And the Emmy for best performance in a television special goes to: The audience at the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards for consistently pretending to laugh at the slew of vapid jokes coughed up by 21 writers for host Seth Meyers and the many presenters to spout. No awards go to the presenters (many of the same television and movie names) for their across-the-board failure to make any of the gags land.
But the low level of the humor (broken only by Billy Crystal’s sincere tribute to the late Robin Williams—who was genuinely funny in footage that did include a controversial impersonation) is not really what galled me about the tedious three-hour show. Nor was it the parade of winners repeating from previous years.
Well, maybe it did have something to do with the repeat winners. (Who is more popular with the voters—five-time-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Allison Janney, who won two this season?)
Anyone concentrating on the event, despite its numbing quality, knows that Modern Family won its fifth consecutive Emmy as best comedy series. I suppose I’ll have to concede the show possesses allure, but I can’t say so from personal experience. I’ve tried a few times to watch it, but after no more than 10 or 15 minutes on each attempt, the constant mugging put me off.
Those of us who were concentrating on the 66th Emmys (congratulations to all of us for staying awake) know that the now-ended series Breaking Bad copped a second consecutive trophy. I confess that, having missed the first season, I was so reluctant to catch up that I haven’t yet. Yes, I plan to, but when? Sixty hours is daunting.
Nevertheless, Bryan Cranston’s fourth win of five nominations, Aaron Paul’s third win of five nominations (wasn’t he an obnoxious recipient?) and Anna Gunn’s second win of three nominations seem excessive. I certainly won’t question their worthiness. I suspect that when I finally get to my binge Breaking Bad viewing, I’ll agree that all three are excellent at what they’ve done throughout the series.
No, my gripe—it’s a long-held one—is that I believe there are scores of actors giving equally prize-winning performances on series that, as far as I know, are never even considered. It’s likely that other viewers who spend more time watching cable television than they spend watching network television—and maybe as much time as they watch HBO, Showtime and, nowadays, Netflix—are like me and have their various cable network favorites.
I’ll zero in on mine. You know about USA and its slogan: “Characters welcome.” Let me just say that not only are many of the USA series characters welcome there, but they’re also welcome in my home.
Take Burn Notice, which endured through seven seasons and 111 episodes and has now concluded. A fresh and smartly downbeat take on spies, the writers, under Matt Nix, kept the plot twists coming with head-spinning invention. As the spy given his “burn notice” (abrupt dismissal from the service without explanation), Jeffrey Donovan was tirelessly world-weary yet heroic, and his munitions-loving, on-again-off-again girlfriend Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) was just as reliable. So were sidekicks Bruce Campbell and Coby Bell.
Nevertheless, the series only grabbed four nominations over the years—one for Sharon Gless as Westen’s involved mother and three in minor (though hardly insignificant categories). Note that the only acting nomination was for Gless, very familiar to the Emmy crowd for her excellent work on network television.
Still rerun on USA, Burn Notice is only one of several irresistible series there. Are they all Emmy-winning caliber? They certainly are, from where I do my couch-potato-ing—that’s if Modern Family keeps getting nods.
I’ll mention only two of my favorites: Covert Affairs and Royal Pains. The star of Covert Affairs is Piper Perabo as intrepid CIA operative Annie Walker. To my way of thinking, Perabo, who came from the New York City acting community, is the most beautiful woman on television today. It’s no small thing that her blond beauty includes unmissable intelligence.
Has she ever been accorded a nomination or even been invited to present an award? Not to my knowledge. Nor have any of her co-stars. Christopher Gorham as her handler and Peter Gallagher enhance the cast, with Gallagher bringing network experience you’d think would get him attention.
Royal Pains looks with humor and frequent poignancy at a contemporary development in medicine today through the activities of Hank Lawson: the boutique practice. Not really pushing the point, the episodes can be on the cute side, but the playing by series producer and star Mark Feuerstein, also from Manhattan stages, by co-stars Paulo Costanzo, Campbell Scott, Reshma Shetty (giving Perabo a run for the most beautiful label) and Henry Winkler, as Hank’s bounder dad, is extremely polished.
(Perhaps because of Feuerstein’s New York show-biz roots, the many guest stars also hail from the Great White Way and environs. Christine Ebersole and Stephen Spinella are only two at whom the Emmy nominators might gaze more closely in future.)
I’m only mentioning USA and then only a few of their series—and yes, when Tony Shalhoub was Adrian Monk on Monk, he was noticed and Emmy-ed. But maybe it was his stage and movie renown that helped, whereas many of those mentioned above are little known in Hollywood circles. The USA series I watch are only a few of the items the ambitious network pushes. Others like Graceland, Suits, White Collar and the late Psych that I haven’t gotten into give off good vibes, too.
And what about similar, less well-scoped outlets, not to mention whatever productions are being streamed now? Who watched the just-complete season of The Divide on We and noticed what a brave performance Marin Ireland, one of New York’s most accomplished actors, offered? Will she even be a flicker in the Emmy nominators’ eyes come next year’s list? Or will the always superb Julianna Margulies take home yet a fourth thingamabob for the about-to-start new season of The Good Wife?
During this year’s awards show, Meyers talked about the golden television age we’re experiencing. Some might dispute the description. Others won’t. But if this is such a golden time, it can’t be disputed that the cable networks are contributing to the shine.
So what if fewer viewers watch cable series? (The ratings for network television series aren’t what they once were, either—in large part because people prefer cable series.) As Linda Loman says at the end of Death of a Salesman, attention must be paid.