Thursday, July 19, 2018

An Emmy for Megan?

The most interesting Emmy question for me is whether Megan Amram wins.


Megan Amram is a TV writer with impressive credits (THE GOOD PLACE, SILICON VALLEY, THE SIMPSONS, PARKS & REC). She may have figured a way to practically steal an Emmy. There is a category called “Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series” and one for “Outstanding Series.” Essentially a six-episode web series. Anyone can mount one of those.

Megan figured that if she did a web series that qualified she could win an Emmy. The title of her series clearly tells you her intent. AN EMMY FOR MEGAN. The whole point of this exercise is to win an Emmy.  Credit her for an ingenious idea. 

And because Megan is in the business she was able to get cameo appearances from such Hollywood luminaries as Ted Danson, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Rogen, Rian Johson, and even J.J. Abrams. Plus, she’s well enough connected in the community that I’m sure she has plenty of Academy member friends who voted her in.  These same friends will doubtless vote for her to win.   So she probably will.  

All of this is fun. And her website is amusing. But if she wins, I think it makes the Television Academy look like idiots. If someone can beat the system as a goof that easily and actually walk away with an Emmy then the award itself is cheapened and the credibility of the Academy comes seriously into question.

Once the TV Academy starts letting web series with minimal requirements eligible for Emmys then the whole award means nothing. It is supposed to represent excellence in television. If GAME OF THRONES receives the same award as some amateur prankster making a homemade video how prestigious is the award? Jesus. Even the Golden Globes don’t give out statues for home movies.

The television landscape is changing, that’s for sure. More platforms, more ways to watch. It's clearly a dilemma for the Academy.   My heart goes out to them.   But they better find a way to preserve the honor and dignity of Emmys or they’ll just become trinkets you can buy for the price of six five-minute episodes.  Actually, they don't even have to be that long.  


Janet Ybarra said...

What is her series about? Is it a quality series despite the joke packaging?

You are right that her win could cheapen the Emmys. I would also submit that in the process Megan Amram will be the one cheapened.

She will become the Milli Vanilli of sorts of the Emmys. The Emmy with an asterisk. Perhaps today she will seem clever but I don't believe history will be as kind to such behavior.

Pat Reeder said...

Maybe the Emmy Awards need to tighten their requirements, but don't let them go the way of the Grammy Awards and shut out anything innovative. I'm more familiar with their practices, since my wife is a retro jazz singer who's had two albums up for consideration in Traditional Pop Vocal that have been passed over mostly in favor of big name, major label schlock. The people behind the Grammies seem determined to insure that no indie artist is ever nominated in anything other than the smallest niche categories (even though 99% of the music worth listening to is made by indies these days.) Every time an indie artist breaks through with a nomination, they change the rules the next year to make it impossible to do whatever it was that person did to get noticed. Between all their committee deck-stacking and insider "wild card" nominations, one artist can get more votes than anyone else and not be nominated while another who didn't even make the top 10 in votes does get a nomination. It's rendered the whole award concept meaningless. If you're baffled why the Grammy Awards have degenerated into three hours of unlistenable dreck, and why awards for the Best in Music" go to stuff nobody over 14 would listen to if you paid them, wonder no more.

Rashad Khan said...

Aren't the Emmys just trinkets anyway? Whatever. I still want one. ("An Emmy for Rashad"?)

Jim said...

Great blog, in the sense that you started by praising her and when you said "Credit her for an ingenious idea." I was like.... "what idea?" Looks like con job to me. What about those who really deserve to win? Why is Ken rooting for her?

Then you made your stand clear. High time new rules are framed to keep out these humbugs with no talent who try to browbeat the system with their cunningness.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I will be really interested to see what happens with this.

In the meantime, a request that really has nothing to do with you: Earl Pomerantz's blog abruptly disappeared yesterday. As in, Blogspot claims it has been removed in its entirety. I'm guessing it's a technical glitch, like the domain has expired or something. If he were ill, or worse (god forbid) I think a relative would have come and posted something, and if Earl had decided to continue it I'm fairly sure he'd have penned a witty farewell. But...if there's anything you can do to help get it back?


