Monday, September 17, 2007

More Emmy thoughts before they start the "get off" music

The Chabad telethon still rules! Sunday’s Emmycast was the second lowest rated in history. And that’s with Joely Fisher practically wearing tassels on her breasts.

I’m surprised many pundits claimed that 30 ROCK was an upset. Not to me. It was funny. It was fresh. And when given the same assignment – Tina Fey proved to be a better writer than Aaron Sorkin.

Actors who star in procedural dramas should be eligible for “Best Exposition” acting awards. Half of what they do is explain technical lab gogglydigook to each other even though they're the only ones on the planet who know it. And the truth is, with a show like CSI you don’t really give a crap whether Gil Grissom finds love, you wanna know who did it and whether the French’s low calorie mustard stain or distinctive Ethiopian Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco gave away the murderer.

I’ve only been to Emmy telecasts so I can’t compare them with other self congrat love fests. But they are thunderously boring to attend. After one hour, a horrible production number led by Donald Trump, the Academy’s salute to Kathy Lee Gifford, and three interminable acceptance speeches half the audience is in the lobby.

Yes, they are hard to produce but the key is a great host. If you have someone who brings it all together you’re more than halfway home. Sunday night’s show seemed very disjointed.

The Golden Globes have better audiences because they can drink, Oscars have better audiences because the awards mean more, the Tonys have real entertainment, and the MTV awards has Britney Spears morphing into the later-years Elvis.

But if you think Sunday’s Emmycast was bad, in 1980 there was an actor’s strike so the host was local Channel 4 news anchor, Kelly Lange. The only actors who appeared were Powers Booth, who broke the picket line to collect his statuette, and some actress flown in from China who was going to be featured in SHOGUN. I sat in the audience that night and the highlight of the evening was losing so I could leave.

The booth announcer Sunday night was Rebecca Riedy. That truly is a thankless job and you’re only recognized if you screw up, which is bound to happen on a live broadcast sometime. When Rebecca mispronounced Katherine Heigl’s name, it wasn’t necessarily her fault. Someone might have given her that wrong pronunciation. In any event, it’s worth taking a moment to salute two of the best booth announcers – Randy Thomas and Neilson Ross. And other than that one mistake Rebecca did a damn fine job.

If you’re familiar with FAMILY GUY, the opening number was a hoot. If you’re not, it was just some smug cartoon characters taking cheap shots at television. To me the fun of that number was the cutaways to Jeremy Piven and other audience members clearly not laughing.

This is Greg Daniels of THE OFFICE. There are probably two million blogs and websites with Emmy coverage. I bet mine is the ONLY one on the entire internet to feature a picture of a writer.

I know I was harsh on the Academy for giving James Gandolfini’s Emmy to James Spader. So let’s say Gandolfini was not even in the mix. Then I would say it was a travesty James Spader beat Hugh Laurie for the Best Actor award.

Ricky Gervais is a BRILLIANT comic actor. But I’ll never be convinced his win wasn’t just a make-up for not recognizing his work on the original OFFICE.

Word is leaking out that this years American League Cy Young Award winner will be Helen Mirren.

Lots of people are blasting Fox for using the show to pimp their schedule, lowlighted by that horrid Wayne Brady SO YOU THINK YOU CAN REMEMBER LYRICS BETTER THAN A FIFTH GRADER (or whatever the hell his show is called) parody. But the truth is EVERY network does that when it’s their turn. If Sunday’s show were on CBS the children from KID NATION would be voicing the ROOTS tribute.

If you’re going to use THE JERSEY BOYS for a tribute at least use the original cast. These guys were impersonating the JERSEY BOYS impersonating the Four Seasons. Or use film clips of other actors impersonating THE SOPRANOS during the songs.

When you watched the IN MEMORIAM piece, how many times did you say, “I didn’t know he/she was dead”?

Don’t you wish Anne Heche had won an award and Ellen DeGeneres had to present it to her?

Considering the dismal ratings and reviews, my guess is Ryan Seacrest will not be asked back. My vote is for Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to host but knowing the Academy it will be Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

33 comments:

D, McEwan said...

Even a non-baseball person like myself still broke up reading about Helen Mirrin's Cy Young Award.

