One Last Look at the Emmy Awards
The Best of Television
Another year, another three hours of the studs and starlets of the small screen receiving praise for what they do best. TV lovers rejoiced Sunday night as the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards commenced with beloved host Neil Patrick Harris.
A taped segment of NPH attempting to binge-watch all of the hit shows like so many folk do, certainly was not as showy as his usual hosting gig openings, but he did not fail to win over the audience afterwards. Cracking jokes about Paula Deen (Orange is the New Bla…eh, African American) and explaining that “television” is what one watches on their phone, Harris started out pretty strong, and pretty dance-less. Previous Emmy hosts such as Jimmy Fallon and Jane Lynchgave Harris some candid words of advice, and just before the first award was presented, naturally more antics had toensue.
In true Fey and Poehler style, TV’s funny ladies heckled Harris, asking him to “twerk,” while eating popcorn and wearing 3D glasses. Seems like the two really must have enjoyedthe VMA’s, eh?
After the anticipated nonsense, viewers and attendees alike were ready to formally begin the evening and celebrate the best of primetime within the past year. If there were one word to describe the 2013 Emmys, it would be “unpredictable.” Anyone involved in the predictions pool just may have become quite frustrated even a few awards in, as many top contenders lost to the underdogs. Merritt Wever won Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy, beating out Julie Bowen, Sofia Vergara, Mayim Bialik, Jane Krakowski and Jane Lynch. She took to the stage in just as much shock as any viewer at home, barely giving a speech and saying that she “got to go!”
HBO was the network to beat with a whopping 108 nominations. Bobby Cannavale took home Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work on Boardwalk Empire, veteran HBO period drama centered on the lavish lifestyle of a political figure in the Prohibition Era. Although favorites Game of Thrones and Girls went home nearly empty-handed (Throneswinning Outstanding Makeup and Visual Effects awards, though not presented), Liberace biopic Behind the Candalabra scored 5 awards. The Newsroom‘s Jeff Daniels took home the Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series, much to the dismay of diehard Breaking Bad fans that hoped Bryan Cranston’s Walter White would take the stage. However, The Breaking Bad team did come out with the Best Drama Series, to the surprise of creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan. Gilligan made sure to thank Netflix, telling the audience that he doesn’t believe the show would have survived through a third season if it weren’t for the popular streaming service. The Best Supporting Actress in a Drama went to Bad’s Anna Gunn. Finally, some love for Skyler!
The much-acknowledged Netflix proved their ability to produce groundbreaking content when David Fincher took home Best Director for political thriller House of Cards. Although Kevin Spacey didn’t take home Best Actor, he got some screen time mocking his HOC asides from his spot in the audience, in his best ominous Francis Underwood: “This is all going according to plan…”
Modern Family won its fourth consecutive Best Comedy Series Emmy *cue theme song saxophone every five minutes* after losing its three year streak with Supporting Actor wins. Tony Hale (unfortunately not for Buster Bluth) took home the statue for Veep. Hale took the stage again as he followedco-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus up as she accepted her Best Leading Actress for the HBO year-old comedy about shenanigans in the White House. Leading Actor in a Comedy went to an emotional Jim Parsons for his work as the pathologically nerdy Sheldon Cooper onThe Big Bang Theory.
Scandal’s Kerry Washington could have been the first African American woman to win Leading Actress in a Drama, but Homeland’s Claire Danes won for her role as Carrie Mathison on the acclaimed TV show.
Stephen Colbert broke Jon Stewart’s decade-long record of Outstanding Variety Series wins, as well as taking home Best Writing. Two highly deserved wins for Colbert and company.
As with all award shows, “deserved” is an essentially meaningless justification when one is in a category with other extremely talented contenders. It must be more than just that – and it seems Don Draper and Peggy Olson just can’t get their hands on it. Without much avail, Mad Men yet again went home empty-handed, even with Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss collectively having 14 nominations under their belts (okay, 3 of Hamm’s 7 are for 30 Rock).
