I’m going to be honest: last Sunday’s Emmy Awards reminded me of a Woody Allen quote, which is especially apt given Allen would have ample fodder for future films with this year’s Emmys:
“Seventy percent of success in life is showing up.”
Truer words have never been spoken – the nominees showed up on Sunday and were infinitely more entertaining, engaging and fun than the actual show. They did their part. Tina Fey, funny and deserving. John Adams, well-deserving. Alec Baldwin, deserving. Mad Men, very deserving.
But not to put too fine a point on it, this year’s Emmys were the all-time worst in Emmys history. It was a sorry excuse for a 60th anniversary show. It was a show remarkably lacking in self-awareness and entertainment value – in short, it was a very clear and present example of what has gone wrong in the American television industry.
After the Dr. Strangelove-esque year the television industry has had – ever-declining network ratings, the non-stop gallows humour that was the WGA strike, et al – it’s understandable, to some extent, that the Emmys would use a variety of Let’s Put On A Show tactics to bring the razzle-dazzle back to a moribund industry. Big, fancy sets that no Canadian TV network would dare shell out for, gigantic, almost-Orwellian video screens – the promise of a halfway decent show was there.
Of course, that didn’t happen. It was shockingly bad. And proof positive, no offense, that Baby Boomers and their older brethren need to get out of producing award shows. Permanently.
While the show’s numerous faults have been listed ad nauseum thus far, I just have to add my .02 here. I can’t resist.
First off, the cynical and ratings-killing choice of having five Situational Reality TV hosts as Emmy hosts. It’s bad enough to see hair-and-teeth types like Ryan Seacrest or Jeff Probst on a normal day; what was the Emmys production team thinking having those guys, plus Howie Mandel, banter on for 12 minutes in a profoundly unfunny opening set? It’s no secret most real television people deeply resent the infusion of reality TV as a legitimate form of programming – now we have to see these deer-caught-in-headlights attempting The Funny? Also, is Heidi Klum actually able to move her jaw?
Secondly, Josh Groban. Oh Josh. Five words: Good Thing You Have Talent. His Emmys “performance” which reeked of self-indulgent Boomer nostalgia was almost tragically surreal. For anyone without his vocal chops or marketability, the Emmys’ medley of TV theme songs – The X-Files? What? – over the past decades could have been a career killer. Thankfully, Groban can get past this, but etched in the memory of millions is this tragi-comic moment that will take awhile for Groban to recover from:
Thirdly, a reunion of the cast of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. I understand this is an anniversary show, which warrants a retrospective into television’s past. I get that. Thing is, however, that re-enacting shows on a stage in front of millions of TV viewers can go one of only two ways: a smirk-inducing, nostalgic reminder of what passed for a moment in time’s entertainment, or a hopelessly dated reminder of why a show was cancelled in the first place. Unfortunately, the Laugh-In segment went with the latter.
Fourthly (almost done, I swear), the haphazard pacing of the show. Because of the Train Wreck-qualities of the five hosts, the show’s marquee award presentations were rushed through. While Jimmy Kimmel, Jeremy Piven and Neil Patrick Harris (!) both managed to put all five of them in their rightful place as the movie Network’s prophecies come to live, how could the Emmys have let categories like Best Drama – of course, the brightest light of the night for me, congrats Matt Weiner and Mad Men! – be rushed?
Finally, the Moments of Seriousness that stunk up the joint as false, preening and self-congratulatory. Nobody doubts the Emmys are largely irrelevant in many respects. The absence of Battlestar Galactica in the Best Drama category proves this point on its own. Yet for a medium largely driven by the potency of immediate gratification, it seems incredibly hypocritical and cowardly for an awards show to mandate No Political Chatter and then turn around and award deserving shows like The Daily Show or The Colbert Report for their writing. How are we supposed to take an award show even at face value when there’s such blatant two-facedness on the show’s organizers?
After the monstrosity that was this year’s Emmys, I’m finally, completely done with award shows. I believe this image of a protracted, eventually not-so-funny exchange between Ricky Gervais and Steve Carell says it all: