Hammond: Emmys – The Good, The Bad And Those Late Night Parties

Emmy 2011 is officially over and those I talked to at the Governors Ball, HBO and AMC celebrations generally liked it. The consensus is that Jane Lynch was a sharp host, the pace was good and the Mark Burnett-produced show came to life enough times to make it all worthwhile despite the deja vu feeling from repeat winners Modern Family (two years in a row), Mad Men (four years in a row), The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (9 wins in a row) and The Amazing Race (8 wins in the past 9 years). The highlight was when the six nominees for Best Actress in a Comedy Series came on stage as their names were announced and lined up in beauty pageant fashion — before (surprise) winner Melissa McCarthy of CBS’ Mike And Molly was given roses, a tiara and an Emmy. I caught up with McCarthy at the HBO party and she told me it was barely planned. “We had talked about it but when (first nominee) Amy Poehler got up and walked on stage I guess I realized then we were really going to do this,” she said. “The whole experience was so surreal.

McCarthy has also been winning lots of praise for her scene-stealing performance in the summer smash comedy, Bridesmaids. Universal campaign insiders are telling me they are likely planning a Supporting Actress campaign for her. She was practically speechless when I asked her how she felt about this, but finally said: “If they do it I am all for it. I loved doing that film and working with Kristen Wiig and the rest of the cast. Go for it.”

Before her big moment there was the much-talked about awkward “surprise” appearance of Charlie Sheen. His ex-producer Chuck Lorre and Warner Bros’ Bruce Rosenblum (whose studio produces Two and a Half Men) were among the people who objected to the plan, which Deadline broke, according to Nellie Andreeva’s Sunday post. Academy officials at the Governor’s Ball told me there was great sensitivity to Sheen’s appearance. One top officer said it might be too soon — but  they reluctantly agreed after Fox, the network that aired the Emmys, said it was important to have Sheen on. Warners’ Rosenblum (who is running for TV Academy Chair in November) confirmed to me that he did place a call to Fox Network’s Peter Rice to ensure the appearance would be handled in good taste. “I just wanted to make sure there was a five second delay in place at the very least”, he said. Another officer said they had a contingency plan in place for anything that might have gone wrong, but didn’t tell me exactly what that plan was.

There was no need for worry. Sheen was on his best behavior as he came out to present Best Actor in a Comedy Series, the category he lost four times for Two And A Half Men. “From the bottom of my heart I wish you nothing but the best in the coming season,” he told his former co-workers before ironically announcing Jim Parsons, the star of another Chuck Lorre show The Big Bang Theory as the winner. Sheen seemed so contrite that it seemed like someone had a gun to his head if he went off script for a second. Did we say awkward? Whatever spontanaeity or fun this appearance was meant to have was completely lost.

Academy Chair John Shaffner told me he was particularly happy with the In Memoriam segment that featured the Canadian Tenors and that he introduced by singling out the late Stephen J. Cannell. “That was one thing (the producers) actually listened to me on,” he said. The clip tribute to departed TV figures also ended with Cannell. Shaffner said he’s wary about comedy and musical numbers but thought they were just right this time. (I could have done without the Michael Bolton pirate number, guys.) Shaffner says the Emmys is an awards show and that is what it ought to be about first and foremost. That should comfort the writers, directors, and  producers of the Movies and Mini-Series categories: They worry the Academy wants to boot them off the show. Shaffner indicated just the opposite. One of the highlights was Modern Family’s Steve Levitan’s funny acceptance for Writing in a Comedy Series. He repeatedly discussed his sex life as cameras caught the less-than-amused reactions of his wife in the audience.

Among the other highlights: Loose cannon Ricky Gervaiswas taped a funny bit about censorship. Justified supporting actress Margo Martindale’s was infectiously gracious during her acceptance speech — as was  Peter Dinklage in the corresponding Supporting Actor category (particularly when he thanked his dog sitter). Downtown Abbey’s Julian Fellowes also provided a classy acceptance. Then there was Lynch’s clever intro when she said, “A lot of people are curious about why I am a lesbian. Ladies and Gentlemen: The cast of Entourage.” Lynch, a brilliant improv comedian, was generally spot-on in this gig particularly during the opening musical number in which she showed up on sets of TV shows — and later when she performed in a wickedly clever takeoff of Jersey Shore.

It was also nice to see some shocker wins including Friday Night LightsKyle Chandler for Actor in a Drama Series (Jon Hamm got robbed again for his best season ever on Mad Men) and the absent Barry Pepper’s jaw-dropping lead actor Emmy in a movie or mini for the widely lambasted The Kennedys.

