Cable Wins, Reality Loses
The 60th annual Emmy Awards were handed out last week. I won't rehash what was already said about the show – it's strange to me how most of the entertainment media I read say nearly the same thing! Were they watching the show I was watching? Yes, it was long and at times unbearable. That, I agree with. But there were some memorable moments:
Tina Fey as prom queen of the night. Fey walked away with three Emmys (one for writing, one for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series on 30 Rock, the third for a guest appearance on Saturday Night Live). I find it perplexing that some people can't stand her. What's not to like?
The special Emmy Award for Tommy Smothers. Back in the late 1960s, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was canceled because it was too political, as it commented about the war, sexuality, religion, and other taboo subjects. Nonetheless, the show was nominated for and won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program in 1968. But Tommy Smothers did not receive his award because when it came time to submit names, he told his fellow writers to leave his name off the ballot because it would only hurt them. So it was touching when Steve Martin, who was a young writer on the series, presented Smothers his long-overdue Emmy. Smothers appeared shaken and was given all the time he needed to give his acceptance speech. He used his moment, somewhat clumsily, to defend free speech and to say it was time to speak truth to power. It was one of many moments when award-winners referred to the current political climate: Laura Linney (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries, John Adams) urged viewers to vote, and Jon Stewart (Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart) flatly stated he was sick of this administration, while several others took mild swipes at Sarah Palin.
Some will blame it on the writers' strike, but let's face it: Some of the best TV came from the cable networks. There were well-deserved wins for cable show Mad Men (Outstanding Drama Series) and for cable actors Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Zeljko Ivanek (Damages), who walked away with trophies for Outstanding Lead Actor and Outstanding Supporting Actor, respectively. I was also pleased to see Glenn Close receive the Outstanding Lead Actress award for her hair-raising performance in Damages.
The painful, weird, and curious:
Yes, you've probably heard and read about it already, and it's true. The opening "bit" by the five reality-show hosts nominated for Outstanding Host for a Reality Program was the most painful thing I've seen on TV since the late, great Bette Davis appeared as an addled presenter at the Academy Awards ceremony in the late 1980s. Apparently, the hosts were ad-libbing – proving, once again, the value of writers. Although reality TV was given more visibility at this year's ceremony, the reception was tepid at best, made even more uncomfortable by the nominated reality-show hosts periodically giving thanks for being included in the TV industry family.
Josh Groban singing a medley of TV theme songs from the past. Just typing that makes me cringe.
When film director Barry Sonnenfeld accepted his award for Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (Pushing Daisies), he finished his acceptance speech by shouting out, "Fear the Internet, and love TV." When Tina Fey accepted the award on behalf of 30 Rock as Outstanding Comedy Series, she not only mentioned the day and time the show airs but also named the various websites at which 30 Rock could be viewed online. Perhaps someone should help Sonnenfeld board the next stagecoach to the 21st century.
Ah well. There's always next year ... and it's going to take at least a year to erase the memory of this year's ceremony.
It was announced last week that all charges against the arrested journalists covering the protests outside the Republican National Convention were dropped (see "TV Eye," Sept. 12).
And finally: The first one-on-one debate between Barack Obama and John McCain airs Friday, Sept. 26, on all broadcast networks. PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer moderates the event, held at the University of Mississippi. The main topics will be foreign policy and national security. The first debate between VP picks Joe Biden and Sarah Palin takes place Oct. 2.
As always, stay tuned.
E-mail Belinda Acosta at firstname.lastname@example.org.