September 20, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Emmy Awards Thoughts

The EMMY AWARDS could hardly have gone more emphatically HBO’s way, with wins for Best Drama, Comedy, Limited Series and Made-For-TV Movie, not to mention many of the acting, writing and directing awards that went with them.  It was a night with a lot of exciting new winners, but the show itself was very much what it’s always been.  Andy Samberg was a perfectly affable host, managing a few decent zingers in his opening bit, and keeping most of his appearances after that relatively short.  The Emmys are inevitably the busiest of the major awards shows, due to the sheer number of prizes that are given out on the air, and even though the nominees in almost every category are a lot more notable than they used to be, that middle hour between Comedy and Drama is still a long stretch.  The lengthy Lorne Michaels coffee cup gag could probably have been dispensed with, but it was a coup to land Tracy Morgan’s first post-accident appearance (even if it would have made more sense for him to be giving out Best Comedy than Best Drama–it’s very possible the show didn’t know he’d be available until after they’d already committed to having Mel Brooks present the former).

As for the awards, let’s separate them by genre, as the telecast itself does:

DRAMA:  The idea that Mad Men was certain to win a valedictory Best Drama award always seemed iffy–the Academy had slighted the show’s writing last year, and the consensus was that its final season was sufficient but not inspired.  The long-overdue Actor award to Jon Hamm seemed like a fair way of recognizing the series while moving on.  The big prize went instead to Game of Thrones, cementing its place in television history as the medium’s highest-quality piece of epic storytelling, and smashing the idea that a genre show was doomed to be perpetually underestimated by Academy voters.  (Game also won Supporting Actor for Peter Dinklage, as well as Writing and Directing.)  Viola Davis’ win for Actress was perhaps the night’s least surprising, and she gave the evening’s most powerful speech.  Uzo Aduba’s win for Supporting Actress was well-deserved, although considering the gigantic, superb ensemble of Orange Is The New Black, it would be a shame if she’s the only cast member ever to win anything.

COMEDY:  Modern Family lost!  Modern Family lost!  The sitcom is owed due respect as a classy and often still very funny half-hour, but its continual wins as the entire TV comedy form exploded around it were getting progressively more silly.  Veep had its best season yet, and although Transparent could also have made a strong claim to the prize–and the two shows split most of the other major awards, with Veep taking Actress for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Supporting Actor for Tony Hale, and Writing, while Transparent won Actor for Jeffrey Tambor and Directing–Veep has a sleek polish that’s more in tune with Academy notions of excellence.  It’s worth noting, by the way, that with the end of Modern Family‘s streak, the broadcast networks are essentially out of the game for the scripted categories, an acting award here or there aside, marking the end of a television era.  (And one, considering the caliber of the new shows that will begin premiering next week, the networks don’t care about very much.)  The sole broadcast winner for Comedy was Supporting Actress Allison Janney, a longtime Academy favorite and nominated for Mom, which allows her to play almost as many drama beats as farcical ones.

LIMITED SERIES:  Olive Kitteridge didn’t do particularly well in the ratings when HBO aired it, but it’s the kind of show that’s critical to the network’s branding, so uncompromisingly excellent in all respects that its very existence would make a subscriber feel good about those monthly fees, whether or not they actually watched.  (This year, that emblem belongs to Show Me A Hero.)   The wins for Limited Series, Actress (Frances McDormand), Actor (Richard Jenkins), Supporting Actor (Bill Murray), Directing and Writing were all richly deserved.  The only major award Olive didn’t win was one of the night’s biggest surprises, the Supporting Actress award to Regina King for her ferocious performance in American Crime, work that apparently just blew the other nominees away.

VARIETY:  Some rule changes allowed sketch comedy shows to escape from having to compete with talk shows, which created a space for Inside Amy Schumer to crown Schumer’s breakout year with a win.  Mostly, though, the voters wanted to give the fondest possible farewell to The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, a show that every day’s news makes one miss all over again.  It won its final Variety Series, Writing and Directing awards, setting things up for an entirely new broom when next year’s awards come around.

REALITY COMPETITION SERIES:  This is it, the one place where the broadcast networks still rule.  The Voice beat The Amazing Race, at least giving NBC execs a reason to attend the Governors Ball, which is more than FOX, host of the night’s festivities, can claim.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."