Monday, September 19, 2011

MTVP 2011 Emmys Coverage: The Aftermath

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards were a study in contradictions. The telecast itself was seriously lacking, and after the solid, even wonderful, telecasts of the last two years, that drop in quality was noticeable and disappointing. The only way I could think of to describe the change in tone last night was that the Emmys were “Fox-ified.” The production felt cheap, and despite host Jane Lynch’s best efforts, the jokes were terrible and were often the offensive, scared of everyone who isn’t a straight, white man dreck that one would expect to find when turning on the network’s cable sister, Fox News. The results in the Comedy category were also largely disappointing. “Modern Family” won every single category for which it is nominated, and while I have never personally watched the show, I have to believe that they aren’t the only good comedy out there. On the other hand, the middle of the telecast featured some wonderfully surprising winners, some of which I thought might have a shot, and others completely out of nowhere in the best possible way.

I could tell from the opening seconds of the telecast when the orchestra began to play Maroon 5’s “Moves Like Jagger” (which is a song I like, just not in this context), that the era of the super classy, grown-up Emmys telecast ushered in by Neil Patrick Harris and nurtured by Jimmy Fallon was over. The telecast opened with a pre-taped segment of Jane Lynch meeting with the “President of Television,” none other than Leonard Nimoy (who I was pleased to see on my television screen again, considering he has “retired” from acting), and then walking through the sets of several television shows. The segment was funny at first (Lynch’s time with the “Mad Men” crew was the most entertaining), but it went on for far too long. I can almost forgive it for being too long because it opened with Leonard Nimoy insulting the excessive use of AutoTune on “Glee,” but the whole segment was nowhere near the level of difficulty of the live, original song-and-dance number, “Put Down the Remote,” used by Neil Patrick Harris to open the 2009 show.

Apparently trying to build on FOX’s “Glee” success, and resulting in an odd and unfunny extension of the technique Jimmy Fallon used to introduce each awards category last year, a group of actors, dressed in typical New Directions costumes, were the “Emmytones,” tasked with introducing each awards category with a capella music. It was kind of fun to try and recognize the actors who were participating in the Emmytones. I spotted Cobie Smulders (“How I Met Your Mother”), Joel McHale (“Community”) and Zachary Levi (“Chuck”). That being said, the Emmytones segments just weren’t funny or clever. The whole thing felt forced. When the best part of a bit is when L.L. Cool J shows up, you know it’s not working. There were also, as I mentioned in the intro, an abundance of rather offensive jokes. There were jokes about people with foreign accents, jokes about the LGBT community, and jokes about women and how men are so oppressed by them. It wasn’t a pretty sight. There was also an incredibly stupid pre-taped send-up of all things tacky from New Jersey, with Lynch playing a typical Jersey housewife. By far the worst bit of Fox-ification, however, was the choice to have Charlie Sheen present an award. While Sheen acquitted himself in a civil manner, I can just picture (not saying this actually happened, but I can definitely see it as within the realm of possibility) the FOX execs planning the telecast salivating over the possibility of him saying something completely off the wall. The drama just wasn’t necessary, and it was tacky (a recurring theme).

Now on to the winners, which was an aspect of the show much more palatable than the production values. The Comedy awards were, for the most part, a disappointment. I was slightly sad that Julie Bowen (who will always be Sarah from “Lost” to me) beat out Jane Lynch for Outstanding Supporting Actress. I was waiting to see how Jane would handle the loss (I loved the humble self-deprecation approach Neil Patrick Harris used in 2009), but unless I missed something while trying to deal with a work emergency in the middle of the show, she chose not to acknowledge it at all. There was, overall, way too much “Modern Family” represented among the Comedy winners. They won all the major categories for which they were nominated. I understand that “Modern Family” is a critically well-regarded, relatively popular show, but we’re on the cusp of a new golden age in comedy (the needle is shifting back from drama), so surely there were other shows just as deserving of some Emmy love, too. The one highlight of the Comedy awards was Jim Parsons repeating his win for Outstanding Lead Actor. “Big Bang Theory” has declined somewhat in quality in the past two years, but Parsons always gives 100% and always appears so humble and grateful for the recognition that it was nice to see him take home the trophy again.

I’m going to skip over Reality and Variety except to say it’s kind of a travesty that “Top Chef” didn’t repeat their Outstanding Reality Competition win. The Drama awards is where it got really interesting and quite wonderful. Finally, finally, finally, the Academy showed the masterpiece that is “Friday Night Lights” some love. I haven’t gotten the opportunity to watch the fifth and final season yet, but the cast and crew that made “Friday Night Lights” happen put out such quality work on such a consistent basis that it was high time the show was recognized. Taking what is usually thought of as Matt Weiner’s (Mad Men) award, Jason Katims, “Friday Night Lights” showrunner, won the writing award for the series finale, “Always.” The best “Friday Night Lights” related surprise was Kyle Chandler, the legendary Coach Eric Taylor, winning Outstanding Lead Actor. Chandler was not at all expecting to win, and he had to come up with some people to thank on the fly. And to make it even better, his former “Friday Night Lights” costar, Minka Kelly, got to give him the award. She knelt down in a sort of “I’m not worthy” pose while holding the statue as he walked across the stage, and it was a really touching moment. The other great Drama win was Peter Dinklage winning Outstanding Supporting Actor. This one wasn’t as much a shock, but it wasn’t a sure thing, either. I loved the reaction of Dinklage’s wife as he included their dogsitter in his acceptance speech. The award was certainly well deserved for his spectacular work as Tyrion on “Game of Thrones.”

The wonderful surprises continued in the Movie/Miniseries category. Many critics were anticipating that “Mildred Pierce” would walk away with most of the wins because the Academy generally favors HBO in this category. Instead, it was the wonderful “Downton Abbey,” which was broadcast on PBS here in the States, which ran away with many of the awards. Julian Fellowes won for writing the show (a category for which Doctor Who head writer Stephen Moffat was also nominated for his work on “Sherlock”), and the legendary Maggie Smith won Outstanding Supporting Actress. Sadly, Smith could not attend the awards ceremony. I wished they could have at least arranged a video acceptance. To top it all off, “Downton Abbey” even won the Outstanding Movie or Miniseries award. The show ended on a more predictable note with “Mad Men” and “Modern Family” winning Outstanding Drama and Outstanding Comedy respectively, but that really couldn’t sour a night of otherwise unexpected and well-deserved wins.

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