Monday, September 21, 2009

Notes on the 2009 Emmys

I have a few notes related to Sunday night's Emmy Awards. They might be of use to someone.

Note #1 – To ABC, NBC, and FOX: Guys this is the way that you do an Emmy ceremony. When you talk about awards shows you usually end up talking about "flow" by which you generally mean the pace and whether or not the transition between segments was smoth and logical. Sunday night's Emmy awards didn't just "flow" they "flew." Things kept moving at a fast pace and that meant that the show, which clocked in a three hours and a few minutes didn't really feel like a show that ran for three hours and a few minutes. A well timed and well paced awards show can be a pleasure to watch. Comparing this year's Emmy awards with last year's fiasco is like comparing a Japanese Bullet Train to the Hooterville Cannonball. Last year you see every spot where jokes or comedy bits were cut to save time. By the time the last award of the night was presented even the presenter was acknowledging that they wanted to get this thing over and done with. By comparison if there was anything cut from this year's Emmys because of a need to save time it really wasn't obvious. Oh to be sure there were one or two moments when things seemed extraneous – I've heard a couple of critics say that they used Maksim Chmerkovskiy and Karina Sminoff's dance before the Reality Show awards section (which consisted of two awards – that's something to look at for next year) as a convenient pee-break – but there were no really obvious problems and a lot of high points. Having Sarah McLachlan singing "I Will Remember You" for the Memoriam segment may not have been needed but was a nice touch, and the decision to use the Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog the way they did was a thing of beauty. There were very few bits of the show last night that I'd want to fast forward through if I hadn't been watching it live.

Note #2 – To CBS: Today – right now in fact, don't read another word before you do this – I want you to go down to the set of How I Met Your Mother and sign Neil Patrick Harris to a contract to host the Emmys the next time you have them. Really, I am serious, and I won't go away while you do it. Neil was the perfect host for this awards show. He didn't take himself or his role too seriously, and really when you are hosting an awards show taking yourself too seriously is death. As Mark Evanier pointed out he was "well aware that the evening was not all about him." That's an important quality. As much as anyone the host of an awards show is like the ringmaster in the circus – he's always present but people really aren't there to see him. Best of all, of course, is the fact that there was only one of him. That's actually a big deal. Last year's fiasco had a lot to do with the lack of a single face for the show. It was confused and confusing and it wasted a lot of time – well actually the whole absurd business of setting up the presentation of the Reality Show Host award wasted a lot of time, but that's beside the point. We've seen shows with two hosts that have worked, but that's a matter of chemistry between the hosts. We've also seen shows with no hosts, where the presenters simply came out, announced by some disembodied voice and that really hasn't worked. One central focus seems to work best, and when it is someone like Neil Patrick Harris who is in charge of keeping things moving, well that's just the cherry on the sundae.

Note #3 – To the Emmy Voters: You people might want to consider not being so locked into the same-old same-old. I mean take a look at the major categories. You voted for last year's winner in:

  • Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
  • Outstanding Actor in a Drama
  • Outstanding Actress in a Drama
  • Outstanding Reality Show Host
  • Outstanding Reality-Competition Series
  • Outstanding Comedy Series
  • Outstanding Drama Series
  • Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series

The only acting categories where someone won who didn't win last year were the Supporting categories and Outstanding Actress in a Comedy, and probably the only person more surprised than me that Tina Fey didn't win was Toni Collette (of course the most surprised person at the Emmys was Jon Cryer; I mean for heaven's sake he's on Two And A Half Men and they never win anything...ever – Charlie Sheen just shows up for the booze). Don't get me wrong, I think that most of the people who won this year were deserving, which is something that you can't always say, but things are getting a bit predictable when the way to pick winners for an Emmy pool is to say, "Is the person who won last year nominated again? Well put them down and we'll probably be right. Now let's go to that place where they make guacamole at the table." The only thing worse is that the people who are voting for the Emmys seem to be saying the same damned thing.

While we're at it the writing categories are even worse than the acting categories. Are we supposed to believe that there are only two comedies and two dramas that have writing worthy of nomination? Really only one, since both the Comedy and Drama categories each had four entries from one series and one from another to fill things out. This practice needs to change and quickly. Series should either be rewarded for an entire season of writing or be limited to one – at most two – nominees. It is absurd to keep this the way it is.

I should say something nice about the winners. I was happy to see Kristin Chenoweth win for playing Olive Snook in Pushing Daisies even though the nomination seemed like a reward in itself and the win like a massive extension of the middle finger in the direction of ABC. Of course I love Kristin with a heart that is true, in part because she is a real trouper – on Sunday she attended your little Emmy shindig despite a serious Migraine (I read her Twitter feed), and believe me as someone who sometime suffers from migraines that is dedication above and beyond the call. Seeing Michael Emerson win for playing Ben in Lost was also a pleasure. Brian Cranston deserved his win as Outstanding Actor as well. In fact about the only win that I don't fully agree with was Jeff Probst winning for Reality Show Host, but then I'm a Phil Keoghan fan.

Note #4 – To My Emmy Poll Voters: You really really don't know how "well" you performed. If it's any consolation, at least you got Probst right.

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