Can Emmy Get Hip?
The circle has been broken. Multi-Emmy winners like Dennis Franz and John Lithgow stayed in their seats as new faces were called to the podium in an Emmy ceremony that was actually enjoyable to watch. Some credit goes to the new voting process, which allowed Emmy voters to cast ballots by mail after reviewing nominee tapes from home. The old method sequestered voters for a long weekend at a Beverly Hills hotel, where all nominated shows were reviewed and votes cast en masse. Opponents of the new system claimed it would cast an evil cloud over the Emmys and that the world as we know it would crumble under our feet. So far, the most dramatic result of the new process was an increased voting pool. Under the old system, about 1,200 votes were cast. Under the new one, the number was somewhere between 2,500 and 3,000 according to industry sources. The increased voting block was assumed to be younger and hipper. Maybe yes, maybe no. You be the judge.
The first awards were for best supporting players in a comedy. Though I predicted Emmy would reward David Hyde Pierce for Frasier again and Jennifer Aniston for Friends, it was Sean Hayes and Megan Mullally from Will & Grace who walked away with trophies. Clare's choice was Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts from Everybody Loves Raymond, but I was pleased with the Mullally-Hayes selection.
In the drama series, Clare went with Allison Janney from The West Wing for best supporting actress, and so did Emmy. Janney earned props by offering a heartfelt tribute to the late Nancy Marchand, who was also nominated for The Sopranos. I predicted that a West Wing actor would get the trophy for supporting actor in a drama, but instead of John Spencer, Emmy chose Richard Schiff.
I predicted Martin Sheen would win outstanding lead actor for The West Wing, but the trophy went to James Gandolfini of The Sopranos. (Yes!) Although Clare's choice was Eric McCormack from Will & Grace for best lead actor in a comedy, Michael J. Fox was the sentimental winner.
The biggest whoop in my living room came when Patricia Heaton won best lead actress in a comedy for Everybody Loves Raymond. For grins, Clare's choice was Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and the City, but I was thrilled that Heaton, an overlooked talent, was selected. I wasn't so thrilled with the choice of Sela Ward from Once and Again for best lead actress in a drama. Clare's choice was Edie Falco from The Sopranos, but hey, last year was her year.
Though Clare's choice for outstanding comedy series was Everybody Loves Raymond, I predicted that Frasier would again take the trophy. Instead, the Emmy went to Will & Grace. Clare symbolically picked Freaks and Geeks for outstanding drama, and predicted that Emmy would go with The West Wing, which she did. But unlike last year, when the mediocre The Practice walked away with the award that should have gone to The Sopranos -- and because Emmy seems to have a blind spot when it comes to cable series -- this year's West Wing selection was an admirable choice.
In the pre- and post-Emmy press, speculation about the potential for Emmy to change with the times was discussed. Would or could the Emmys ever reflect, or at least acknowledge, current TV trends, or would it continue to ignore them like it tried to ignore cable television and the Fox Network? Not that every new thing that hits the screen, like the new reality series, are worthy of recognition, but look at what's been overlooked. In the dichotomous Emmy world, where do hybrids like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, Freaks and Geeks, or even the one reality show of merit -- Fox's American High -- go? (Never heard of it? It was canned after a handful of episodes.) I have no clear-cut solutions, but if the Emmy folks would like to send me and a bunch of people to a Beverly Hills hotel to commiserate on the subject, I think I can be persuaded.
I know you're out there. I hear your confessions at parties and see you pretend not to pine over series-related merchandise at Tower Records. You know who you are, you Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans, you! Come out into the sunlight, Buff-sters! Claim your inner slayer (or watcher). You're not going to turn to dust like a demon vampire.
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are
Out or not, Buffy fans will gather around their TVs this Tuesday for the season premiere of Buffy and its spinoff, Angel. In case you've not kept up with what's in store for the Joss Whedon series -- and don't mind a couple of spoilers -- here's the 411:
The biggest news is the casting of Michelle Trachtenberg (Harriet the Spy) as Buffy's new little sister Dawn. She'll show up right away, but her appearance isn't explained until the fifth episode. Other cast additions include Clare Kramer (Bring It On) as "a major villain." As mentioned in an earlier "TV Eye," Juliet Landau is in talks to reprise her role as Drusilla on Buffy and/or Angel. Buffy the Vampire Slayer airs Tuesday at 7pm, followed by Angel at 8pm, on the WB.
Live Free or Die is the next feature in the PBS documentary series POV (Point Of View). It follows Dr. Wayne Goldner, a OB/GYN who delivers babies, volunteers his time to teach abstinence-based sex education classes in his Bedford, New Hampshire, community, and performs abortions. His life and work go unnoticed until he leads an effort to undo a merger between the Eliot Hospital in nearby Manchester with the Catholic Medical Center. Because the Catholic Church condemns abortion, Goldner believes the merger is a threat to women's reproductive health services at Eliot. His concerns become reality when the hospital refuses to allow a patient to receive an emergency abortion when she begins to miscarry. The reason: The fetus still has a heartbeat. Threatened with expulsion or worse should he perform the abortion, he sends the woman by private car to a hospital 80 miles away to receive the life-saving procedure.
Stand Up and Be Counted
Goldner becomes a target for local anti-abortion protesters, and things get ugly when he begins to receive hate mail and is dismissed from teaching in the schools because of "safety concerns." While Goldner emerges as a tireless activist in the film, Live Free or Die is also a portrait of a shameful community which claims to support him and his work while doing nothing against the vocal minority who work to silence him. Live Free or Die airs Tuesday, Sept. 26, 10pm, on PBS affiliate KLRU.
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