Your Ryan Seacrest-disjointed show remark put me in mind of the most scathing-yet-succint review of HAMLET I ever read. It was 1969 or '70, and Robert Vaughn was playing Hamlet in Pasadena. (Hamlet is a college youth. Vaughn was already way too old for the role.) The critic wrote "HAMLET is the easiest of Shakespeare's plays to produce successfully. All you need is a reasonably good Hamlet, and you're home free. Last night the Pasadena Playhouse opened a wretched production of HAMLET."

In honor of THE SOPRANOS, they should have run NEXT year's "In Memorium" montage. "Here's who ain't gonna be with us next year."

Actually, I hadn't heard aout Jane Wyatt passing, so my first reaction was "No! No! It was Jane WyMAN."

Poor Brett Somers; such lousy timing. She just missed the montage by one day. By the time they run hers next year, people will be saying "Is she STILL dead?"

l.a. guy said...

It's standard practice to put phonetic spellings of any name that might be confusing to pronounce in the script. So this is what Rebecca Riedy read in the script: "HY-gel"

In retrospect "Hi-gull" might have been a better choice. It just shows you how even the smallest detail can bite you in the ass.

Personally I think the writers have about the most thankless task on awards shows. They have to come up with a few sentences for each of the presenters to read. You get varying degrees of cooperation from the "talent", depending on the show and the person. (Note: Do not rely on rappers). If the writers are lucky they'll make it through the whole show without one of the presenters saying "Who writes this crap?" on the air. If the presenter is a "star" then you'll have to contend with their agent/manager/publicist to okay the lines.

As someone who has worked on hundreds of these shows, I can assure you that the Emmys is one of the better ones to attend. At least there are some real awards at stake.

You want real excitement? Go to the "Teen Choice Awards" or "The Scream Awards" or the "Spike Awards" or for that matter last weeks "MTV Awards". These shows exist because a television outlet (cable or otherwise) is exchanging air time to allow a celebrity to promote their next project in exchange for using the collective drawing power of the nominees and presenters to attract an audience and establish a brand for their outlet. Throw in a pre and post show and they get 4-5 hours of content for a comparatively cheap price which they can run into the ground for years to come.

It's a big symbiotic circle jerk. Networks get content, stars get publicity and shows like ET, Extra and E! publicize them because they need something to put on the air.

I don't think the ratings are an indictment of the quality of the Emmys show, just an indication there are a lot more entertainment choices then there use to be. I think the year Ellen Degeneres hosted (and did a great job) was the previous low.

If you want a real challenge I think instead of rewriting a scene, your next writers workshop should brainstorm on how to make The Emmys a better show. Maybe you can produce.

Anonymous said...

I think the Family Guy intro was good, and keeps reminding, as does Conan O Brien, many of the best writers came from animation, or as we say, CARTOONS. It also proved you can have a quick-paced award ceremony musical number (hello Oscars?) that actually has a catchy refrain (based on their "F.C.C." tune from before of course)and yes, got REAL live audience laughs despite having been written and recorded before - best example, the bit with the Sopranos. Real laughs, not forced "must laugh here" reaction shots.

Someone has to finally put the word out, the "Tony Bennet is hip" thing is from more than a DECADE ago. FINISH it already. The Ratpack is also over, we don't need Oceans 19 either. His voice is too thin, his age too obviously painfully showing now, let him please retire gracefully to his mundane painting, rather than forcing the younger stars to be with him, like Aguilera who has to diminish her voice dynamics as she pretend to be about 40 years older than she is just to appear in the same image as Mr. B.

As for Seacrest, on Larry King the night before he was clear, clearly empty and focused on establishing a global brand...He talks about how busy he is with all his productions, whose levels add up to the skill-range demanded of different versions of Top-40 countdown. He is the inverse-Dick Clark. Starting from what shows he inherited and going down from there. He has no reason except to parasitically host or appear on other established show-genres that award emptiness, and promote his "brand", that is, his name, as a talentless parasite, that appears on other shows, giving awards to similar hacks... ad infinitum. Should work well...

DrBear said...

The first thing to do to get an audience for the Emmys is to restrict them to broadcast TV, or at least basic cable. The vast majority of viewers don't have HBO, not because we can't get it but because we can't justify paying that much for one or two shows and getting a steady diet of "C.H.U.D." the rest of the time. For us, an Emmys show where most of the awards go to HBO is as meaningful as an Oscars where most of the awards go to Bollywood's latest.

Sebastian said...

I think Ray Romano captured it best when he said that the Soprano's ending was like sex for him. 30 Seconds, lights out and your wife asks "What? That's all? That's what I waited 9 months for?"

The censoring was ridiculous by the way. I would've loved to hear what Ray had to say about Patricia's new gig with Frasier :-)

That's why I loved to see Katherine Heigl clearly mouth "shit" on the air with the censor reacting a little bit too late. Poor guy. At least he didn't have to pronounce her name right :-D

By the way I wonder why you didn't mention how over-hyped Ugly Betty is. I hate that show, can't stand it, and half the audience (female+gay) is flipping out every time they mentioned that show and when when they won an awards.

The only thing I got from watching the awards is that it made me want to watch Wounded Knee. Seems I missed out on something.

Kari said...

Bravo on the Greg Daniels pic, Ken. And you're right. It's nice to see him recognized.

Diogo said...

I still defend that James Spader deserved the emmy, for the long closings alone. those things must be several pages long, and what those speeches say should, sometimes, be carefully listened to. there is some great writting in there. Hugh Laurie is good, but I can not honestly differ a season from house from the next, and yet, it gets put in a category somewhat above the other procedural dramas, when we all know that, if it wasn't for Hugh's performance the show would not be worth much more than that crappy NCIS thing, because truly that writting it is not THAT good, at least not in comparison to the shows regard. people forget now, but David Shore tried to introduce the medical procedural before with the Andre Braugher show "Gideon's crossing", and that lasted about 5 secconds. it is only when he altered the character, and gave him the stick and the sarccasm that people started to watch.

Mary Stella said...

This is Greg Daniels of THE OFFICE. There are probably two million blogs and websites with Emmy coverage. I bet mine is the ONLY one on the entire internet to feature a picture of a writer.

I wanted to give him a second Emmy for "Best Acceptance Speech at the Emmy Awards". I loved the whole Little Red Hen set-up.

Anonymous said...

Ken,

You've won! Aaron Sorkin will probably NEVER work in TV again. He'll be back on the mushrooms and dead in an alley with a shopping cart next to him in no time.

You've won! You can stop making him a target now.

R.A. Porter said...

Diogo, I don't have a horse in this race, but you seem to be contradicting yourself.

You defend Spader's win (and I think he's a fine actor as well) for "the long closings alone. those things must be several pages long, and what those speeches say should, sometimes, be carefully listened to. there is some great writing in there." (emphasis mine)

Then you contrast with Laurie by saying: "we all know that, if it wasn't for Hugh's performance the show would not be worth much more than that crappy NCIS thing, because truly that writing is not THAT good". (emphasis mine again)

It is an acting award after all. If Hugh Laurie is raising the level of a show from crap to quality, and James Spader is only doing a professional job with "great writing", then by your own arguments it seems the nod should go to Laurie.

Charles said...

Diogo, I think you're arguing against your own point. What your post clearly said was that Spader deserved the Emmy because the writing is great on his show, but Laurie elevates the show above poor scripts by virtue of his performance.

Seems to me that that's saying Laurie deserved the award more than Spader; good writing was honored in a different category.

Diogo said...

I know, but my point was, House is JUST that. I recognize Hugh's performance, but, as much as it is a continued performance (as a television one should be), I don't notice any difference between the first season house and the 3rd season house, so, for my money, he can pretty much win next year, or the year after, but Boston legal is a different story. it got renewed by its nails and it has less than half the house ratings, so who knows if it will be around a year from now? in theory house is the kind of show that probably will be a double digit series before it runs out of steam. since Boston legal and therefore James Spader might not have that many years of Alan Shore left, and believing as I do that he delivers continued great performances, it does not shock me that those who are involved in mega hits get left behind for a year or 2, although, their quality is similar.

Mr. Hollywood said...

I'll take Tony Bennett at 100 over today's group of so-called "singers" who just scream lyrics ... and as for lyrics ... does anyone know how to write a romantic ballad anymore? To me rap is crap. Call me an old fart but there's not much talent out there today...

jbryant said...

