Thanks to Jimmy Kimmel and a fairly fresh crop of winners, this year’s Emmy season has wrapped up a winner itself. The ratings may have been ho-hum, but reaction to the show from nearly everyone I spoke with was upbeat. The mood about the ABC telecast, the victors, the nominees and all those Donald Trump jokes was definitely on a high at the afterparties, where the real postmortem starts to set in. Speaking of Trump, though, from my vantage point inside the Microsoft Theater there weren’t many supporters at this very Hollywood bash, except maybe Supporting Actor nominee Jon Voight (who lost — a good sign for Hillary?)
One man who was very happy with the way things turned out was Don Mischer, the veteran executive producer of this year’s telecast. Considering the fact this indefatigable 76-year-old 13-time Emmy winner and 42-time nominee has been around this block — from Oscars to Emmys to White House Correspondents’ Dinners to Olympics — more than a few times, his praise for his host was lofty indeed. “I think Jimmy was the most consistent host I have ever worked with on any show I have done,” Mischer told me when I interrupted his dinner at the Governors Ball immediately following the show. “Usually you have higher and lower moments with this kind of job, but he kept it at a very sustained level throughout.” But he and his Don Mischer Productions staff didn’t have much time to eat — or accept congratulations on one of the best Emmy shows ever — because they were rushing off to the airport just a few minutes later to catch the red-eye to Washington D.C., where he is producing another ABC special this coming weekend celebrating the opening of Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History & Culture with a huge two-hour show called Taking the Stage: Changing America.
I told Mischer I was especially impressed with the opening filmed bit that had Kimmel stranded and trying to get a ride to the Emmys, particularly the bit where “limo driver” Jeb Bush picks him up. According to Mischer that came together quickly. “When it became apparent Jeb would be available to us, Jimmy really wanted to do it and make it happen. So he jumped on a plane and flew all the way to Florida Friday morning, shot it and came right back to rehearsals for the show,” he told me. Bush was really funny. So was the Kimmel bit with his mother making 7,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the entire crowd, and it wasn’t just the celebs who got them. Actually it was the first PB&J sandwich I have had since the sixth grade. The juice was good too. Thanks, Jimmy.
Outgoing TV Academy Chairman Bruce Rosenblum was beaming about the show — and Kimmel — when I caught up with him at the Governors Ball. Kimmel had a funny line for the Chair’s spot on the show when he mentioned Sofia Vergara in his intro, a reference to the 2014 Emmy show where Vergara was a key “attraction” during Rosenblum’s sobering remarks about advances in the television industry. “Tonight at the afterparty he will definitely take one last shot at hitting on Sofia Vergara,” Kimmel cracked. The camera caught an unsmiling Vergara looking perplexed by the comment. “I don’t know why they had to bring that up all over again,” Rosenblum said with a laugh. “Fortunately I don’t think many people will even get the joke.” Actually Kimmel and Rosenblum now are part of the same family as Deadline just announced that the Academy Chairman is starting a new job as President of Business Operations for the Disney-ABC Television Group. So, like Mischer, he didn’t have much time to celebrate the show. “I have to be at my desk at 8:30 AM Monday morning for my first day on the job,” he said. No rest for the weary.
And that also includes newly minted Emmy winner Thomas Kail, who took home the Director of a Variety Special Emmy (shared with Alex Rudzinski) for Fox’s Grease: Live. It was his second statuette in as many weeks since he was also part of the producing team that took the Emmy at last Sunday’s Creative Arts Awards for Special Class Program. These wins make Kail, also the director of a little musical on Broadway called Hamilton, one of the few people ever to win a Tony and Emmy in the same year. When I caught up with him at the Govs Ball, he was still a little shellshocked by it all. “It is a little surreal, isn’t it?” he asked me while giving credit to the whole team that pulled off that live TV musical. He too didn’t have much time to celebrate as he said he had to catch an early Monday plane to Chicago, where he is in rehearsals for that city’s upcoming opening of Hamilton.
In addition to Grease: Live’s Emmys, it was a huge night for Fox and FX and the success of their limited series winner, The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. 20th’s TV toppers Dana Walden and Gary Newman were thrilled with the multiple wins, surrounded by well wishers at the Ball. Walden smiled when I mentioned that her name was probably heard as much as FX’s John Landgraf on that Microsoft stage from the parade of winners. When I caught up with them, they were headed with People v. O.J. exec producer Ryan Murphy over to the Fox celebration at nearby Vibiana. Murphy was proudly displaying his latest Emmy, but he told me he was especially happy to see six-time nominee Sarah Paulson finally win, for playing Marcia Clark in People v. O.J. “If she had not gotten that Emmy this time, I would have stood up and walked out, ” he said.
