A column chronicling events and conversations on the awards circuit.
The long and winding Emmy campaign season is going into its final act this weekend as Television Academy members and those 23,000 or so who are eligible to vote have their last chance to fill out ballots. They’re due back to the Academy’s accountants no later than 10 p.m. PT Monday. At some point this weekend, I will send mine in, straggler that I am. After that, the next three weeks in September will be all about getting ready and then finally opening those envelopes over the course of six nights, culminating on September 20 with ABC’s broadcast of the Primetime Emmys. That show promises to be like no other, with a reported 140 remote setups for nominees across the globe and host Jimmy Kimmel guiding it all from Staples Center in Los Angeles. We also will be finding out if history is made in one way or another. Gold Derby put up the interesting statistic that only two shows have won the Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy for the first time in their final season.
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One was Barney Miller, which took the top prize (and nothing else that year) in 1982 on its seventh consecutive nomination and last opportunity to win. The other? Interestingly, that occurred just last year with Fleabag, which rocked the Emmys and took the top prize. It scored five additional Emmy wins in its second and final season after only 12 episodes total between the two seasons creator-star Phoebe Waller-Bridge allowed it to run. It was an especially interesting feat since the first season was completely ignored by the Academy, receiving zero nominations. Suddenly it was nominated in 11 categories and was the true darling of the Emmys.
This year, two shows in the category are looking to join this exclusive group. One is Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek, also notable for being completely ignored in its first four seasons before hitting reruns on Netflix and landing in the category last year for the first time. It has 15 nominations for its sixth and final season and is a front-runner to win in several categories including possibly the big one. The other contender to join Barney Miller and Fleabag is notable since it is the only broadcast network show to land a nom for Outstanding Comedy, Drama or Limited Series this year. NBC’s The Good Place, which ended its four-season run in January. It also was nominated for the first time in the category in its third season last year but, like Schitt’s Creek, has yet to win even a single Emmy for anything. For my money, all this makes this year’s Comedy Series race really an intriguing one.
LOVE WAS ALL AROUND FOR MTM
September 19 marks the 50th anniversary of the premiere of the landmark CBS sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That milestone will happen appropriately on a Saturday (when MTM regularly aired) and the night before this year’s Primetime Emmys are bestowed. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was nominated for 67 primetime Emmys over its seven seasons, winning 22 of them including three for Outstanding Comedy Series, for which it was nominated in all seven years, as well as three wins for its star. Mary Tyler Moore is the subject of Mary: The Mary Tyler Moore Story, another of Herbie J. Pilato’s all-encompassing biographies that is getting highlighted in conjunction with the 50th anniversary. Pilato previously has obsessed on all things Bewitched and Elizabeth Montgomery and does a thorough job in giving MTM her due. So a half-century after her eponymous classic comedy series made its debut, and nearly 60 years since The Dick Van Dyke Show started, it’s worth remembering one of the queens of the Emmys. She is notable for her own place in Emmy history, being tied for second place on all-time list of female performer winners with Allison Janney at each each, just behind Julia Louis-Dreyfus and none other than another Mary Tyler Moore Show veteran Cloris Leachman with eight each. By the way, do you know what Moore’s first series was? She was Sam the receptionist in the third season of the David Janssen detective drama Richard Diamond in 1959, a role in which her voice was heard but only her legs ever were seen.
LOVE IS ALL AROUND FOR LYNN SHELTON
In addition to the late great Fred Willard, who earned his fifth Emmy nomination, posthumously, this year for his Guest Star role on the final season of Modern Family, there is another poignant posthumous nom in the major categories for director Lynn Shelton, best known for her string of memorable indie feature films (Humpday, Your Sister’s Sister, Laggies, Sword of Trust) but is competing for Outstanding Directing for a Limited Series/Movie for the “Find a Way” finale episode of Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere (as well as a nominee as one of the show’s producers). Hulu and American Cinematheque presented a tribute to her work in television this week with a live Zoom event featuring remembrances from many so close to her, both personally and professionally, including Marc Maron — who qualified on both counts — Jon Hamm, Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington, Mark Duplass, Gillian Jacobs, Michaela Watkins, Eddie Huang, and Kevin Murphy. All had emotional, funny and very genuine stories to tell about this much-loved director, who died unexpectedly in May at 54. Witherspoon and Washington — who both starred in and produced the limited series Little Fires Everywhere for which she won her first Emmy nomination after TV directing credits that included Mad Men, Casual, GLOW, The Morning Show, Love, Fresh Off the Boat and more — said Shelton was like a savior when she came to work on the show for which she helmed four of the eight episodes.