Aren't the acting nominations based on single episodes submitted for each actor? Is it possible that Spader's episode featured him in a more effective way than did Gandolfini's or Laurie's? Obviously, this kind of thing is always subjective, but perhaps even more so when you're given a choice of several talented performers, all of whom excel in their roles. Or maybe Spader sent all the voters an iPhone.

tb said...

I agree with drbear. It just isn't a level playing field, broadcast vs. cable.

MattDW said...

That Jersey Boys segment was the tackiest, most ridiculous thing I've seen on an awards show since Rob Lowe sang with Snow White.

Alto2 said...

I despise 30 Rock. Can't stand to look at or listen to Alec Baldwin. I think Tracy Whathisname's character is an insult. Tina Fey's character is insipid. I cannot believe people like this show. Blech.

I want to see Studio 60 come back. Now!

Diogo said...

so, I'm not alone in liking Aaron Sorkin in this blog. Amen to that. 30 rock has the destinction of being in a 2nd season when people are not actually watching. it has like a share of 5, they even joked about it in there speech. Studio 60 was great!

Anonymous said...

I love Sorkin, too. He gave me "The West Wing" and "Sports Night" and I'll always be grateful for that. How many writers have created TWO great television shows? Plus everyone I know can quote the hell out of "A Few Good Men".

He's got "Charlie Wilson's War" coming out this year, which stars freaking Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. Even Ken wants to see it.

You have to ignore Ken when it comes to Sorkin. He can't help but make it personal so his opinions about the work are, unfortunately, unreliable.

--SD

Ken Levine said...

You folks are missing my point about Sorkin... or maybe I just didn't present it clearly enough. STUDIO 60 and 30 ROCK had basically the same premise -- behind-the-scenes at an SNL type show. Sorkin got all the press, all the hype, all the NBC love. Fey was the unwanted step-child. And yet, in this case, Fey pulled it off whereas Sorkin did not. You may favor one over the other but look at the scoreboard. Fey wins best comedy of the year and Sorkin is canceled.

Also, there is a misconception that I hate Aaron Sorkin. I do not. Never have. Go back through the archives and read what I've said. Read how I was a huge fan of WEST WING, I look forward to his future projects, and was hoping that he'd be able to make the necessary course corrections to save STUDIO 60. I believe the failure of that series was that it just wasn't the right arena for him to tackle, but I have always said he's a brilliant writer.

Diogo said...

one thing I noticed is, the amount of story in a Sorkin script it is really minimal. It is really all about language. I always regretted that he always showed us backstage stuff (brilliantly), but than when we would start to see the result of what was being talked about, the episode would end (in the west wing as well). but that language, it really draws you in. regardless of your opinions for him Ken, you have to admit, it must be pretty thrilling for a writter to get that kind of references and language on prime time network tv. Comedy had it too, Frasier was a perfect example. It was once described as "the thinking Man's "Friends"). alas both those shows are no more.

Anonymous said...

Tony Bennett, now, today, on Emmy night, still sang the song better, interpreted the lyrics better, & didn't mangle the melody... unlike his hip young female cohort, who was busy showing off her admittedly perfect pitch, but doing no justice to the subtleties of the song.

As a proud owner of a defunct CableAce Award, I still say the year I won, in '91, featured an awards show that, even though it later became a punchline, was ten times more exciting than this year's Emmys. Everybody seemed excited to be there. And the star lineup was incredible. Even an Ali tribute.

Mary Stella said...

I love Sorkin, too. He gave me "The West Wing" and "Sports Night" and I'll always be grateful for that. How many writers have created TWO great television shows? Plus everyone I know can quote the hell out of "A Few Good Men".

He also gave us American President -- a movie I love every time I watch it.

I wish Studio 60 had measured up to his usual brilliance.

Anonymous said...

He also gave us American President -- a movie I love every time I watch it.

Clearly this is a true fan of the movie, because she avoids using the awful The that was stuck onto this title when the film came out, as opposed to the much more elegant and meaningful An that was used during production.

Obviously the germ of The West Wing was the script of An American President, and the movie should get more recognition as such.

