TV Eye

The Tweets Tell All

Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris
Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris

What a difference a year makes. After the debacle that was last year's Emmy Awards ceremony, the awards show recognizing excellence in prime-time TV came back with a gentle roar last Sunday. I found the experience particularly interesting, as this was the first year I Twittered during the telecast. After I parsed Tweets and the trade publications following the telecast, a few things came into sharper focus.

First and foremost, TV viewers still exist. While I migrated between three Emmy-related trending topics, I stayed close to the #Emmys2009 hashtag. The bulk of the Tweets were from people who not only know TV but love it. This may not be so surprising, given the audience, but what surprised me is that many of the Twitterers were young people. I can't confirm this, but if their references were any indication, their formative years were in the post-Saved by the Bell era. They "squealed" over the younger presenters (Gossip Girl and The Big Bang Theory actors) but also knew their TV history, as in the appreciative Tweets that appeared for Bob Newhart, who presented the award for Outstanding Comedy Series.

TV viewers appreciate good writing. Okay, either that or TV viewers are a bunch of geeks. I prefer to believe both observations are true. This was clear to me when the typical buzzkill moment of Emmy suits explaining how the awards are tabulated was "interrupted" by the cast of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. The Tweets zoomed in, singing the praises of Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Felicia Day (The Guild), Nathan Fillion (Castle), and the show's creator, Joss Whedon (Dollhouse). For those who don't know, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog won an Emmy at the Creative Arts presentation the week prior for Outstanding Special Class – Short-Format Live-Action Entertainment Programs. The trades were a-Twitter with how this was amazing, given that Dr. Horrible had never been telecast. Oh, my tweedy, well-meaning TV journalist colleagues – it's just a matter of time before this award category migrates to the regular telecast.

More writer-love Tweets appeared when Mad Men creator and writer Matthew Weiner accepted his award for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. TV geeks will be happy to know that Weiner is slated to attend the Austin Film Festival next month, and I have to admit, I now have a writer crush on Weiner and hope to meet him.

TV viewers are not big on reality TV. Or, perhaps better put: TV viewers who are geeky enough to be Twittering during the awards ceremony are not big reality-show fans. Sure, there was general happiness when Jeff Probst won an Emmy for his Survivor hosting duties and even a hurrah or two when The Amazing Race won (for the ... zzzz ... seventh time!). But there was an even louder uproar when the reality segment of the awards show began. In a new twist, the Emmys were presented in blocks – comedy, reality, variety and specials, and drama. I would wager that if someone were measuring the number of Tweets on the trending topic I was following, they went up exponentially during the reality segment, with comments ranging from being bored to hating reality TV altogether.

In accepting his award, Probst offered a flash of class when he threw out early praise for Harris as host, saying, "This is how it should be done." This was, of course, an oblique reference to his role in last year's opening debacle, when five reality show hosts opened the show without a script, for what seemed like five hours of babble. Twittering Emmy viewers uniformly gave high praise to Harris as host, but I was not as impressed. I found him amiable and competent, but "awesome"? Nor was I that bowled over by John Hodgman, who offered "color commentary" following the announcement of the awards. Most will recognize Hodgman as the pudgy PC guy in those very humorous Apple commercials, and while I find him wildly funny, many of his offbeat comments just didn't land squarely. However, I'd love to see him give it another shot next time around. Not so sure about Harris, who some Twitter posters suggested be hired to host the Emmys for life.

For a complete list of Emmy winners, go to cdn.emmys.tv/awards/primetimeawards.php.

Want to know what series premieres are happening tonight? I'm posting Tweets daily @ChronicleTVEye.

As always, stay tuned.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Emmy Awards, Neil Patrick Harris, Joss Whedon, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Tweet, Bob Newhart, Twitter, Matthew Weiner, Mad Men

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