The night sailed along and continuedthe mix of surprise and some laughter. Just as NPH explained to the audience that he is “more than just a song and dance man,” he broke out into said song and dance. The number, appropriately called “The Number in the Middle of the Show,” served as a reminder that the Emmys are far less flashy than his theatrical love-child Tony Awards. NPH seemed a little dull throughout the night (disclaimer: ‘dull’ for Neil is probably James Franco’s best), but he will never be considered a “bad host.” He is simply the King of the Tony’s, though he’s been a star of CBS’ How I Met Your Mother for eight years.
It wasn’t the most awkward awards show ever, but it was in fact dubbed the “saddest ever” by Modern Family’s executive producer Steve Levitan. Multiple tributes to late entertainers gave way to some heavy hearts.
Robin Williams gave his thanks to Jonathan Winters, a five-star comedian and man who served as Williams’ mentor for decades. Jane Lynch spoke about Cory Monteith’s charm, as well as the awareness that need be brought to the harm of addiction. And in a final emotional tribute, Edie Falco gave love to the late James Gandolfini. Speaking of her Sopranos co-star, “You all knew James Gandolfini the actor, I was lucky enough to know Jim the man,” Falco said, eyes wet with tears. “It’s Jim the man I will miss most of all.”
Carrie Underwood served as a beacon of light after the sorrow with a rendition of the Beatle’s ballad “Yesterday,” certainly a preemptor to her upcoming NBC live-adaptation of the musical The Sound of Music.
Another number, far more intense and alive, followed Underwood’s performance. Mad Men, Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, American Horror Story, and Breaking Bad-themed dance routines captivated the audience just before a new category was introduced, Best Choreography. Derek Hough took home the win for his work on Dancing with the Stars.
So after a shock of a show, and an understanding of how ‘the best of television’ has changed in only a few short years, what will we see as the future of television? More Netflix originals? Some may be syndicated for television in 2014. With Breaking Bad coming to an end next Sunday, Mad Menthis season and Dexter already gone, voids must be filled.Television needs to be compelling to draw viewers, and with broadcast having stricter government regulations, cable TV has been walking away with the gold. Network shows tend to follow the same pattern, where good triumphs evil, good-looking New Yorkers are just tryin’ to get by, and any zany family issues begin because of a miscommunication. Of course, there are exceptions – Lostbeing one of them. But you’re missing a significant part of television within the networks, being the aspect of suspense and cliffhangers- not necessarily only in dramas. Before The Tonight Show starts, you know the C.S.I. team has caught the killer and closed the case. By every 9:58 on a Wednesday night, every Dunphy family quibble has ceased. But at the same time, cable television poses a problem: simply becoming too much, especially in the world of impatient techno-crazies that can’t wait a week to find out what happens next. Solution? The miniseries.Demand for limited-run series has exponentially risen since the birth of American Horror Story in 2011. Earlier this year The Bible premiered on the History channel, just months after their success with Hatfield and McCoys. If network television wants to survive in the world of cable, we’ll have to see a few more 13-episode dramas take foot (and comedies – could Arrested Development be brought back to television in the form Netflix re-introduced it?). Cable will bring even more heavy competition with its Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead spinoffs in the works for the coming year.
At the 65th annual primetime gala Sunday, actor Don Cheadle discussed television’s tremendous impact on society, from the coverage of assassination of JFK fifty years ago, to the Beatles performing on TheEd Sullivan show for the first time half a century ago as well. Television is now going through its own coming of age story, and will continue to grow at double, triple the rates it did in the past few decades. Favored mediums will change; new Tuesday night sensations will come about. From American Bandstand to American Horror Story, one thing is for sure: television does more than tell a story.
Rainn Wilson, who played Dwight Shrute on Emmy-award winning mockumentary The Office, spoke of the impact of his show on “The Office Retrospective” that aired before the finale this May:
“I had so many people say that ‘The only time we’re together as a family is when we’re together watching The Office. I can sit down with my mother and brother and just laugh.’ That is an incredible service- bringing people together and making them laugh during the hard times”
This can extend to any show. Until the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy awards, households will continue celebrating the best of television, letting it inform, engage, and unite. Even over chemistry teachers cooking meth with former students, and a zombie apocalypse.