There are a lot of adjectives to describe the 2011 Emmy broadcast; controlled, planned, anal.
Most of all boring. And I think it was boring because it was so controlled planned and precise. There were no obvious moments when comedy bits were dumped because the show was running overtime, The show seemed as well timed out as a Japanese train schedule and there was no room for deviation from timetable. It showed. The result was that it was an almost total lack of spontaneity. Even those moment that were supposed to feel spontaneous – the speeches by the winners – felt as planned out by the producers. The only winner to be played off was Kyle Chandler and that’s because he started to walk off and then realised that he forgot to thank Connie Britton for five years as Mrs. Coach. With one exception – Outstanding Actress in a Comedy – they didn’t even let the presenters actually read the names of the nominees they were going to be presenting to. You know, just in case someone screws up a name or laughs or something. How anal retentive is that! And yet they somehow managed to find time for the guy who named the winners – just in case we missed it when the presenters said the names – to make silly lame jokes. We don’t want this. As Joe Friday never said “Just the facts man.”
There were a couple of major musical numbers. One by Lonely Island it didn’t understand at all. I felt like Temperance Brennan on Bones: “I don’t know what that is.” I had to look it up and as a result…I’m feeling old and I still don’t understand the link that the song had to television. The other musical number was The Canadian Tenors – who I’ve also never heard of – singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” during the Memoriam sequence. Now you’ll excuse me for saying so but I dislike this tendency, seen here and at the Oscars, of having the Memoriam segment underscored with live singers, particularly when the show’s director cuts between the memorial clips and the singers, which is exactly what they did this time.
I suppose we should discuss Jane Lynch’s hosting duties at the Emmys. Given what was allotted to her, I guess that she did an adequate job. FOX tried to recreate the excitement of last year’s opening musical number based on “Born To Run” but it didn’t come off quite right. Or maybe I just missed it because I was plating my dinner (in a manner that would drive Gordon Ramsay to apoplexy). She had a brief monologue at the beginning and from time to time has a couple of jokes, some referring to her sexual orientation. She also had a sketch later in the show wearing a black wig about why New Jersey is the setting for so many shows – among them House, Real Housewives of New Jersey, and of course Jersey Shore. Suffice it to say there was also a reference to another show that took place in New Jersey which had a controversial final scene. On the whole I wish that Jane Lynch had been given more to do on the show. Or maybe just better stuff to do.
Turning to the actual winners, the Comedy categories were dominated by Modern Family. The show won in every comedy category except Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Comedy, and that’s only because the show’s ensemble cast was all nominated in the supporting categories. Ty Burrell won for Supporting Actor in a Comedy while his onscreen wife Julie Bowen won as Supporting Actress. In one of the only “spontaneous” moments in the broadcast Melissa McCarthy won as Outstanding Actress in a Comedy, and received a tiara and roses in addition to the Emmy over the winner of my reader poll, Amy Poehler. That was a real shocker, and unlike a lot of people I’m not going to say that she won it for the movie Bridesmaids rather than Mike & Molly. Steve Carell failed to win an Emmy for playing Michael Scott on The Office, losing to Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory, who won the reader poll unanimously.
The Variety, Music and Comedy Series awards were lumped together with the Reality-Competition Category. I don’t care much for the Variety, Music and Comedy categories, although I noted a couple of things; they cut the segments naming the writers in this category – often the funniest damned thing in whole damned Emmy Show – down to 15 seconds each, thereby eliminating virtually all of the humour in those bits; and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart won both of the categories and absolutely no one was shocked or surprised. Mostly they were resigned to the fact. The Amazing Race won the Reality-Competition Series category; the reader poll said So You Think You Can Dance, but then only three votes were cast.
The Drama categories were, for the most part surprising. Martin Scorcese won the directing Emmy for the first episode of Boardwalk Empire, and that shouldn’t be surprising until you realize that Scorsese has lost six Emmy in various categories before winning this one. The first big surprise was Jason Katims winning the Writing category for Friday Night Lights. You could say, “after five year’s of being as great as it was, it’s about time,” but considering that there were two episodes of Mad Men nominated – including “The Suitcase” – not to mention the highly touted Game of Thrones, well it was surprising. Peter Dinklage won for Game of Thrones in the rather weak Supporting Actor in a Drama category, while Margo Martindale won as Mags Bennett in Justified. In the days leading up to the actual awards she became a critical favourite for the Emmy in a category with some truly strong actresses. In maybe the only non-surprise in the Drama categories, Julianna Margulies won the Lead Actress Emmy for The Good Wife, just like my reader polls said she should (but again, only three votes; I wanted Elizabeth Moss to win). The biggest surprise maybe of the whole night came in the Lead Actor in a Drama category when Kyle Chandler won for playing Coach Eric Taylor on Friday Night Lights over Jon Hamm (my readers’ choice), Steve Buscemi and the others.
I have little interest in the Movie and Miniseries categories, mainly because I see so very few of the entries in the category, and inevitably one or two shows dominates the category. This year was no different; I was actually on the edge of falling asleep while these categories were being announced. Downton Abbey won for Writing and Directing, and Supporting Actress (Maggie Smith). HBO’s Mildred Pierce (which was mercilessly panned by many critics) won for Supporting Actor (Guy Pearce) and Lead Actress (Kate Winslet). The dominance of these two was broken when Canadian Barry Pepper won the Lead Actor for playing Robert Kennedy in The Kennedys.
This left us with the three "Best Show” categories. Despite the threat from Game of Thrones, and The Good Wife – which won my reader poll – Mad Men won the Outstanding Drama Series for the fourth straight year. Since it’s only been on for four years, perhaps we now know what it will take for something else to win the category – Mad Men just has to be ineligible (which it won’t be next year). Downton Abbey won for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie (*yawn*). Finally, in the last, and most shocking (not) award of the night Modern Family took the Emmy as Outstanding Comedy Series.
If I were to apply my usual yardstick for awards show – did the show feel as if it was longer or shorter than it actually was – then Sunday night’s Emmy Award Show was a failure. It felt like it went on a lot longer than it actually did. I’m convinced that the reason why it felt that way is that FOX stifled the spontaneity of the show. While the networks expect every awards show except the Oscars to fit into a strictly enforced three hour window, I think that FOX was so determined to make it run on schedule – and coincidentally to not cut anything that they had planned – that they sucked all of the fun of the unexpected out of it. And while blame for this sort of thing usually falls onto the host, it does not seem to me that Jane Lynch bears any responsibility for this one. This one is entirely FOX’s failure.