The Crutnacker said...

Why does Jeremy Piven look like he's on his fifth speedball of the evening every time I see him? He was sweating more than Rosie O'Donnell in a sauna threeway.

The Crutnacker said...

This just in, Helen Mirren has been nominated as our new Attorney General.

The Crutnacker said...

My feeling from the Emmys is it is sad to be working at a dead end job and see that two college classmates are working on Emmy nominated shows (The Office and Boston Legal).

Personally, I wanted Studio 60 to succeed. Unfortunately, Sorkin forgot.....

a) No late night show is that important to a network
b) A show about a comedy should have some comedy
c) Nobody cares about the sex life of a network executive.
d) No network executive would spend all his time at an SNL show
e) Most people in an SNL type show are busy trying to turn their characters into a low budget movie, not trying to take a stand against a racist judge
f) Tina Fey used to be a head writer for SNL.

Anonymous said...

Tina Fey used to be a head writer...

That never proved anything - the list of original cast and later SNL writers and players going on to tv or other projects isn't a strong argument.

As for Sorkin, as long as there is such crap on TV, the Charlie Sheen stuff and such, there is no logic as to why his couldn't move further on in development. Be that as it may, he could have just gone to HBO and it would have been easier for everyone.

As for Tony Bennet - perfect pitch and phrasing he most certainly did not have, he jus whispered out words, and he barely caught his breath and maintained timing as he was moving while singing. If you need old people to assure you the world is fine and timeless, make sure they don't look ready to drop off, with their stunned granpa expression, ill fitting toupee and all the usual acoutrements of a long ago entertainer sell-by date...

R.A. Porter said...

Two and a Half Men gets much better ratings than Studio 60 did, requires a fraction of the budget, and will make a crapload in syndication. Even if you thought Sorkin hadn't missed his mark by miles and miles (which I certainly did as I turned off the pilot with ten minutes left) television is first and foremost a business.

Fabiola Thing said...

I love 30 Rock AND Studio 60. However, 30 Rock is funny and entertaining, Studio 60 was just Sorkin preaching from his pulpit. I just happened to attend Sorkin's church, hence the love. Nevertheless, the show was merely an excuse for him to sound off.

I know what the Cy Young Award is, but could someone please explain the Helen Mirren/ Cy Young thing? Thank you.

Plus, I gotta agree with anonymous @3:06 AM about Mr. B. Tony, hang up your toupee and relax.

jbryant said...

anonymous, what Tina Fey's SNL experience proves is that she knows her subject. Even when 30 Rock veers off into total absurdity, it feels more believable than Studio 60 did. I got the impression Sorkin was trying to shoehorn his usual concerns into a premise that wasn't suited to them. Then again, I gave up after the first episode (a Gilbert and Sullivan parody? Really?), so for all I know it was genius thereafter.

jbryant said...

Jeez, you know it's not like Tony Bennett came out and wet himself or drooled all over the mike. He's still in pretty good voice, especially for an 81-year-old, and he can still hit notes that most guys his age can't even hear anymore. I didn't see his special -- maybe all its Emmy wins were due to nostalgia and sentiment -- but I don't think that aging artists should be treated any differently than young ones. If you're not interested, ignore them. If enough people feel the same way, that'll be that. But a legend is a legend, even if some think he's overstayed his welcome. Why should he go gentle into that good night? Sing till you drop, Tony!

Sebastian said...

Harriet Hayes killed Studio 60.

The show, in parts, was unbearable to watch. It had me cringing and wimpering and yelling at the screen so that person, who had no chemistry with her supposed love-interest (and vice versa) would finally shut up about her religion.

The line that finally killed Studio 60 for me was "let me teach you" (how to pray). Totally idiotic.

Sorkin definately drove that show directly into a wall, despite the great acting of Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry. I really liked all aspects of the show but both Whitford and Peet as well as Perry and Paulson did not have any chemistry at all. Sorkin doesn't know how to do romance - that's just it if you ask me. All the other stuff was great. Unfortunately there wasn't much other stuff.

I hate it that both Nathan and Rob Corddry bombed last year.

But I also wanted to add that "Drive" was even worse than "Studio 60" as well as "Painkiller Jane". Horrible shows :-)