Chris said...

Yes, yes, and yes. As an Academy member and serious voter (or one who at least takes his vote seriously), I agree wholeheartedly. And while we're at it, can we talk about the comedy categories in general? I mean I absolutely LOVE Donald Glover's work on "Atlanta," and even voted for him last year, but I sure wish I could have laughed more at the 2nd season. "The Good Place," "The Middle," and I hate to admit it, even "Modern Family" (which I now actively despise) gave me more laughs.

Ricky said...

I read the Vanity Fair article

So full of her, no humility but just naked ambition to grab an award. And more than the award is her need to be recognized and wanting to be dressed by some famous designer. Clearly she is not someone who has put in an effort to create some great series. Just using her connections to get a few famous faces in her series and now literally begging for an award.

Her tweets are totally cringeworthy.

She is no better than Harvey Weinstein sending his minions to retirement homes to coerce old people to vote for his movie or actresses who tattooed Harvey's name to kiss his ass to get an Oscar. Or even that thespian who called Harvey as "God".

Brian said...

"These same friends will doubtless vote for her to win" - What friends?

Just because she got x y z to do cameo appearances means absolutely nothing. These "luminaries" (as you call them) are just typical show business folks who will star in anything. Of course they would have known that this prank will get the series and their mugs some airtime on TV or some talk in the media. We live in a world where famous people want to be always in the news, no matter what.

"well enough connected in the community" - so are others.

Her series seems pathetic from what you describe. And for all the reasons you say and to set an example, Academy will make sure she doesn't win. The voters too, wont simply shoo her in. It will make the whole community a laughing stock.

Remember that lady who cooked for the Golden Globe voters and won or another actress whose husband "bought" her the award. Even now no one has forgotten that and that has made GG a laughing stock, not to mention Ricky Gervais bringing it up whenever he hosted.

E. Yarber said...

The problem is that too many people look at their goal as "Beating the system," not "Doing the work."

There used to be a guy who drove up and down Hollywood Boulevard in a car with his name and "Hire me!" written all over it. He may still be pulling that gag, for all I know. I actually had clients who admired that guy and felt he represented the never-say-die spirit of a wannabe doing Anything to Make It in the business where Anything Can Happen Overnight. When I lived by Television City, I'd walk to Farmer's Market for breakfast and see a guy in a bird suit jumping up and down at the entrance to the parking lot holding a sign saying "I'm Your Next Superstar!" He actually felt that eventually some executive would stop his limo and invite him in, handing him a career to reward his stunt.

Too many times people would pay me to help them become writers, then expect me to give them a gimmick that would enable them to "Get into the system." I'd try to explain to them that there is no gimmick, any more than you can fake getting into the system as a doctor or engineer. The entertainment business is not some indulgent cool-kids club where you're rewarded for being adorable and spunky. You're paid to work long hours pushing yourself to the limit until you've produced something worth being filmed by a cast and crew.

Invariably, the clients who wanted gimmicks would crack as I tried to push them to improve their work. I can't tell you how many times I've heard cries of "This is too HARD! Maybe the first draft will be good enough!" When I tried to explain some aspect of the creative process to them, they'd brush me off saying, "I don't need to complicate things like that. I just want to do enough to succeed." They thought it was somehow possible to do a bare minimum to get the rewards professional writers receive for their effort, as though you could somehow sneak into a career instead of getting ahead by working harder than anyone else. I couldn't do anything for them, though they'd naturally blame me for their failure.

So, yeah, this gimmick you describe kind of sits badly on my stomach. My clients would love hearing that it's all about having famous friends support you on a prank to win an award for achievement rather than achieving something worth respecting. It demeans the entire profession, but there are always lots of people who feel the problem is that the bar isn't low enough for someone to easily grab the rewards everyone wants.

Eric J said...

