September 19, 2011

THE SKED: Emmy Thoughts


Another TV year is officially in the books, and the statuettes have been handed out to prove it.  Since the Emmys end at 8PM LA time for the convenience of East Coast eyes, by midnight the main parties are trailing off, and those winners lucky enough to still have jobs for the new season are heading home, while the after-parties continue for industry players with time on their hands.  Some thoughts on the evening:
THE SHOW:  After a lame opening number (except for the Mad Men section), which couldn’t help but pale in comparison to Jimmy Fallon’s brilliant opening last year, the show stabilized into being OK.  Jane Lynch had a few good lines as host, although it would have been nice to see her make jokes about something other than being gay.  The all-co-star singing group (Cobie Smulders!  Joel McHale!) that introduced each segment wasn’t worth the effort, but the Office parody was borderline brilliant, especially the gag with Jesse from Breaking Bad delivering crystal meth to Creed.  Also funny, and mercifully short:  Ricky Gervais poking fun at his own hosting style.   And thinking of parody, “The Canadian Tenors”–that’s a real thing?  At first I thought it was a sequel to the Lonely Island bit, but apparently not; having them sing “Hallelujah” amidst dry ice smoke, accompanying the montage of dead people, was like an idea Mel Brooks deleted from The Producers as too over the top.  

DRAMA:  Some genuinely surprising results, and not in a bad way.  Even though it was too late to do the show any good, some recognition for the writing and acting of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was long overdue (if only Connie Britton had been allowed to join the party–or if at least the orchestra had let Kyle Chandler thank her when he realized he’d left her out, just a milisecond after he stepped away from the microphone).  The only downside to Chandler’s win was that with Bryan Cranston back next year, Jon Hamm may have seen his best chance for an Emmy pass by tonight.  Julianna Margullies was an expected but deserving winner for Actress, and two of the happiest moments of the telecast were seeing Peter Dinklage and Margo Martindale pick up statuettes for their spectacular performances in GAME OF THRONES and JUSTIFIED.  Truthfully, Martin Scorsese’s direction of the BOARDWALK EMPIRE pilot wasn’t even the best-directed episode of that series, let alone in the category, but his star value made him hard to beat.  After all the wins scattered among various shows, there was actually suspense to the announcement of Best Drama Series–and Matt Weiner looked downright relieved to tie the all-time Emmy record with his 4th consecutive award for MAD MEN.  Which really is, when you get down to it, the best damn show on TV.
COMEDY:  Mostly a parade of MODERN FAMILY victors, all of whom were deserving, gracious and charming (best was Steve Levitan’s wife, stealing the show from her seat in the audience with her reaction shots to his speech).  Jim Parsons in BIG BANG THEORY was a surprise only because everyone assumed the Academy would feel Steve Carell was owed recognition for his last OFFICE season–but apparently not.  The shocker, of course, was Melissa McCarthy winning Best Actress for MIKE & MOLLY.  Reflected glory off her star turn in the hit movie Bridesmaids?  Support for an actress who doesn’t spend more time in spinning classes than acting class?  The best thing about that category was the idea of all the nominees heading for the stage to stand in beauty pageant solidarity for the opening of the envelope (apparently hatched by Amy Poehler and Martha Plimpton), and their seemingly genuine and united delight when McCarthy won. 
MOVIE/MINISERIES:  The single biggest surprise of the evening was Barry Pepper winning Best Actor for his RFK in THE KENNEDYS–he was admittedly the best thing in the show, but given how odious that particular show was, it’s not saying much.  (Too bad he wasn’t at the ceremony to enjoy the moment in person.)  Apart from that, it continued to be a surprisingly tough night for HBO, which watched Boardwalk Empire get mostly snubbed in Drama, then saw its MILDRED PIERCE get trounced by PBS’ wondrous DOWNTON ABBEY, with Mildred winning statues only for Guy Pearce and of course Kate Winslet.  Who, after all these years of winning every possible award, still seems honestly surprised and delighted to get them (she’s the Taylor Swift of spectacularly gifted actresses).    
In all, the Academy managed to avoid any embarrassing wins, while providing a few pleasant surprises.  Not at all bad, as these things go.  And tomorrow:  the new season begins!

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."