But what was up with the constant flip voice over narrative from announcer Roger Rose every time someone won an award? It was like producer Burnett could not fathom a single moment of silence as winners came to the podium so instead we had to listen to constant inane voice over patter (all of it pre-written according to Rose). Also not so hot was some of the presenter talk and some of the  lame presenters whose celebrity credentials I am still trying to ascertain. Identify who these people are and why they are there, Academy.

Also come on, do we really believe there is no show better than The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Amazing Race which dominate their categories every year to the point of complete boredom? It’s a sad commentary on the predictability of these categories when a presenter leads into a list of nominees by saying “Okay let’s see who is going to lose to The Daily Show this year!”  And then, of course, The Daily Show wins. Yawn. The Academy has talked about ways to stop the repeat factor but as one officer told me, “who has the cajones to really change the rules?”

It does frustrate those who come every year and leave empty-handed while the same shows win over and over. “I was really disappointed tonight,”  American Idol Exec Producer Nigel Lythgoe told me afterwards at the HBO party. Idol has lost to Amazing Race (and Top Chef last year) for a solid decade. “I thought this was our year. We really turned the show around . It’s frustrating. I think the problem is the category . We really are probably seen as more of a variety show,”  he said knowing this losing streak will probably keep on happening as long as there are no changes.

Still the Emmys mean a lot to those who win. I walked out to my car with Modern Family’s Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series first time winner Julie Bowen who was still in a state of shock as she held her Emmy tightly next to her husband. “It’s our eighth anniversary tonight. I still can’t believe I am even a celebrity,” she said  saying she was sure her Emmy had Betty White’s name on it instead. She also confessed she loves reading Deadline — just as friend and one-time co-star Christopher McDonald passed her on the up escalator while she was headed down. Somehow they managed to french kiss each other right in front of hubby on her anniversary no less. That’s what winning an Emmy will do to you.

One guy who knows a lot about winning Emmys is Mad Men creator Matt Weiner who couldn’t believe he won Best Drama Series for the fourth year in  a row, especially when his show only had cashed in one of 18 nominations (for Hairstyling) before that final award was announced.  “You know me, I am never speechless  but tonight I was speechless,” Weiner told me at AMC’s  late night bash at Mr. C Beverly Hills Hotel From Cipriani. It was nearly 1:30AM and the party was just getting started for this exuberant crowd. Apparently it never gets old even when you tend to win every year. Weiner said he was convinced the show was going to lose. It is  unusual to just win hairstyling and Best Drama Series but the Emmys are often unpredictable.  Although HBO should be happy with eight Emmys including Directing in a Drama for Martin Scorsese for Boardwalk Empire. That show now has the dubious distinction of winning the most Emmys without also taking Drama Series.

With the Emmys over, most of these winners and losers will be back on the set bright and early working on shows that might bring them back to the Nokia Theatre next September. But this is one night some just didn’t want to see end. “My call time for tomorrow got moved to 11:30AM. I can stay a little longer,”  Mad Men co-star and nominee Christina Hendricks said. And why not?

  1. Where is the outrage over the Fox network editing content from the show before it could air? I really am suprised not more is being made of this. Fox decides that don’t care for a joke Alec Baldwin made about the phone hacking thing in a pre-taped piece, so they censor it from the show before the segment can air. Wonder why that’s not mentioned in this article. Guess it got cut to make foom for Charlie Sheen news.

    1. Yeah, we really need more comments about publishers/producers “editing” content. By the way, “censors” don’t edit; censors don’t actually publish anything.

      1. When a person in power edits information out of a record/book/program/newspaper because they feel it portrays them in a negative light, that is in my opinion, censoring. News Corp-owned Fox removed a joke from a broadcast viewed by millions worldwide because they want people to forget that they’re in the middle of this messy phone hacking scandal. It suprises me that there is no real media outcry over this. People are more interested in the Sheen/Kutcher hug than the fact that a media empire is blatantly editing/censoring information about themselves.

  2. Pete, I am not usually a fan of entertainment journalism reportage about award show parties. But your writing in the article above makes one feel both informed and freshly returned from dancing away the night at a post-award fete. Great writing!

    1. I agree with you. Pete’s writing about these events has upped the bar. It’s fresh, fun, smart and not snarky. Love reading him.