How about a separate award by the same Academy for alternative technologies? A step sister to the Emmy. It would earn some of the prestige of the Academy, but not be mistaken for or dilute the Emmy.

Name it after a key piece of technology for computer videos just as the Emmy was named after a key piece of television technology.

Bobaloo said...

I think her series is hilarious and she followed the rules. How does it compare to the other nominees? Isn't that the criteria? If anything, I think the Academy should be getting more push back here, not Megan.

Tony said...

Wow, quite surprised at the vitriol in these comments. For everyone who thinks this shouldn't win: name a better short form series you think should win instead. Megan is a super talented writer and I thought this was a genuinely funny series when it came out. (If you watched this series and it made you mad, I'm sorry to inform you that you didn't get the joke.)

Jeff Grant said...

I watched all of this web series a couple months ago when she put it out and thought it was funny. I'm not in the industry and I can see how it would bother hard working creatives but I like how it's such a naked attempt at an Emmy. I've never read the bare minimum requirements to win one so I guess I learned that from the series. I have to say, as an outsider, I'm rooting for her. It may cheapen the award but at least it calls out how "easy" it is to be nominated (in this weird category). It seems like it would inspire the academy to look at the requirements a little closer and maybe update them. To me the whole thing is about a clever person finding a loophole. It's more about paying attention to the rules than anything else (though it definitely made me laugh). We'll see what happens.

Mark said...

This is for everybody. Could someone who's knowledgeable about the business of TV take a look at this Netflix thread

It's about a series of articles that are getting a lot of love from people like Felix Salmon but I'm afraid the author may have been swept up in the hype.

Covarr said...

I haven't seen this web series itself, so I can't really comment on it, but as for the idea, I don't think there's any intrinsic problem with short-form content winning awards; some such content can be VERY will written, well acted, etc. And that's what the Emmy is about, right? Quality, not quantity?

It's only cheapened if shoddy content can win, and shoddy content can only win if there isn't enough good content in that space. Therefore, it seems to me that the solution to this problem is more competition in this field. More people and studios making short-form web shows. I'm glad short-form content can win Emmys, and I eagerly await the industry taking short-form content (and short-form Emmy categories) more seriously.

Keith Nichols said...

I suppose Ms Amram's effort will be judged by the criteria the judges have established, and if the criteria are revealed as inadequate, they will be changed or the category eliminated. People in "bird suits" can be found in almost any profession, and they fade quickly away and are replaced before they do much damage. Donald Trump is an example of a bird-suited mischief-maker whose hold on our attention will be brief in the history of world politics, even though it's painful for those who have to suffer his massive errors while he's here. But we hope our criteria for who holds power will be adjusted to prevent bird-suits sneaking into our halls of state.

Dhruv said...

Hi Ken,

Question on your podcast.

You put so much effort on each one, so why not post it on multiple platforms?

Like apart from here, why not just shoot it as a video (nothing fancy) and post it on your YouTube channel (you can create one if you don't have one).
Lots of views now and also will pop up in the search, whenever anyone searches any of the keywords of the interview in the future.

There is a huge audience out there for these TV/movie related discussions and insights from someone as experienced as you. Will earn you some money too as the views accumulate.

Also you can give a link to each of your videos on your Twitter.

Once someone gets hooked to your content, then surely they will keep coming back, they will tell their friends and also once more views accumulate then, YouTube automatically recommends your videos to others who are viewing similar content and directs them to your videos.

Just had this thought.... so wanted to share.

JED said...

Off this topic - Here's an idea for a New Yorker-style cartoon for you to draw, Ken. It would show the leaders of the United States and Russia (I can't bring myself to write their names) entering a room with all of their advisers, recording secretaries, photographers and TV cameras waiting outside. And the sign on the door is, "No Collusion!"

If you can figure out how to get that whole mess into one panel, I bet they'd accept it.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

This is why winning an Emmy by a popular vote is wrong.
The Television Academy should institute an Electoral College.

iamr4man said...

