A column chronicling conversations and events on the awards season.
Let the voting begin.
It has been pretty hard this unusual Emmy season to conduct this column as usual. It typically is made up of nifty little moments and conversations I have as I traverse industry events, Q&As, parties etc. Not this year. There haven’t been any in a year that, like just about everything else in showbiz, is virtual in every way — even the screeners, which are all online now that the Television Academy has officially banned physical DVDs (the Motion Picture Academy follows that example after next season too). Instead, we have had the daily ritual of e-mailings from the TV Academy highlighting links to the entire slates of contenders from studios and networks. In fact it never stops.
And there are soooo many outlets, more than ever, some I have never heard of, pushing Emmy slates. From my vantage point newcomers Apple TV+ and Quibi have been especially aggressive on the campaign front, trying to use the Emmy contest as a marker of their success in the few months they have been up and running, and planting a flag in the race to signal they are in it for the long haul. Quibi has hired multiple PR vets to get the word out, filling slots in Deadline’s (Virtual) Screening Series and elsewhere with the likes of Anna Kendrick’s Dummy, the Liam Hemsworth action series Most Dangerous Game, Will Packer’s Blackballed and other examples of Jeffrey Katzenberg’s iPhone attack on anything longer than 10 minutes.
On Wednesday night, I moderated a Quibi panel on Darren Criss’ shortform musical series Royalties for the Society of Composers and Lyricists that included Criss, his partner Nick Lang, and none other than Mark Hamill, who puts on his best country crooner voice to sing “Mighty as Kong” in his guest shot. It’s a tune about the famous giant Gorilla’s, uh, shortcomings and how men should be heartened by it. It’s catchy. It is from the fourth episode of the series and runs about seven minutes but has separately spawned a full music video as well. Criss and Hamill were particularly high on the line: “I’m an American man singing an American song taking an American stand on my American dong.” This is one of the ten songs in the 10-episode series written by Criss and team that are vying for some Emmy action in the Best Song category. An album is coming. Criss, an Emmy winner two years ago for The Assassination of Gianni Versace, actually got his first Emmy nom as a songwriter for “This Time” from Glee. As I told Hamill, it is too bad this wasn’t written for a movie. I would have loved to have seen Luke Skywalker singing “Mighty as Kong” in front of a billion viewers at the Oscars.
As the pandemic gets worse by the day and questions mount if we are ever going to have enough movies to have an Oscar season quorum, the opposite is true of the Emmys. Whatever shape the actual September 20 Primetime Emmy broadcast on ABC takes, there is no question the television season has been bountiful and bigger than ever. There is every likelihood that, with so many stuck at home, actual viewership of the contending shows will eclipse that of any previous year. That could make for some surprising nominees this time around, not the same old same old.
Ballots are live now and online voting has begun and will continue until July 13. Mark those ballots and get them in on time. Nominations will be announced on July 28.
THE MESSAGE OF ‘THE MASKED SINGER’
Fox’s hit competition show, The Masked Singer officially wins the prize for favorite promotional item this Emmy season with this week’s arrival of two colorful Masked Singer pandemic masks. They came wrapped in the message: “This FYC Season we will be keeping our masks on! We hope you and your loved ones are well during this unprecedented time. At The Masked Singer, we know a thing or two about wearing masks, so we wanted to send you a little something to help keep you safe this FYC season. Who’s behind the mask? All of us!” This was accompanied by an access code to view episodes of the series. Smart move.
I will now stop using my complimentary Red Carpet Car Wash mask and wear these instead. What a way to get voters to serve as walking billboards for you Emmy campaign, eh?
ALAN BRADY IN COLOR
One of the names synonymous with Emmy is the late, great Carl Reiner who died this week at age 98. His multiple-Emmy-winning The Dick Van Dyke Show earned a pile of statuettes over the course of its five-year run in the first half of the ’60s, exiting just before it would have had to make the switch to color from black and white. It was the last great broadcast series to be totally filmed in B&W.
I am not a fan of the “colorizing” process, and lived in fear for years that Ted Turner would try to do that to Citizen Kane, but maybe seeing Reiner’s masterful sitcom in living color for one night might be not so bad. This Friday, July 3 at 8pm, CBS will broadcast a couple of colorized episodes that featured Reiner’s egocentric recurring character Alan Brady, including “October Eve” from the third season and the hilarious Emmy-winning “Coast-To-Coast Big Mouth,” in which Mary Tyler Moore’s Laura Petrie reveals to the world that Brady wears a toupee.
Titled The Dick Van Dyke Show — Now in Living Color! A Special Tribute to Carl Reiner, Reiner is said to have personally supervised the colorizing of the shows. (They were previously aired in this format in 2016.) A worthy tribute no matter what. Plus TCM also is now devoting July 28, which happens to be the date of the aforementioned Emmy nominations to a Carl Reiner film festival in which they will show a bevy of movies he made including his autobiographical Enter Laughing, The Comic (with Van Dyke), Where’s Poppa?, Oh, God!, and All of Me.
