Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2013 Emmys roundup: W-R-O-N-G

     "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan accepts the 2013
     Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series.
     Photo Credit: Reuters, ATAS, CBS

Just as the title indicates, these Emmys were pretty much nothing but wrong, in a few senses of the word. As a piece of televised entertainment, this was an especially weak Emmy telecast, stuffed with bad, time wasting musical performances that only occasionally had some connection to television. And on the awards side, all of the trophies they gave out were either wrong in the "just plain wrong" sense (Jeff Daniels, Gail Mancuso, etc.) or were wildly pleasant, left-field choices that I imagine did an even bigger number on my yearly predictions than usual.

It was interesting to hear Grantland's Bill Simmons describe being in the theatre for the actual show. While the overly long and inconsequential Elton John performance was unbearable to those of us watching at home, the actual audience in the Nokia Theatre welcomes this sort of visual stimuli to pass the three hours they're stuck in their seats. While I felt the dance routine choreographed by the nominees in the Outstanding Choreography category to be an interesting idea that was poorly executed, I understand why that's a nice break from giving out trophies to the celebrities who actually attend the event, and especially to those who found out early in the night that they hadn't won.

Steve Levitan (and if there is one thing I am most furious about in this entire telecast, it's that we came so close to making it an entire year without having to listen to him giving ANOTHER speech upon his mediocre show being hailed as the second coming of Christ in 22 minute form) called attention to the somber, deathly tone of the show, and he wasn't wrong for doing so. I understand why people don't like the necrology because people are always left out and always will be no matter how many award shows we live to see. But paying specific tributes creates two problems: as mentioned, the repeated reminder of death casts a shadow over an event that is ultimately a celebration. There's nothing wrong with life being the thing you're celebrating, but the tribute segments meant the somber feeling was inescapable. If you pay all tributes during the "in memoriam" segment, you can fade to commercial and then come back with the wacky stars of "The Millers" and pretend that nothing happened. This made jarring tonal shifts a constant component of the telecast.

The second is that even more than the complaints of people left out of the necrology, this creates such a disgusting popularity contest out of death. Jack Klugman's son was understandably disappointed that the Academy chose not to give his father a specific tribute during the show, and Larry Hagman, arguably the biggest TV star of the 1980s, didn't get one either. For the Academy to give the thumbs up to creating a situation in which it was now a competition to see which lost icons were more worthy of attention than others is so ridiculous and dumbfounding that it could only come from the same organization that votes for the Emmy awards. And on the note of death as a popularity contest: I happened to catch Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris on "The Talk" late last week, where he specifically mentioned that he didn't like it when the audience can be heard clapping at varying levels for celebrities of varying levels during award show necrologies. He assured that any noise from the theatre would be muted during the actual telecast, and of course, come Sunday night, we got to hear about 6,000 people remember to continue clapping for agents and studio executives they didn't know while the applause escalated for talent who worked in front of the camera. Just a disaster.

Simmons also mentioned that during commercial breaks, clips were shown of past Emmy acceptance speeches. A nice tribute to television, which the Emmys seemed to be sorely lacking this year. I actually found myself missing the way the show used to separate the night by categories, if only because we didn't get the "Year In (Comedy/Variety/Miniseries/Reality/Drama)" montages of actual TV clips from the past year that we've gotten for the last few telecasts. I also understand why people didn't like that the extended tributes to James Gandolfini, Cory Monteith et al. also did not feature any clips of the actors performing (or in the case of Gary David Goldberg, clips from the shows he worked on), though if you couldn't tell, that's not my biggest gripe about how those were handled.

Neil Patrick Harris proved to be a somewhat problematic host. His reputation as a song-and-dance man who opens awards shows he doesn't even host (like that that weird duet he did...by himself to open the Oscars that one time) precedes him, and I think it was an interesting idea to say up front "I'm not doing that this time." But all of the comedic bits about him saying that weren't funny in the slightest. Even his opening monologue, which wasn't intended to be all that funny so that the past hosts could berate him for doing such a bad job, never turned a corner into anything actually entertaining.