As I was reading today’s post the Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show song “Cover of the Rolling Stone” song started “playing” in my head. I hadn’t thought of that song for many years.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Ken: Dhruv there has a valid point. A *lot* of younger people listen to all their music on YouTube, so putting podcasts there (which some of the popular ones, like Rogan, do) makes a lot of sense, even if you don't want to include visuals. (A still image of you in the studio would probably be sufficient.)


Anonymous said...

Earl B writes:

Never heard of this woman or her show before reading this blog entry, but I have to wonder: could this be an elaborate prank or exercise in (if I'm using the term correctly) viral marketing? I haven't watched the Emmys in years, but this kind of makes me want to tune in.

And if it is on the level, I think Eric J has the right idea: make up a not-quite-Emmy-level award as an acknowledgement (maybe call it the "Nice Try" or "We Saw What You Did There" award).

Janet Ybarra said...

I haven't seen the series so I can't say whether the series is funny or not. But the title and apparent intent seems to scream "Stunt!" and I think that is what the problem many of us here have.

Ted said...

"Family Guy" recently did an episode based on the idea that they were trying to win an Emmy. I think even their biggest fans would agree that it was terrible -- it was basically just the main characters doing bad satires of other TV shows, shot through with Seth MacFarlane's obvious resentment over not getting the respect he feels he deserves from the television establishment.

Dhruv said...

Thanks Wendy M. Grossman :)

Actually this flashed to me when I was going thru the comments of some of the videos that lists Top 10 movies of various genres.
The comments section is full of comments from people around the world who are interested in movies.

I remembered once Ken posted his Top 10 movies about Hollywood. It was a great blog. I thought what if Ken were to a make a video of that blog with some visuals of those movies and uploaded?

This blog is read mostly by people in the same line of work and few like me who chanced upon this blog. And most of the readers are from western countries, again few like me are exceptions. But on YouTube where so many keep searching for videos related to TV/movies, Ken's videos will surely be a hit. The reach of YouTube is far wider than the blog.

Also, ease of search:
When any topic that Ken talks about is searched on Google, this blog comes up only when "Ken Levine" is added to the keywords.

But if it was a video on YouTube then the chances of the videos showing up near the top of YouTube search is more, with no need to search using his name.

Anyway your wish Ken.

This is a link of a TV/movie related YouTube channel for reference:

Diane D. said...

Although it is a Prime Time Emmy Award, it isn’t presented at the PTEA Show. It’s presented at the Creative Arts Emmy Award Show. That should be some consolation for those who are so offended by the whole idea. I just watched all 6 episodes in less than 30 minutes. It does seem a little odd that it was even nominated (because of the home movie feel), but I must say I thought it was very funny. If you have no quarrel with the genre, I’m a little puzzled why this particular series would be less worthy than any other in the same genre (I’ve never seen another series). I feel more offended, on all your behalf, that such a category exists—-to think that the same Award is given to Ken Levine for CHEERS is just hard to swallow.

Janet Ybarra said...

Diane, the quarrel is that based on her title Ms. Amram just seems like a gimmick grab an Emmy. The question is why you felt the need to take a gratuititous swipe at poor Ken.

Joseph Finn said...

It's a quality series that's very funny and very well done. Nothing about her winning would cheapen the Emmys.

E. Yarber said...

I've decided to compile my online job bids and sell them on Kindle as a humor anthology.

Diane D. said...

Janet Ybarra
I didn’t take a swipe at Ken. I gave him a compliment. In the first part of that sentence I said I was offended on his behalf that such a category exists—where someone who creates 3 minute sketches with one main character can win the same prize Ken Levine won for creating one of the greatest sitcoms ever. It feels outrageous, no matter how good the little sketches are.

I must not have made that clear.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I don’t know the nuances of making podcasts available. I used the indie app Breaker to search for your podcasts and they popped right up. Is this unusual? Do you make money when I access it? As I understand it, my Breaker “friends” will see I listened. This is supposed to help you be popular. Can people make a living podcasting?

Janet Ybarra said...

I apologise, then... I misunderstood the thrust of your statement.