SOMEBODY FEED PHIL AN EMMY
“I don’t know how all this stuff works. Even at my ripe old age, I still don’t know what you have to do to get support for the Emmys…I know people like the show and the only reason I’d like to win is so the show continues,” said veteran comedy maestro Phil Rosenthal, who is on a personal campaign to win some Emmy love for his Travel/food Netflix series Somebody Feed Phil , now in its third season.
Rosenthal, a longtime Reiner devotee, could have asked his mentor about how to do that, but actually he already has Emmys for Everybody Loves Raymond. His comparatively young Netflix show was nominated for the first time last year (losing to the late Anthony Bourdain). Even the theme song got a nomination. He’s off to a promising start this season having just won Best Travel/Adventure Series at the Critics’ Choice Real TV Awards earlier this week. When we talked on the phone, he was very happy about that. “Best Travel/Adventure. I’m an adventurer now,” he laughed, adding the show started on PBS and won the James Beard Award for Best Travel Show.
This season the series, which shoots all over the world, went to Montreal, Seoul, London, Marrakesh and Chicago. Season 4, to run at an as yet unannounced date, will travel to five more locales. It was all in the can — fortunately — before the Coronavirus pandemic could shut down Rosenthal’s globetrotting. Hopefully he will get a Season 5, but the world he will be traveling in is likely to look very different.
“We finished filming in mid-January, so just under the wire,” said Rosenthal. “That’ll come out, you know, sometime…They don’t tell me, but you know, it won’t be the wait that we’ve had between seasons this time, and then beyond that, I truly believe that there will be a vaccine, and then the world will open up again. So I have confidence, and I’m confident only because it’s happened every other time,” he said hopefully while admitting the first place he really wants to travel to is his coffee shop and his diner. “I want normalcy back. Then I’ll worry about the rest of the world.”
When we talked, though, the pandemic wasn’t the first thing I wanted to ask Phil about. After some 28 episodes of eating just about everything and anything, how does he avoid getting fat? He looks the same as he always has. “You know how television works, right? Two things. First of all, you know how they make a dog food commercial? They don’t feed the dog until the commercial. I’m the dog. So, I’m not eating until you see the scene, and the scenes are not back-to-back as you see in the show. That’s a week’s worth of shooting condensed into less than an hour, so I do take breaks. I also share the food with the crew and everybody else. I don’t finish anything. I’ll tell you where I’m gaining weight — in my house during the COVID thing I’m gaining weight. Sitting here not going running around the world, that’s where I’m gaining weight,” he said.
The production team behind the show also worked with Anthony Bourdain, and Rosenthal convinced his brother to quit his job and work with him on the series. They go everywhere, but even though he was game he isn’t anxious to eat any more Octopus, especially after digesting one as it was chopped to death. Otherwise, the world is his oyster, so to speak.
“The truth is, the world could be my oyster, but I’m putting my own brakes on things because I’m not very adventurous yet. I’m taking baby steps,” said Rosenthal. “You know how I sold the show? I said, ‘I’m exactly like Anthony Bourdain if he was afraid of everything.’ And so I’m getting, in my experience now having done over 20 of these, I’m getting a little bit more brave, right? But still baby steps. I’m nowhere near the superhero that Bourdain was. You know, I’m not going to Borneo and having a tattoo nailed into my chest by tribesmen, right? I’m not there yet. I need a hotel that has a bed with a pillow. I need certain comforts…There are certain bugs that I’m not, really not interested in, and it took, again, all the courage I could muster to eat in Seoul, Korea, at the open market there,” he said.
Asked to reveal his favorite country so far, I thought I would get a more politic answer, but Rosenthal immediately said, “Italy. Maybe I was Italian in another life. Have you ever been somewhere where it feels like, oh, this feels like, not just like home, but you know, I’ve never been so comfortable in a place, I’ve never been so in love with a place?” he asked.
Rosenthal also loves Netflix, especially for the reach it gives a show he wants to keep doing. Hopefully, as he says, an Emmy will help those chances. “That’s why you have to bang the drum a little bit, do these kind of interviews and try to get noticed and try to get awards even: so that you’ll stand out. That’s the real reason to do it, so that you can continue doing your show,” Rosenthal said, hoping he continues to get fed for many more travel adventures.
“We’re making things. We care about them deeply. And we don’t do it so we can just show it to our friends. We do it so that we can have maybe an impact out there. You know,” he continued, “I feel like we’re putting something nice out into the world, and I enjoy my role as this little ambassador to the world, and I want to hit as many people as possible and show them that the world is beautiful. And the great thing about Netflix is you deliver your shows, they push a button, and you are on at the same moment in 190 countries. Who else does that? That’s great.”
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