Show highlight: Even though she's great on "Veep," I wasn't all that happy to see Julia Louis-Dreyfus repeat. I would have much rather seen Laura Dern or Amy Poehler pull off a surprising but well-earned victory. But the moment of the night was easily seeing the "Veep" cast all in-character as Louis-Dreyfus accept her award, with fellow Emmy winner Tony Hale standing right behind her, holding her purse and reminding her what to say, while nominee Anna Chlumsky sat in the audience on her phone.

Show lowlight: "Hi, I'm Elton John. Here's my latest single. It kind of reminds me of Liberace, a guy who HBO made a movie about this year but has actually been dead for 25 years. Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, please stand perfectly still for these next six minutes as I play the song in its entirety. As I play, be sure to put your ear right up to the television. You might be able to hear all the speeches that will be cut off for the rest of the night."

The results of my predictions after the break...

Yeah Yeah Yeah, Just Tell Us How Bad You Sucked At Predictions This Year

Glad you asked. Let's go category by category:

Outstanding Comedy Series: Modern Family
My pick: 30 Rock (0-1)

Ughhhhhh. Seriously, this completely overrated generic family sitcom that is completely in its coasting gear by this point, is now one of the only television shows to ever win this award four times? I would have preferred really anything except "The Big Bang Theory" (also incredibly overrated) to this. Considering the beginning of the show seemed to be such a takedown of "Modern Family," this felt like a poke in the eye.

Outstanding Drama Series: Breaking Bad
My pick: Game of Thrones (0-2)

I predicted in July that this was finally the year for "Game of Thrones," coming off a creatively and technically impressive third season. But I completely underestimated how much noise "Breaking Bad" would make upon its return in August. The ratings doubled, the show kicked into another gear, and even if all of the voters had only seen those first three episodes before the August 30 deadline, that might have been enough for them to move their support away from "House of Cards" or whatever else they were going to vote for and into the camp of the eight episodes of "Breaking Bad" that aired last summer. Which are easily among the weakest episodes the show has ever done. But I'm not complaining at all, considering Vince Gilligan and co. should have won this category for the third or fourth season.

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie: Behind the Candelabra
My pick: Behind the Candelabra (1-2)

At the end of the day, I'm fine with this. I would have liked to see "Top of the Lake" get a win somewhere, but I had no expectations of finding it here. And it's not like "Behind the Candelabra" is a bad movie, nor am I baffled by the idea that it would have had the star power to win even if it was a bad movie.

Outstanding Variety Series: The Colbert Report
My pick: The Daily Show (1-3)

What was I supposed to pick besides Jon Stewart? No shame being wrong on this one. I would have called anyone who picked differently a fool after 10 straight years of "Daily Show" domination, and "The Colbert Report" couldn't be more deserving of this award.

Outstanding Reality Series: The Voice
My pick: The Amazing Race (1-4)

Look, I think "The Voice" became a train wreck after its first, semi-competent season. But it's gotten to the point where "The Amazing Race" is so easily celebrated for not completely sucking that it's nice whenever something beats it (ah, great times. All two of them. Speaking of which, if something was going to beat "Amazing Race," why not "Top Chef" again?)

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
My pick: Louis C.K., Louie (1-5)

Yawn. Jim Parsons brings an interesting energy to what has rapidly devolved into a one-note character who stomps over everyone in his path, but that's worthy of one Emmy tops. Not three. Please, dear reader, go watch "Louie". Watch him go on the date with Parker Posey. Watch him audition to replace David Letterman. Watch him go to China in the season finale. Hell, watch Alec Baldwin in the "30 Rock" finale, and tell me I'm crazy.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
My pick: Tina Fey, 30 Rock (1-6)

As I mentioned earlier, not all that happy about this. But she's still great, and definitely better than last year, considering Selina Meyer actually got a conscience this season and JLD had to do some nice dramatic work. And she broke another bullshit curse, finally winning a second Emmy for one of her roles. But still. Laura Dern leaves "Enlightened" Emmy-less (I know she won a Golden Globe, I don't really care). Amy Poehler enters year four of not having an Emmy for playing Leslie Knope.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Tony Hale, Veep
My pick: Ty Burrell, Modern Family (1-7)