Janet Ybarra said...

It takes a lot of work to make a living at podcasting. You basically have to monetize it as you would a radio show and sell sponsorships and ads within the podcast itself and on the website the podcast lives on.

To do so successfully, however, requires being able to deliver a large audience (if you want the kind of income to live on).

An example of what I'm talking about would be the "Mike O'Meara Show," a daily podcast that was born out out of the old "Don And Mike" syndicated radio show.

Ricky said...

Diane D,

She has 2 nominations so will be going for both the award shows.

“I hope I get to go to both days, cause I feel like I deserve two different parties,” Amram said.

Janet Ybarra said...

"Deserve two different parties."?

I'm sorry, her series could be the funniest thing on the planet... that quote is unmitigated gall...

Terrence Moss said...

The Emmys are an absolute mess right now and I see no signs that they'll ever right their ship.

Diane D. said...

Joseph Finn
It just doesn’t seem like it should be that easy to get an Emmy. Even if that category is appropriate under the umbrella of the Emmys, shouldn’t the award have a different name? Something like Emmyito. Is there any other Emmy that requires so little time and effort? I’m not in the business so I may be completely off base on that.
The only part I didn’t get in Ken’s post is: Since that category does exist, what is the objection to that particular series. Having the story be about trying to win an Emmy seems very clever and funny to me, although I concede that the blatant goal of just trying to win an Emmy rather than trying to create a quality product that is funny or worthwhile must understandably offend some Emmy winners.

Thank you for the correction.

Janet Ybarra
No problem.

Nicole said...

Not just any person could do this and make it all the way to the Emmy nominations. (I highly (highly!) doubt this web series would've hit the zeitgeist like this if some random person who doesn't already work in TV just put it out there and crossed their fingers.) Megan has been working in TV for a long time, and she's done some *incredible* work, and worked on some practically criminally under-appreciated shows.

...It happens with some frequency at award shows that people want to recognize a person for one thing, but the category was super saturated, or something else happened, and the person didn't win... So, then that person gets something down the line that, in real life, maybe wasn't their "best" performance - or whatever was sort of agreed upon in pop culture that they "should" have won for - but usually people are happy that that person finally got their due nonetheless. So, y'all can imagine you're giving the Emmy to her for The Good Place, or Parks and Rec, or The Simpsons, if you'd rather.

Megan is a very funny TV writer (and person in general), and that's why her web series is funny. Who do you all think deserves to win in this category? "Grey's Anatomy B-Team"? "James Corden's The Next James Corden"? "The Walking Dead: Red Machete"? (Those and "aka Wyatt Cenac" are the other nominees.) I don't mind big TV shows repurposing some content or shooting a little extra to make interstitials that can now be nominated for Emmys, but are they really more deserving than someone making 6 episodes of an original concept (even if that concept is like a satirical take on the life of a TV writer - (I mean original in the sense that it's not a mini version of an existing TV show))?

Last year, in the best short form variety category (Megan's show is in short form comedy or drama, but, in a related-to-this-conversation-category of short form variety), The Daily Show won for this thing called "Between the Scenes" where basically they let the cameras keep rolling between the acts of the daily show they're already taping, and Trevor Noah answers a question from an audience member (where maybe he tries to say something a little funny or interesting or whatever), and then that gets put up online. And that's it. And 5 people were listed as producers (or host) of that, and are Emmy winners for that. Do you think that's really more deserved than Amram's?

Nicole said...

Oh, and p.s. to this idea that we don't like that she's been silly in her interviews and saying things like 'I deserve 2 parties,' she's doing a bit. She's being funny. She's obviously doing this sort of persona thing.

I'm sure she is, in real life, happy to be nominated. But she's heightening to an absurd level for fun and for comedy purposes. *shrug*

By Ken Levine said...

I'd be thrilled if she comments. And she's welcome to write a piece giving her side of the story and I'll devote a post to it.

Ricky said...

Ho! You commented here Ken! I am almost sure that 'Nicole' will comment again :)

Will be fun. She doesn't seem like Roseanne type to me ;)

Janet Ybarra said...

