Monday, September 23, 2013

MTVP Emmys Coverage 2013: The Aftermath

“I think you’re all forgetting a simple fact. I hosted the Emmys before all of you.”
-Neil Patrick Harris

So you know how on Saturday I said that this year, the award winners were likely to be boring and more of the same, but the telecast itself would be entertaining? Strike that, reverse it. There were a couple typical winners, but also some pretty great surprises. The telecast itself however did not quite meet expectations. The telecast overall seemed to have a theme of “death,” which isn’t really the best idea for what is already generally a pretty somber affair. While most viewers probably expected and looked forward to a lot of big production numbers with Harris as host, this telecast took that a bit too far. There were too many random musical performances, and in the one place where everyone really wanted a performance, the beginning there wasn’t one. Ah well, I guess you can’t please all the people all the time. This was still better than the last two telecasts, although not by as much as I had initially hoped.

Since I generally like to finish up positive, let’s start with some of the elements of the telecast that I found problematic. The most problematic thing was, unfortunately, the decision to eulogize several actors who passed away recently separately from the In Memoriam segment. These eulogies were spread out throughout the telecast, and while they were all very thoughtful and heartfelt, I don’t think the idea worked. The separate eulogies gave the whole telecast a sort of death theme. Add in a performance by Elton John of a song to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the death of Liberace (which would actually have been last year) and a segment about how television media covered the JFK assassination 50 years ago, and the death theme became even more palpable. Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely in favor of the awards show In Memoriam segment. This telecast had an especially good, classy one, with a single cellist playing Bach’s first suite. Overall, though, the Emmys are supposed to celebrate the year in television. Awards shows tend to be a bit stuffy and self-important, so reminding people of death several times an hour isn’t really the best way to get viewers to stay tuned in.

Also on the problematic side, I didn’t love the show opener. I was hoping for a fun song and dance number, as per usual for a Neil Patrick Harris-hosted show, and I think most viewers were expecting the same. Instead, we got a pre-recorded bit where Harris attempts to binge watch an entire season of television in preparation for hosting duties, then a fairly unfunny live bit where a menagerie of former Emmy hosts tried to give him hosting advice (never mind the fact that this is Harris’ second time around with the gig). The bit only got funny when the camera zoomed in on Kevin Spacey, so started doing an Evil Speech of Evil about how he was trying to throw Harris off his game by having all these other former hosts giving advice. The real shining moment of the bit wasn’t anything Harris did, unfortunately. It was a brief heckling moment, complete with 3-D glasses, by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. As much of the commentariat has said in the past 24 hours, when the hosts of a different awards show are the funniest part of the opener, ya got problems.

Continuing our move on the spectrum from negative to positive, there was a pretty cool song and dance number featuring Harris in the middle of the show. Aptly, it was titled “Number in the Middle of the Show.” I appreciated the meta-cleverness of it, because it reminded me of some great songs from one of my favorite musicals, “Spamalot.” It was very much in the vein of “The Song that Goes Like This” or “The Diva’s Lament.” The performance didn’t make my jaw drop like “Put Down the Remote” did in 2009, but it certainly wasn’t bad. What made it fun was a surprise appearance by Nathan Fillion and Sarah Silverman near the end. I love the ongoing pseudo-rivalry between Harris and Fillion ever since their Dr. Horrible days, so Fillion appearing near the end of the performance and singing (even if he doesn’t sing spectacularly) was perfection. We won’t talk about the really strange number honoring most of the nominated shows that was choreographed by the Outstanding Choreographer nominees. Trying to be positive in this part of the post, after all.

Surprisingly, the best thing about this telecast was some of the winners. Some of the winners were great simply because they were unexpected, and some were great because they both were unexpected and the resulting speech was awesome. In the just unexpected category, Jeff Daniels won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “The Newsroom.” Go figure. I know it’s cool to hate on “The Newsroom,” but I just like to see things shaken up a bit, and even if “The Newsroom” has structural problems, Daniels is certainly a fine actor. I enjoyed that Daniels was just as surprised he won as everyone else, joking about how the only other thing he’s won is an award from the AARP.

The cast of “Veep” also made out well. Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale both won their respective awards for the Showtime comedy. The Tony Hale win made me especially happy, because I enjoyed watching him on “Chuck” back in the day. As Louis-Dreyfus was giving her speech, Hale hovered behind her, apparently like his character on the show. The telecast made me more convinced I need to watch “Veep.” I love the British version of the show, “The Thick of It,” and both that show and “Veep” were created by Armando Iannucci, so there isn’t the concern about bad American remakes of British shows that I usually have. Finally there was Merritt Wever, who gave the shortest (and best) speech ever after winning for “Nurse Jackie.” In her words, “I gotta go. Bye.”

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