I am not going to rehash all the Emmy Awards analysis and reporting already done on this site earlier tonight. It is what it is and opinions are what they are. And on at least one other trade site they are calling for a complete overhaul of the Emmy process but I don’t think even that would make these awards any easier to predict than they are now. The truth is obvious to anyone who has ever been around this game long enough: Emmys are not predictable and those who say they are, as I wrote in my Saturday final predictions piece, are running a fool’s errand.
But, full disclosure, I am a member of the Television Academy’s Board Of Governors representing the writers branch and I am proud of the choices we made. That said, no one is ever going to agree 100% and the TV industry is always a target for slings and arrows. It is true there were way too many repeat winners Monday night, but that is just the way it crumbles, cookie-wise. This system is the best — and most foolproof — in the awards game that has yet been devised. Volunteers having nothing to do with the shows in question vote on their merits after watching each specially selected episode. It’s a system designed to promote guaranteeing that voters have actually watched the work. Imagine that! Yes, it is boring that Modern Family won for a fifth time in a row, or The Amazing Race took it for the 11th time in 13 years. Oy, enough already. And that The Colbert Report, Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Jim Parsons, even Jessica Lange in American Horror Story were repeat winners. Comedy Central topper Doug Herzog told me that with Colbert he was celebrating that cable network’s 12th consecutive win in Variety Series (thanks to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert).
But overall I thought the show itself had spunk and with host Seth Meyers was able to pull off something fresh and funny when so many winners were anything but. I mean who gets all that excessive love for PBS’ Sherlock: His Last Vow, which picked up six Emmys despite being a controversial entry as Best TV movie when it really is a series of shows? It’s good, but that good? Thank God for The Normal Heart, which nearly was skunked but came roaring back to win Best TV Movie after losing everything else in sight to Sherlock. It was a moving moment to see that film’s creatives — including the ailing and aging Larry Kramer, who had been trying to make this work for over a quarter of a century — climb onstage with producer Ryan Murphy who so humbly gave him credit for the early AIDS tale.
And in terms of repeat winners who could possibly argue that Breaking Bad shouldn’t get its due in its last season, even though that season ended a full year ago. It is a tribute to the power of that landmark series that it can resonate for so long and not be forgotten. It is one of the great shows of all time and its Emmy emergence as the best drama series in the past two years is just icing on the cake. The standing ovations as it started racking up win after win were testament to its popularity. And in the end it is not really surprising that stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn again triumphed against stiff competition. Those last few episodes were indelible. After all, Emmys are all about the episode you choose to submit. They chose wisely.
It still seems an absolute crime that Mad Men has failed to produce a single Emmy-winning actor for their work over seven seasons. Shameful. But there’s one more shot with the show’s final seven episodes next spring. Jon Hamm, anyone? At any rate the AMC crowd, led by topper Charlie Collier, could not have been happier when I caught up with them late into the night at their BOA restaurant celebration in West Hollywood. This was the sixth out of seven years the upstart cable network has won the top drama series prize. Fairly unprecedented I would say.
Breaking Bad’s six overall wins were richly deserved but the most deserving was the fact that it finally won a writing Emmy considering it has some of the finest writing ever on TV. So congratulations Moira Walley-Beckett and particularly creator Vince Gilligan, who was thanked more than any one person of the night. At a major Emmy party Sunday night I witnessed Gilligan being mobbed by some very famous fans. One well-known actress got down on her knees and bowed down to him. He definitely hit on to something with Breaking Bad and says he is now having a blast with its 2015 spinoff, Better Call Saul, which has completed shooting six episodes.
As for the Emmy show itself, all that talk started here and elsewhere about nightmare traffic jams due to the fact the show was taking place on a Monday in Downtown L.A. didn’t really matter. (As of 2:30 PM PT before a 5 PM show start, cars were just breezing in; this was a singularly well-organized event.) Everyone got there on time — probably scared into it by the warnings — and enjoyed the first-ever TV Academy pre-Red Carpet reception at Staples Center, where refreshments were served and stars could get a touch-up from makeup and hair stylists before hitting that red carpet. Many of the stars who had to eventually do just that were still seen lingering just as they should have been moving out there. It was great fun. Presenter Octavia Spencer even told me she was going out to do the carpet but would return. Academy Chairman Bruce Rosenblum was beaming and told me this looks like the start of a new Emmy tradition.
Once the show actually began, Meyers turned out to be an ideal host, going old school with his monologue and ease in controlling the proceedings. Producer Don Mischer, who again did a flawless job, had told me in the past that you “live or die with your host.” In the casting of Meyers, Mischer was definitively living la vida loca. This may not have been the best Emmy show ever, or even one of them, but it was a very entertaining affair — especially from my vantage point inside the Nokia theater where the undisputed hit of the night was the taped piece Meyers did accosting people on the streets of New York City and checking their familiarity with all things Emmy.
Afterwards at the Governors Ball I caught up with Rosenblum, who told me it was his idea to be paired with Sofia Vergara for his official remarks on the show. As she circled around and around on a revolving stage as he spoke, Vergara quipped she was glad she gave up those early car-show jobs. The bit, which Rosenblum told me was written by Modern Family creator Steve Levitan, was a hit. In fact even Modern Family comedy directing winner Gail Mancuso scored a bull’s-eye with her witty acceptance, where she focused almost exclusively on Matthew McConaughey in the audience.
Speaking of him, much was made of the fact he could have made history with a win, but he lost to now-four-time winner Cranston. C’est la vie. That’s the Emmys. Someone pointed out to me that there seemed to be a prejudice this year against movie stars and Oscar winners. Certainly McConaughey, Julie Roberts, Billy Bob Thornton and other betting favorites fit that bill. On the other hand, older Oscar winners like Lange and Kathy Bates held up their end of the bargain with wins. But the big star infusion into this year’s Emmys seemed to backfire. The Academy likes to make its own stars and winners, preferably with a British accent or a previous Emmy win.
Still, there is no doubt the Academy needs to address some issues regarding category placement (most notably with Orange Is The New Black and True Detective). There were simply too many shows that seemed to outsiders like they might have been gaming the system. Even Meyers joked about it. It’s a thorny issue, but one that should be dealt with.
Nevertheless this was a better-than-decent Emmy outing thanks to Meyers and some well-chosen late-night comedians as presenters. It worked flawlessly — even on a Monday in August. But next time Academy, get a little more creative with those choices. Variety is the spice of life. Just sayin’.