Hi Nicole,

Perhaps Megan is playing this for this case, however, her comedy isn't jumping off the page and she's coming off a bit arrogant and entitled.

FYI, I was a journalist working in Washington DC on 9/11. While most of the rest of the commuter population was evacuating as quickly as their legs and trains would carry them, my colleagues and I stayed (at some personal peril as we did not know the threat had ended) and we gathered together to put out a Special Edition that day. We were among the first to identify Osama bin laden as the Mastermind.

When it was all over, we entered our coverage for National Press Club awards.

We lost. But we were proud of what we did anyway. We didn't come back the next year with a gimmick to win an award we thought we had somehow "deserved" the year before.

A couple months back, Ken did a piece on all the greats who had never been recognized with an Oscar, Tony, what have you.

You win some, you lose some. Megan Amram maybe should stop and appreciate she works in the industry of her choice, and she's not among so many working people slinging hash for minimum wage.

I'm tired of people with privilege saying, "It's not enough." When you think what you have isn't enough maybe it's time to visit a pediatric cancer ward, for crying out loud.

Sorry, just had to get that off my chest.

Nicole said...

Hi Ricky, I think you might be insinuating I'm Megan Amram. I'm not. I don't know her. I'm just a long time reader (and fan) of this blog who's also a fan of hers. I don't think she's doing anything wrong, and I think she's incredibly talented. And I stand by my comments in my original post.

Hey Janet, I understand that from your POV she's coming across arrogant and entitled. To me, her comedy is completely leaping off the page. I don't really understand how her over-the-top persona/character could be taken as anything other than funny. But hey, comedy's subjective. So, I get it - not everyone is gonna find her funny.

Also, I'm sorry if I was unclear in my original post. I'm not saying that I think *she* is thinking to herself that she deserves an award for The Good Place, etc., and is trying to "gimmick" or strong-arm or whatever her way in... I'm saying how many times have you read blogs and such where people used to have the attitude of "give Leo an Oscar already! We literally don't care for what!" Or how many times have you heard people joke, "Sandra Bullock's Oscar is really for Miss Congeniality because we fell in love with her there, but since they don't give Oscars for comedy, she got it for The Blind Side" My understanding is that that's sort of a generally accepted attitude in pop culture - even if the actors/writers/content creators aren't pushing it or trying to mastermind something...

(And while I don't believe that she is personally trying to 'right a wrong' for herself, I totally don't believe in this idea of "just be happy with what you have." She's had to work her butt off. She got rejected from the Harvard Lampoon I think every time she applied. She has faced uphill battles (I'm sure some of them revolving around being a woman in a lot of places that are generally boys' clubs, even though she's hella talented.)
She *does* deserve recognition of her hard - and most importantly, *wonderful*/hilarious - work.
And if she is frustrated about that lack of recognition (which I don't know if she is or not, but if she is), I think it's completely warranted. Just because some people on earth have it worse than some other people doesn't mean that every single thing is on one big static scale, and that if you don't have it as bad as people without homes or safety etc, then you don't get to be disappointed about things in life.)

Johnny Walker said...

Not sure how many people have actually watched her series (you can see it here, the entire thing takes about 20 mins: but it's... just a simple joke. I don't think had any real pretences about winning. If anything the series is just a funny vehicle for her, with a clever gimmick.

That said, the Emmys went ahead and nominated her for outstanding actress... which is bonkers. The show itself is amusing, but she's (of course) an utterly mediocre actress. (I'm sure she'd absolutely agree.)

If she wins (for acting), it cheapens the Emmys a bit, but I'm not sure I get the upset otherwise. The Emmys already nominates web shorts, and previous nominees include Funny Or Die's "Gay of Thrones" and YouTube's "Epic Rap Battles of History".

Seems to me like an opportunity, Ken!

Ron Rettig said...

Moonves & Becker problem? Saw mention of it in article about Moonves resignation. Any comments for your Friday Questions?