The two have a longtime relationship with Emmy as Paulson has been nominated four times for various characters on his FX anthology series American Horror Story. Paulson, in fact, might be an Emmy record holder, having now been nominated six times in a row for playing six different roles — a rarity in Emmy land, where multiple yearly nominations usually come for playing the same part. As we walked into the Convention Center, which had been transformed into the Governors Ball, Paulson told me this part meant the most. “I am so glad I was able to win it for playing Marcia Clark more than any other, ” she said of the Simpson prosecutor who was also her “date” to the Emmys and the subject of the most passionate part of her acceptance speech. As Paulson headed into the ball, though, she was wondering how she was going to make it in her shoes, which were suffering from Emmy winner fatigue.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus gave me an emphatic “yes!” when I suggested that perhaps her fifth consecutive win as Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series for Veep, in which she plays a U.S. president, might be a good sign for Clinton. Her speech touched on this insane campaign season, especially when she noted her satirical comedy series has morphed into a “sobering documentary.” It was one of many references during the night to Trump and Clinton. Perhaps the most pointed, though, was in the press room, where my Deadline colleagues headlined a post highlighting Transparent directing winner Jill Soloway’s declaration that Trump was “an inheritor of Hitler” and “the most dangerous monster to ever approach our lifetime.” With Emmy in hand at the Governors Ball — after she finished taking selfies with Leslie Jones, who was hilarious on the show, by the way — Soloway told me she was so appreciative that Deadline posted her remarks about the Donald. “I am so happy you did that and that I said it. It needed to be said,” she told me.
Interrupting another victorious winner trying to eat his dinner, I just had to congratulate now-two-time Transparent Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series winner Jeffrey Tambor on not only his heartfelt acceptance speech calling for more casting of transgender performers but actually getting the orchestra to stop playing him off before he could make those comments. “Shush! Shush, as my father would say,” he said before using a Hebrew term to stop the music. When I mentioned he might be the first person on an awards show to successfully stare down the conductor when they went over their allotted 40 seconds, Tambor said with a laugh, “Did they really stop playing when I said that? Good! There were a lot of Jews in the audience who knew exactly what I was saying.”
Nearby AMC’s The Night Manager group was celebrating the very deserved directing win for Oscar-winning Danish helmer Susanne Bier for the limited series that was so good it should have won more of its 12 nominations but instead became the latest victims of O.J. Simpson, so to speak. Star Tom Hiddleston, who lost to Courtney B. Vance’s Johnnie Cochran, said the highlight of his night was being able to open the envelope and announce his director Bier as the winner in her category. She too was absolutely beaming at the Governors Ball before rushing off to AMC’s party. Hiddleston, by the way, is staying in town to do a special screening and Q&A for the SAG Nominating Committee tonight that I will be moderating for his terrific performance as country legend Hank Williams in I Saw The Light, which Sony Pictures Classics released earlier this year. Once awards season ends with his first Emmy nomination, another begins with hopefully some remembrance of his remarkable work as Williams. Sony Classics certainly hopes so; the distributor will be campaigning it.
After the Governors Ball, I headed over to the always impossibly crowded HBO bash at Pacific Design Center. That perennial Emmy leader was basking in the glow of its repeat Drama and Comedy Series wins for Game Of Thrones (breaking records at the Emmys for scripted series wins) and Veep, as well as John Oliver’s big Variety Talk Show win. Keegan Michael Key, a winner for the final season of his Comedy Central Variety Sketch Series Key & Peele, was hanging at the HBO party in an ebullient mood. “I have to say I was really quite nervous about this. And to have Damon Wayans, our mentor, present it to us was just overwhelming ,” he told me of the Television Academy’s parting gift for his series.
Although they lost again in the shadow of HBO stablemate Veep, the gang from the brilliant Silicon Valley was there toasting their increase in nominations this year. Among them was co-star Matt Ross, who, like Hiddleston, already is jumping into the nascent movie awards season with his critically acclaimed Bleecker Street indie Captain Fantastic, which he wrote and directed. That was a big hit out of Sundance and Cannes’ Un Certain Regard, where Ross took the directing prize. He told me he recently returned from a European tour for the film, which also just won two awards at Deauville. It would be nice to see this early-summer release remembered for Ross’ smart and human original screenplay and Viggo Mortensen’s career-best lead performance.
And with that, an Emmy season that outspent the Oscar season and came up with some nice twists and turns along the way has come to an end, just as Deadline is prepared to officially kick off the next awards go-round with our annual party later this week. As I said, no rest for the weary. Or the winners.