  3. I must have been watching something else without realizing it. Jane Lynch has no comedic timing and at best, the show was BORING! WTF with the tiara on Melissa McCarthy? That was just ridiculous…thank God for the DVR!!!

    And how can the ‘academy’ continue to ignore the amazing acting in Mad Men, yet honor it as the best drama? It makes no sense that after 4 wins for best drama not one of its’ actors has been ‘honored’.

    It just reminded me of why I watch so little TV….

  4. I agree about the monotony of the same people winning every year. Even on a good nioght the Emmies are a crushing bore. At least the Golden Globes had the gumption to let Ricky Gervais host last time.

  5. There were some really nice moments in the show…. the Best Actress beauty pageant saved the show though. It seems as though something that Amy Poehler would come up with.. there was such joyful goofiness and committment to the whole idea – I’ll take that kind of humor over the weird ‘awkward’ humor of Gervais and most of the presenters any day. :)

    1. Hamm still has time to get his nod. What people don’t seem to acknowledge is that Hugh Laurie is truly the best actor nominee to ‘get robbed.’

  6. Congrats to Kyle Chandler, Melissa McCarthy, Peter Dinklage, Margo Martindale,& Barry Pepper.
    Nice to see the underdog does win occasionally.

    I really think John Stewart should take himself out of the race pretty sure Oprah did that a few times.

    1. Why should Stewart punish his staff?
      They deserve the recognition.

      If you need the best to “withdraw” from your category so you can win it doesn’t that taint your win that you don’t deserve in the first place?

      Bring it on Daily Show!

    2. John Larroquette also withdrew his name after winning every year for Night Court. Did Bill Cosby even submit himself for Best Actor during The Cosby Show run? But as someone mentioned, it would be unfair to the writers who work really hard. The real problem is voter laziness.

  7. Burnette should stick to reality shows. Explain to me how a “reality tv production company” gets the nod to do a live variety telecast. The timing was way off, the direction was off, the audio sucked, the telepromter broke. The writing was terrible. On that note, the Emmys better stop writing just for the industry people sitting in the audience. Middle America or for that matter anyone who doesn’t live in the ‘Hills’ ‘LA’ or the ‘Palisades’ just are not going to get all those inside jokes. They need to remember its the at Home TV audience that is important.

    1. I completely agree with you! I thought the show was played for industry insiders and not for the public at large. I vote for Amy Poehler to produce next year!

      1. The mix sucked. you couldn’t tell there was a live audience and there were weird things going on with the eq. mediocre. and the set design was blah.

    2. At the end of the day this is an “insider” ceremony that gets televised because people want to see “inside”. They want to see what “it’s like” on the other side of the curtain. They want to feel what it’s like to be “in” on the inside. It’s not a variety show. And we can’t help it if you don’t get all of our industry “inside”jokes and remarks. I’m sure we wouldn’t get yours either.

    3. I agree the production choices were completely off the mark. The writing was bad all around. But the fatal flaw was the decision to inject voice over quips when winners walked onstage. The timing was all wrong and they just were not funny.

  8. Jane Lynch was only okay and slightly awkward as host. The opening number was awful.
    But you won’t hear that from anybody in this town because she’s gay and EVERYTHING is political.

    1. Why should Lynch’s sexual preference color your opinion of her? She’s a great comedian and actor (even though her role in “Glee” is one-dimensional).

      They needed to let her improv more, it would’ve been better. These award shows can pick some good hosts, but chain them down with lame material and it’s a bust.

      1. I think she’s a great comedian and actress too. It’s not me who formulates my opinion based on her sexual preference. It’s the political forces at work in Hollywood, who would NEVER DARE say that she did a lackluster job. It probably wasn’t her fault.
        I loved her in “Best in Show.”

  9. I’m a long time Emmy voter. And I’ve said for years that shows win or lose because of the submission episode selection. I’ve even been a voter in the reality competition series category. The year I voted the reason American Idol didn’t win was that they submitted their final results show. Same with Dancing with the Stars. They were identical shows. Including lots of glitz, shots of the audience, big musical performances, jokes, fireworks, you name it. You saw little competition, only a little of the competitors and nothing that drew you in as a viewer. As such they were the least interesting of the nominees. The fact is that Amazing Race had a compelling human story, much human interaction and great camera and technical work as that leg of the race unfolded. Their episode made you want to see the entire season.

    Maybe Idol is too much a variety show, but they also act like the competion part of the category doesn’t exist by continually submitting their big splashy spectacular variety laden finale. Perhaps if they picked their most emotionally compelling earlier episode things might be different. Maybe, maybe not, but they’ll never know if they don’t try.

