The rushed nature of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be addressed at a Governors meeting I am assured by someone who said, quite correctly, “we need to stop turning this thing into a track meet”. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the Board of Governors repping the Writers Branch). Certainly there was concern during last night’s 3 hour and 40 minute marathon in which winners were given 45 seconds from the time they left their seat in the cavernous Nokia Theatre to reach the stage and make a speech. For many the orchestra started playing them off even before they could get comfortably into the thrust of their thank-yous. One female winner changed her shoes just so she could charge the stage. One poor overweight winner for The Voice had a choice of either pulling up his loose tux in a confused moment where the clock was ticking or dropping his Emmy. He did the latter and broke it, but at least didn’t reveal his underwear. It was that kind of night.
You can’t envy Executive Producer Spike Jones Jr who has to edit this show down to about an hour and 40 minutes plus commercials for its broadcast next Saturday on the 3-week-old FXX. And considering the very dirty material of some presenters such as (a hilarious) Triumph The Insult Comic Dog (voiced by SNL‘s Robert Smigel) and particularly a very unfunny and out-of- control Gilbert Gottfried, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences had better hope there are a few more X’s after the FXX logo to accommodate the blue humor.
OK, we’ll admit Triumph did liven up the proceedings with a triple-X Ricky Gervais-like routine that took no prisoners in the audience. “I want to congratulate all the nominees who decided not to show up tonight. Good decision. Does anyone here feel they added a day to Yom Kippur? I mean all these categories no one gives a shit about? How much do we have to atone for?,” he said to big laughs from a crowd largely composed of exactly the nominees he’s talking about. Although you have to wonder if all the contenders in these below-the-line categories appreciated the jokes at their expense. But he wasn’t nearly done.
“It wil air on FXX and as a continuous loop in the cells at Guantanomo. Of course a Chiquaqua’s G-spot is easier to find than FXX.” he said. Considering this is the biggest night of the year for the artists and nominees gathered tonight, maybe assaulting them with Gervais-type humor is ill-conceived — although I thought Triumph was a welcome relief in a show which out of necessity tended to rush award after award. Face it, it could be four or five hours without the restraints, but somehow let these winners have their moment, for God’s sake. One Emmy-winning Sound Mixer for the Grammy Awards even publicly begged his buddy Larry in the audio booth not to cut him off. It worked since he has connections where it counts, but is it time to think about splitting up the Creative Arts Emmys over two nights? With some 75 awards categories it is a Herculean task Jones Jr is handed, even though he and his team (who have been doing this 19 years) do a masterful job with the impossible tasks they are handed.
At any rate, it was very nice to see some of these results including a number of first-time winners — not always the case at the Emmys, which tend to honor many of the same winners year after year. And although there were familiar names — Kennedy Center Honors and the Tony Awards were multiple winners again — there were surprises in the ranks.
HBO’s juggernaut, Behind The Candelabra nearly swept the field, taking eight of the nine categories that came up and setting itself up for one of the most impressive wins ever for a TV movie. Most amusingly, the film took an editing award for Mary Ann Bernard which turns out to be one of many pseudonyms for director Steven Soderbergh. Turns out it’s his mother’s name which he explained when he turned up onstage. Soderbergh was also Sunday’s only loser for the film when his pseudonym Peter Andrews was not called for his achievement in Cinematography, a rare miss for the Liberace bio. Sometimes it just got too much for the HBO hit film though: Costume Design presenters and Candelabra supporters Scott Bakula and producer Jerry Weintraub went on too much about their own nominee, shortchanging the eventual losing competitors.
Bottom line, this is a night for the uber-creative people below the line who make television possible. As an awards junkie I was pleased to see award after award presented with little fuss, although I have to admit 75 of them was a little tiring. Still as a fan of the work of these incomparable artists they deserve their moment in the spotlight, and I was a little put off from the start when presenters Dan Harmon and Joel McHale set a snarky tone. “Would you like to know which of the hairstylng nominees have DUIs?” asked Harmon. I am just not sure this crowd can handle the slings and arrows of this type of humor.
On other notes, I ran into Netflix’s Ted Sarandos before the marathon show and he could not be more excited considering the multiple nominations his shows — particularly House Of Cards — received in the rogue service’s maiden Emmy voyage. “I am just so happy to get in the door. I am happy with all our nominatoins. Ask me afterwards and I will say the same thing I think,” he said laughing.
Actually Netflix was the first winner when the casting for a drama series winner for House Of Cards was announced right off the bat. It picked up two Emmys and could be poised for more next Sunday. Sarandos could not have been disappointed when it won that second statuette for Single Camera Cinematography giving it a very slight heads-up in the impossibly competitive Drama Series category next Sunday. But not much, as many of the other nominees also picked up an award. This one is a real squeaker.
It was nice to see a lot of first-time winners, many who have waited a long time for their first Emmy. I was delighted to predict Melissa Leo could not lose as Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her astounding turn on Louie — and she didn’t. Sue Federman, who said she has just completed her 189th episode of How I Met Your Mother, was obviously over the moon with her first win. And how about Saturday Night Live’s first Art Direction Emmy in 38 seasons? Or Bob Newhart’s triumph for his guest shot on The Big Bang Theory after a half-century of losses for other shows? I caught up with Newhart at the Governors Ball and he was soooooo happy to have that Emmy. “I guess you should never give up,” he told me, adding he is doing a couple of additional Big Bang episodes this season. And certainly a highlight was Academy Chairman Bruce Rosenblum’s presentation of the Governors Award to 95-year-old cartoon voice-over legend June Foray, who thanked a legendary quintet of mentors Chuck Jones, Walt Disney, Tex Avery, Walter Lantz and Jay Ward. It doesn’t get better than that. Overall it was a fun and rewarding night.
Conversely there were some frustrating losses: Composer Alan Menken, who has Oscars, Grammy and Tonys, was going for his EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) but failed to get it. And Bill Maher, a 32-time nominee with no wins, lost for his documentary Vice. He has more opportunities next weekend to turn around the sad streak but don’t count on it. But he can take hope from James Lipton, host and producer of Inside The Actor’s Studio, who turned a 15-time losing streak into a first-time win this year and gave an eloquent speech that betrayed any hint of frustration over previous losses.
Having spent the last week at the Toronto Film Festival, it was interesting to run into a couple of those movie business players at the Emmys. Margo Martindale, a Supporting Actress contender I think for the December film release August Osage County, was thrilled to hear the thumbs up response to the film. She was a nominee for Guest Actress in a Drama Series for The Americans but couldn’t get to Toronto for the big premiere because she is co-starring in the new series The Millers. She heard August got the biggest applause ever at the Toronto fest, and certainly it did indeed receive a huge reception. What a treat for this fine actress who won an Emmy two years ago for Justified to finally be getting all this acclaim.
And critics be damned, Mad Men’s Matt Weiner — presenting Hairstyling of all categories at the Creative Emmys — said all he was trying to do with You Are Here, his feature debut that played for the first time at Toronto, was to do “something Billy Wilder might have done”. The film is still out to potential distributors as Weiner is about to start his seventh and final season of Mad Men.
There were a lot of special moments in this preamble to next Sunday’s CBS broadcast of the marquee Primetime Emmy categories, but my favorite speech of the night belonged to Guest Actor In A Drama Series winner Dan Bucatinsky for Scandal. He summed up the ever-changing times perfectly when he said, “how many guys get to thank their on-screen husband and their real-life husband in one Emmy speech?”
Yes! Whatever their shortcomings, this first leg of a major Emmy week was every bit worth the ride.