Who knew the Emmys might have such an impact on the Oscars? The newly minted Oscar producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron actually spent the entire weekend following Emmy producer Don Mischer (who also produced the Oscars the past two years and will direct this year). The Oscar team told me they spent all day Saturday and Sunday in the booth watching how the big TV show came together to get a few helpful tips. This particular Emmy show and the Oscars both air on ABC. “We’ve been shadowing Don Mischer all weekend to get an idea of how it is done,” Zadan told me at the Emmy Governors Ball. “We’re already having a ball doing the Oscars. We have ideas that have never been done before.” Meron assures they are actively beginning the Oscar process and hope to have a host in place sooner rather than later. Zadan says a host is key and sooner is better.
For his part Mischer, who produced and directed the Oscarcast for the past two years, does not want to be part of the producing team this year. “After last year I promised my wife I wouldn’t do it again,” he says. “‘But I am happy to come back and direct. That way I will actually get my holidays. And Craig and Neil have wanted to do this for several years. They are consummate showmen.”
Mischer told me the reason the Emmy show seemed rushed at the end last was because he had to have it over by no later than 8 PM PT because the West Coast replay began then — if it was a few minutes late people tuning in might think they missed something watching the end rather than the beginning. He said the biggest West Coast audience by far watches the show at the 8 PM rerun rather than live at 5. But Mischer, a true veteran of the live awards show wars, regretted having to cut off winners in their acceptance speeches. Among those who got the hook were the Drama Series Writing winners for Homeland and Miniseries/Movie Supporting Actor winner Tom Berenger. But it was the very big final award for Best Comedy Series to Modern Family that really made Mischer feel bad: Presenter Michael J. Fox received an elongated standing ovation (the only one of the evening it turns out) when he was introduced and that took up precious time that cut into executive produer Steve Levitan’s speech. Mischer said he had no choice but to cut him off with almost zero seconds to spare until 8 PM. ABC was telling him in one ear they had to get off the air but he didn’t want to stop Levitan. At the Governors Ball, Mishcher apologized to Levitan who said he understood the timing problem — even though ironically Modern Family was Emmy network ABC’s big win this year. In fact, it was the biggest win for any broadcast network on the cable-centric Emmycast.
After he talked to Mischer I asked Levitan what he thought about GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s statement earlier in the week that Modern Family was his family’s favorite show. “Uh, conflicted,” Levitan winced when I asked him. “Actually it’s OK. It’s good that he’s watching.” This year’s presidential candidates apparently know how to pick ‘em: President Obama was recently on record saying Best Drama Series sweep winner Homeland was his favorite show.
The Emmys seemed to be well-received by the Nokia Theatre audience, although many of host Jimmy Kimmel‘s gags fell flat. Afterwards at the ball, several major people I spoke with — Kimmel fans included — felt some of the bits didn’t really work including his “In Memoriam” segement that seemed tasteless coming as it did before the real In Memoriam segment touchingly hosted by Ron Howard in honor of his late TV dad Andy Griffith. The bit where Kimmel got 30 Rock’s Tracy Morgan to essentially play dead on stage for several minutes (including during a commercial break) did not go over with the Nokia crowd either. Kimmel has had much better outings on his own show and during his post-Oscar specials.
As for the winners, Homeland – which took writing, acting and drama series honors — seemed an especially popular winner for a first-season show. The biggest surprise by far was Jon Cryer’s win for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for the Two And A Half Men reboot sans Charlie Sheen. Cryer had previously won for Supporting Actor in a Comedy, but this was his first year in the lead category and he took it home over favored Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory, who had won the previous two years. Chuck Lorre , who produces both shows, told me at the ball he was “thrilled ” by Cryer’s win. “He’s such a great talent. We get to see what he does every day and this is clearly validation,” Lorre told me. It’s also a bit of validation for Lorre, who had to go through hell with Sheen before the actor was fired. During last week’s Creative Arts Emmys, Kathy Bates won a Guest Actress Comedy Emmy for channeling Sheen’s dead Charlie Harper character and now the Cryer triumph in the category Sheen lost in four times was sweet revenge.
Warner Bros TV topper Bruce Rosenblum , also the TV Academy’s new chairman, also seemed happy about the Cryer win when I caught up with him at the ball. Rosenblum was ebullient about the way the Emmy show went overall and very pleased overall with his first year’s Emmycast. Criticism of the broadcast by some TV writers that was already creeping into the ballroom didn’t seem to faze him. Indeed the general tone in the room, in almost an exact copy of the celebration that accompanied the Creative Arts, was celebratory.
Even Mad Men creator Matt Weiner was having a great time despite losing his bid to break an Emmy record for most consecutive wins in the Drama Series category (in fact, the AMC series was skunked this year). “I have to throw out a pocketful of good luck charms that I thought were the reason we always won,” Weiner laughed. “I guess I will have to do a better show. No it’s fine. Anyway I have three more chances to win,” he said of the remaining seasons. Still it seems an Emmy outrage to me that the superlative series has never won a single Emmy for any member of its extraordinary cast. Shameful, Academy.
If Mad Men failed to pull off the big repeat feat, Emmy favorites like The Amazing Race and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart – which won its 10th Emmy in a row — were underdue winners again leading to the complaint that the Emmys can be too repetitive for its own good. Comedy Central topper Doug Herzog told me he was happy about Daily Show’s unprecedented success but even Stewart, in his acceptance speech, seemed a little embarrassed. “Years from now they will find a box of these (Emmy statuettes) and know just how predictable these things can be,” he said. Truer words were never spoken.
At HBO’s packed-to-the-rafters post-Emmy party at Pacific Design Center, Best Actress in a Comedywinner Julia Louis-Dreyfus was truly happy with her win for Veep, especially when I told her she may be the first performer to pull off a major Emmy acting win in three different series. “Really? Is that true? We’ve got to check that out,” she said, clearly pleased with the recognition for her first-year HBO series. She says she goes back to shoot a second season October 29. She also has a short film, Picture Paris, which could be in contention for an Oscar this year. Good times.
Best actress in a movie or miniseries winner Julianne Moore was also understandably in a good mood at the HBO bash after winning for Game Change. “We didn’t anticipate a sweep. This is so nice,” she said. This is her second Emmy after winning a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Ingenue for her soap, As The World Turns, near the beginning of her career in 1988. She also has been nominated for four Oscars but never won. Directing and writing Game Change winners Jay Roach and Danny Strong, respectively, were also happily celebrating the across-the-board triumph of their timely political film at the massive HBO party.
But among the most interesting things I heard about the Emmys this year were from the losers, not the winners. Before the show I ran into Best Miniseries/Movie Directing nominee Philip Kaufman (Hemingway And Gellhorn), 75 years old attending his first-ever awards show. “I didn’t even go when I was nominated for an Oscar (for writing The Unbearable Lightness Of Being). We came because we wanted our friends in San Francisco to maybe see a shot of us on TV”, he said. And so how was he liking it? “It’s sort of like ‘get me out of here’ “, he laughed. For Best Directing in a Comedy nominee Robert Weide (Curb Your Enthusiasm’s “Palestinian Chicken” episode) and a former winner and Oscar-nominated documentarian, there was a bigger question he asked me before the start of the ceremony. “What do you think takes precendence on an obit? Oscar nominee or Emmy winner?” Take a guess, Bob.
Whatever the value of an Emmy win, the winners — and losers — at the Nokia on Sunday night were just happy to be there.