Season 4 of AMC’s Mad Men was the first major TV series she got to work on, and Hamm said it was like having one of the “cool kids” come in which he said made him think the series was validated in an even bigger way than it already had been. “She led with gratitude, joy, love and a sense of ‘aren’t we lucky that we get to do this?'” he said. Maron, her significant other, tried valiantly to hold back the tears but finally gave in when talking about the Emmy nomination that came after her death. He talked about keeping up a good face sitting with her when she lost at the Indie Spirit Film Awards. “Now she gets this big one and she’s f*cking dead. It’s such a bittersweet thing. I was so happy for her but I wish she was alive, you guys,” he said with great emotion. Shelton clearly was loved, and this was a moving tribute from those lucky enough to have known her.
CAMPAIGNS GET CREATIVE
Meanwhile anyone who knows this column knows I have been following the Emmy campaigns for the Documentary Series, Hillary and Fox’s reality Competition Program contender The Masked Singer. In the case of Hillary, they continue to freak out Republicans, first with bumper stickers, now with Billboards around town promoting the candidacy of the Trump world’s most despised Democrat, Hillary Clinton whose four part series on Hulu was a fascinating and honest look into the career of this remarkable woman. The campaign itself is tongue-in-cheek funny but you have to wonder about who may not be reading the fine print. Check out the latest here on the right.
As for Masked Singer, previously they got creative and socially responsible by sending out masks of course. Now they have taken over the town like the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum in Hollywood, the Santa Monica Pier, and even Randy’s Donuts iconic giant donut in Inglewood where Fox has arranged for the first 100 customers on Saturday and Sunday to get a free donut as part of this promotion for the popular series enjoying its first Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Competition Series category. Just don’t forget to wear your mask when you go there.
STEVE MARTIN CLEANS OUT HIS AWARDS SHELF
Fulfilling a long-held promise to his late friend Roddy McDowall, Steve Martin had a major auction, powered by Julien’s Auctions, to benefit the Motion Picture and Television Fund with 100% of the proceeds going there. So with all the intense jockeying that we see this, and every, awards season, it is a bit of an eye-opener to see the actual worth of some of these awards to a performer who has won them. Among the more than 100 pages of items from Martin’s life and career that went up for grabs last month, a boatload of awards for the comedian went to the highest bidders.
These included his American Cinematheque Award from 2004, both of his Tony Nomination certificates, as well as several Grammy nomination certificates and various music industry awards from NARM, two People’s Choice awards from 1992 and 1993, his American Comedy Award, a couple of WGA awards, his New York Film Critics and National Society of Film Critics Best Actor awards for All of Me, his Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Actor for Roxanne, his Billboard Award, American Guild of Variety Artists Comedy Star of 1977 and 1978 awards, and his Hasty Pudding Award, among many others. His actual Emmys, Grammys, AFI Life Achievement Award and Honorary Oscar were all spared a trip to the auction block thankfully, but his credentials and personal bound script for the Oscar shows he hosted were also part of the items up for sale. Among the highest-grossing items, though, were his script for The Jerk, which went for $26,600, and his trademark white suit from the 1970s for $22,400. For those clawing and scraping their way to awards glory, it might be of interest to know Martin described it all as “squirreled-away memorabilia.”
OSCAR SCREENING-ROOM SCRAPS
At this point in a normal Oscar year, we already would have two thirds of the contenders out there to view, but this is no normal season as a glance at what is available in the Screening Room of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences at this point will tell you. The digital platform The Screening Room is all members have at the moment since the Academy’s lavish theatres are closed to the Coronavirus Pandemic and will continue to be shuttered until at least 2021 begins. To one Academy member to whom I spoke, the majority of movies on view as we head into Fall are not exactly what you would you would call “Oscar bait”, but according to AMPAS President David Rubin’s pep letter to members yesterday, there are already 63 titles on view and more to come (another member though could only count 37 when I asked). Members might be forgiven if they haven’t even heard of many ready for their viewing pleasure including the likes of Emperor, Eurovision Song Contest, Scoob!, Lost Girls, Swallow, Premature, The Other Lamb, Athlete A, and summer drive-in hit The Wretched, but have no fear things are bound to perk up aren’t they? For those hoping for more Oscar-y movies the Fall season can’t come soon enough, but perusing through the list there is The Personal History Of David Copperfield, Emma, Judd Apatow’s The King of Staten Island, Jon Stewart’s underrated Irresistible, a nice indie called Never Rarely Sometimes Always, and others worth a look here and there, but the AMPAS is labeling all these “for Oscar consideration” so get the popcorn ready for The Wretched, Academy voters.
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