an awesome thank you video to their fans that aired in the live red carpet arrivals show."
This may have been the first time in PCA history that the network drama accolade wasn't presented live on air -- do we really believe it's a coincidence that a genre show got snubbed? I can't imagine that some dedicated voters aren't sitting at home wondering if their favorite drama made the cut, thinking that perhaps they blacked out sometime mid-telecast and missed the award. Sure, this is a popularity contest on an inflated scale, not a cure for cancer; but if you're voted prom queen, I think that entitles you to a moment of glory, something that niche shows like "Supernatural" sorely need and rarely get.
The People's Choice Awards always place a greater emphasis on their TV prizes than movies or music, so it's telling that the majority of the TV categories' winners were spotlighted one way or another last night; even Jimmy Fallon and the "Pretty Little Liars" cast got to present segments, even if they didn't go up on stage to accept their awards. In fact, by my count, only two TV winners didn't have anyone representing them in person at the ceremony: "Supernatural" (twice, if you count their Sci-Fi win, which is, admittedly, rarely telecast) and "American Idol," which won for "Favorite TV Competition Show." (Okay, "Person of Interest" didn't have any cast-members present either, but only because voting for "Favorite New Drama" was open right until the end of the telecast, and I doubt anyone would've wanted to disrupt filming to fly in from New York for one night, just on the off-chance they might win.)
Meanwhile, The CW's "Vampire Diaries" cast was out in full force, with Nina Dobrev deservedly winning "TV Drama Actress," and Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder in attendance to present. "TVD" is also a genre show, but one with higher ratings than "Supernatural." Perhaps there's a "right" kind of genre that merits acceptance? If there is, it undoubtedly features vampires. (Poor "Buffy" was obviously just ahead of its time.) Still, Dobrev's victory was further testament to the power of the fans, considering she wasn't initially nominated, but earned her spot as the first write-in nominee on the ballot. She does excellent work on "The Vampire Diaries" as both Elena and Katherine, so it's nice to see her rewarded at last.
To compound matters, it also appears that -- despite having time to record a suitably humble acceptance speech -- stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles weren't even invited to the ceremony, even after their show dominated two categories (at least according to the actors' bodyguard, Clif Kosterman).
While CBS is consistently first in the ratings for a reason, it was still unfortunate that the final three awards of the night, for Favorite New Comedy ("2 Broke Girls"), Favorite New Drama ("Person of Interest") and Favorite Network Comedy ("How I Met Your Mother"), all went to shows from the network that was televising the ceremony. I wouldn't presume to question the validity of their wins, but the hat trick certainly would've seemed less noticeable if the Best Network Drama prize had been presented alongside them.
So what will it take for the networks to recognize the potential in original, risky programming? Why does a show have to be a procedural, an ensemble comedy or shown on cable to be deemed legitimate? Genre shows find life and loyalty through modern viewing methods, such online streaming and DVR time-shifting, and those seemingly modest numbers can swell up 70 percent compared to initial readings when delayed viewing is taken into account. For instance, perennial bubble show "Fringe" grows from a tenuous 1.1 demo rating to a robust (for a Friday) 1.9 after DVR ratings are factored in. Sadly, until the antiquated Nielsen system of measuring viewership is phased out, genre shows will always be seen as a risk that most networks don't want to bother taking -- apparently, that now extends to award ceremonies voted by the public, too.
Genre fans are used to disappointment. Our shows are cancelled prematurely, they rarely earn billboards, posters or magazine covers, and unless our addictions are aired on HBO or AMC, we know that they won't get awards recognition, no matter how consistently compelling the storylines are, or how heartbreaking the performances can be.
And yet, genre fans are the reason that "Chuck" has survived for five seasons, that "Firefly" got a chance at a big-screen send-off as "Serenity," and that little-shows-that-could like "Supernatural" and "Community" can enjoy a brief, but satisfying moment in the spotlight on the cover of a publication like TV Guide. We may not have much power, but we still turn out in full force -- with all the bravery of a Stark and all the cunning of a Lannister -- whenever there's a chance to share our passion for a show that brings us joy.
Shame on the People's Choice Awards for deciding that our choice wasn't good enough.
Follow Laura Prudom on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lauinLA