On the other hand, being wrong is AWESOME sometimes! Would I have preferred Bill Hader or Adam Driver? Sure. But do I love Tony Hale, on and off of "Veep"? Yes. And would I have been happy with anyone other than the "Modern Family" men winning this category? Absolutely. Incidentally, Hale and Jessica Walter are the only two "Arrested Development" cast members to have Emmys, which has me picturing Lucille and Buster winning all those Motherboy competitions through very dramatic script readings.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
My pick: Sofia Vergara, Modern Family (1-8)

Never watched "Nurse Jackie" but have only heard the best things about Merritt Wever. And that was without a doubt the best speech of the night.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series: Tina Fey and Tracy Wigfield, 30 Rock, "Last Lunch"
My pick: Fey and Wigfield (2-8)

This category is always a treat, considering only writers get to vote here and are just as tired of "Modern Family" as I am. Fey and Wigfield wrote a great sendoff to one of the best sitcoms of all time. I said they should win. I said they would win. I'm thrilled they did win.

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series: Gail Mancuso, Modern Family, "Arrested"
My pick: Louis C.K., Louie, "New Year's Eve" (2-9)

Forgive me for a moment, but I feel the need to do this:

THE "NEW YEAR'S EVE" EPISODE OF LOUIE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN ONE OF THE GREATEST EPISODES OF TELEVISION I HAVE EVER SEEN. IT IS ONE OF THE MOST PERSONAL, BEAUTIFUL, AND TRANSCENDENT ARTISTIC EXPRESSIONS THIS EARTH HAS EVER HAD THE PRIVILEGE TO WITNESS. IT IS WHY I LOVE THIS MEDIUM SO MUCH. IT IS WHY I WILL DEFEND IT TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. IT IS WHY I TOLERATE EVERY POORLY HIDDEN LOOK OF CONFUSION OR DISAPPOINTMENT FROM THE PEOPLE THAT I TELL OF MY INTENTION TO WATCH AND WRITE ABOUT TELEVISION PROFESSIONALLY. SO WHEN WHAT IS SEEMINGLY THE MOST PRESTIGIOUS VOTING BODY AFFILIATED WITH TELEVISION DECIDES THAT THEIR ANNUAL AWARD FOR AN OUTSTANDING PIECE OF COMEDIC TELEVISION DIRECTION WILL GO TO A GENERIC, UNFUNNY, PREDICTABLE COLLECTION OF WACKY FUCKING SITCOM HIJINKS THAT WE'VE BEEN WATCHING FOR DECADES, YOU'LL FORGIVE ME FOR BEING ABSOLUTELY FURIOUS. I MEAN, WHAT KIND OF DECREPIT OLD MORONS ARE YOU CRYOGENICALLY PRESERVING AND THEN TROTTING OUT ONCE A YEAR TO VOTE FOR THE EPISODES OF TV THAT MOST REMIND THEM OF THE GOOD OLD DAYS OF WORKING ON "MY MOTHER THE CAR"? SERIOUSLY, THIS JUST MAKES ME SO GOD DAMN-



Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
My pick: Damian Lewis, Homeland (2-10)

- I MEAN, YOU HAVE FIVE OTHER ACTORS IN THIS CATEGORY WHO ARE GIVING LEGITIMATELY GRIPPING, DYNAMIC PERFORMANCES. JON HAMM HAS NEVER WON THIS AWARD AND TELL ME THE MOMENT IN THE "MAD MEN" SEASON FINALE WHERE HE CONFESSES TO THE HERSHEY PEOPLE THAT THEIR PRODUCT WAS ONE OF HIS FEW JOYS GROWING UP IN A WHOREHOUSE WAS NOT BETTER THAN JEFF DANIELS MONOTONOUSLY READING SORKINESE OFF A TELEPROMPTER. NOT TO MENTION THE FACT THAT MATTHEW RHYS AND ADEN YOUNG WEREN'T EVEN NOMINATED SO THAT GARBAGE LIKE YOUR SHOW CAN TAKE ALL THE ATTENTION AWAY FROM ANY NETWORK THAT HAS THE AUDACITY TO NOT BE HBO. I SWEAR TO GOD IF THIS SINGLEHANDEDLY GETS "THE NEWSROOM" RENEWED I AM GOING TO-



Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series: Claire Danes, Homeland
My pick: Claire Danes, Homeland (3-10)

Duh doy. Another well deserved award, and Danes was very classy to spend much of her acceptance speech honouring the late Henry Bromell. In what was initially a night of upsets, I thought by some crazy chance Kerry Washington might win this. But she didn't, and I'm not disappointed by that at all really.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Bobby Canavale, Boardwalk Empire
My pick: Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad (3-11)

I stopped watching "Boardwalk Empire" early in the second season. I might pick it back up at some point, but it seems like it's just not a show for me. If I have to sort through that much clutter to get to the few parts I genuinely like, it doesn't really seem worth my time. All of which is to say I have never seen a second of Canavale's performance on "Boardwalk Empire" and will make no judgments as to his worthiness. But man, what another weird choice. I probably would have had him sixth if I was predicting by ranking. But again, not a "Boardwalk Empire" viewer. And if the Emmy voters weren't impressed enough by Giancarlo Esposito last year, I probably should have guessed they wouldn't see the merit of Jonathan Banks this year. It's okay, Mr. Banks. I still love you.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
My pick: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey (3-12)

Anna Gunn has an Emmy for playing Skyler White. I like that Anna Gunn has an Emmy for playing Skyler White. I like that that will always just be a thing that is a fact. I like that it will weigh on the hearts and minds of every stupid, misogynist that hates Skyler White for the rest of time. This was my favourite moment of the night, and was probably better than the best moments of previous Emmy awards as well.

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series: Henry Bromell, Homeland, "Q&A"
My pick: Henry Bromell (4-12)

As I said when he was nominated: to not vote for him is shitting on everything the Emmys claim to stand for. This is the opposite of a Jeff Daniels win. This was voting for someone for all the right reasons. Of which there were a number. Rest in peace, Mr. Bromell.

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series: David Fincher, House of Cards, "Chapter 1"
My pick: David Fincher (5-12)

No brainer. The Emmys are always going to feel inferior to film, and that's stupid. Whatever. Michelle MacLaren for all the wins ever next year.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
My pick: Michael Douglas (6-12)

Again, no brainer. Have fun, Mr. Douglas. This whole "being pelted with awards" thing has only just begun.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter
My pick: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story: Asylum (6-13)

CHEATERS! ALL OF YOU! Just as annoyed as I get with deserving things losing is when good things lose to the wrong thing. I was fully prepared for Elisabeth Moss to lose to Lange, whose "American Horror Story" cheats in these categories by pretending an anthology series is the same thing as a miniseries. But she lost to Laura Linney, also cheating by pretending that giving the final season of "The Big C" a subtitle and doubling the episodes' run times is somehow makes it a different show. WHY DOES NO ONE IN THE CAST OF "MAD MEN" HAVE AN EMMY?!?!?!

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie: James Cromwell, American Horror Story
My pick: James Cromwell (7-13)

He's James Cromwell. I had to pick him. It paid off.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie: Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals
My pick: Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Asylum (7-14)

Sure, why not? Cool of her to reference the controversy over the time she was nominated for a 14-second performance too.

Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries or Movie: Abi Morgan, The Hour
My pick: Richard LaGravenese, Behind the Candelabra (7-15)

This was a circumstance where I thought "Top of the Lake" might have a shot. But this is neither the time nor the place (i.e. anywhere ever) to quibble with an "Hour" win. Excellent.

Outstanding Directing for a Minseries or Movie: Steven Soderbergh, Behind the Candelabra
My pick: Soderbergh (8-15)

Say it with me one last time - duh doy.

Final Results: 35%! I am the smartest man alive!