    1. You are not the first voter I’ve heard that feedback from. But year after year AI does the same thing. There is no drama in that finale.

  10. Interesting. The viewing experience was quite different. The reactions, across the board, appear to be pretty negative. Not necessarily the winners (some major complaints, though), as much as the production itself. That “In Memoriam” section was truly bad TV, and the opening, bloated and silly. Yes, the voice-over drove everyone insane…

  11. I would like to know where the tribute or even mention was about I Love Lucy. October 15th will be the 60th anniversary of its debut. The best comedy actor and best comedy actresss winners last night came from a multi-camera set up designed by Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz and the geniuses at DesiLu. From shooting in LA, to using multi cameras, to over head lighting to a studio audience where would comedy TV be without them and where was their acknowledgement last night?

  12. Sheen’s mea culpa was an awkward moment. The SNL musical number (whatever it was called) was what you’d expect…but that dropping of the huge American flag just seemed tacky, for some reason.

    I wish that actors didn’t spend their entire speeches thanking people – I know it’s what the industry is all about, but it makes for boring TV, and a missed opportunity to just say something gracious and memorable. (A few managed.)

    But, hey, they finished EARLY – imagine that?

  13. What was wrong with the audio? Some you couldn’t hear, some you could. It was ridiculous. And that stupid voice-over ‘comedy’ stunt – who came up with that? Jane Lynch told us, of course, that she’s a lesbian and has a partner, and that the ‘tea party’ is racist.

    And they wonder why people prefer football.

  14. Hugh Laurie – I guess voting for the person who is the most watched television performer in the world wouldn’t make the Emmy voters seem special so they continue to ignore the man who has created one of the most unique characters ever.

    Never mind, House is the most popular show in the world, Hugh Laurie the highest paid actor in a drama and his CD is selling like crazy.
    Emmy or no Emmy, they would all love to be him.

  15. While I can appreciate the effort made to improve the Emmys (and some things were), I must admit that overall I found it cheezy and felt myself cringe on occasion.

  16. OMG, the voice over commentary just almost ruined the show. whatever continuity there was completely wiped out.

    And the opening number, horrible just awful. Almost as awful as the set design.

    Charlie Sheen was no surprise to those of us who had seen letterman or any number of shows where he’s been during the past week. the guy is obviously clean for now and this might be who he really is. he looks great and hopefully he’ll continue. but he’s an addict first and foremost so it all remains to be seen.

    Definitely Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to produce next year…

  17. The announcer “comedy” is the worst. At least Hodgman was bizarre. Rose’s voice and what he was given to work with was weak, weak, weak. They just need to cut that.

  18. The Lonely Planet guys are NOT FUNNY. Not funny not funny not funny. For the life of me I can’t understand why their fifteen minutes of fame has lasted at least five years. That musical piece was stupid and humiliating. It looked like a high school pageant written by a bunch of snorting teenagers. Stunted, dorky little white guys from Berkeley pretending to be hip hop badasses, we get it we get it. Jesus, enough already. (And they make terrible movies too.)

  19. The Amazing Race gets its well-deserved wins because it’s got a production degree-of-difficulty that the voters respect. Every one of its competitors (except Survivor — was that even nominated this year?) are produced in studios, and even Survivor is under controlled conditions. The Amazing Race is out in the world, subject to the vagaries of weather, international airline schedules, and the unpredictability of the people that racers encounter. Despite the lack of control, it’s technically amazing — you never see a cameraman or a boom in a shot, even when two racers and two crew members are crammed in a cab in Calcutta. The photography, editing and production simply do an outstanding job producing a difficult show. Why does TAR win? Because it deserves it.

  20. Your right “savydude’ couldn’t hear it…and maybe that was a blessing. The show was terrible. PERIOD Lynch was too over the top (she thought she was still on “Glee…boy, was she working hard.it was forced) and enough about her sexual preference or anyone else’s for that matter. The set looked like a polish decorator threw-up…the “Emmytones’ were stupid as was that whole “American flag bit…(didn’t get it)and Charlie Sheen??what an embarassement to even have him there. Where was the “class” and humor and simple entertainment from what is considered the best in the industry. Burnett made a mess of this

  21. I thought the show was a blast. Jane Lynch was just great as the host. The best actress bit was a hoot. No complaints other than Big Brother is overlooked in the reality category. Great show. Looked like everyone was having a good time.

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