The 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards: Who Needs Hollywood?
Last night marked the 63rd Annual Emmy awards and what a great night it was. The show opened with host, Jane Lynch, in an epic song (well, lip-synch) and dance that featured the cast from several popular TV shows including The Big Bang Theory, Mythbusters, the Office and Mad Men. The Verizon Wireless guy was even there. And clearly everyone was having a good time.
This seemed to be the prevailing spirit of this year’s award show, one of camaraderie and family. Consistently, award winners were paying their respects to the competition, expressing their gratitude and general bewilderment. While it may be that this is the attitude and tradition of most award shows, there was something about last night’s Emmys that seemed more genuine and heartfelt.
Perhaps it’s because these past few years have seen a flourish of high-quality shows. The major networks continue to pump out genial and accessible sitcoms, but of a different caliber. Finally, big budget shows are starting to resemble modern American life, shows that we can connect with on a more personal level. And of course, the once fringe networks are coming into their own, pursuing shows that are backed by solid writing and insight.
For sure, the gap between movies and television programs in shortening, the most obvious example being Martin Scorsese’s win with Boardwalk Empire. Ironically though, where one might see a weakening Hollywood industry, with all the tired re-makes and sequels, the television business is conversely becoming more original and relevant.
This hope that television is experiencing a revived Golden Age was only encouraged last night at the Emmys. PBS won big for its engrossing period piece, Downton Abbey, proving that honest drama is still a force to be reckoned with. Mad Men, of course, picked up its obligatory Emmy, and rightly so. The long running show stands as a watershed moment in modern television and as a successful example of specialized networks working outside their target market.
Some especially well-earned recognition was given to Margo Martindale for her supporting role in FX’s Justified. It was clear that Martindale was surprised by her win and it displayed the discernible taste of the Emmy judges. Kyle Chandler’s win for his leading part in the surprisingly affecting Friday Night Lights, as well, marked a shift from pre-fabricated drama towards more substance based programs.
However, the most notable winner of last night’s awards show was ABC’s Modern Family, which walked away with five Emmys, including outstanding supporting actress and actor, outstanding writer and outstanding comedy series. The mockumentary style show follows the lives of several unorthodox families and features TV-vets, Ed O’Neill and Shelley Long. After the wins last night, it goes without saying the series will be renewed for a third season at the very least.
Some other moments worth noting: Charlie Sheen made honest amends with the cast and crew of Two and Half Men; he wished them the best. When it came time for Ashton Kutcher to point out that he was not Charlie Sheen, even the dimly lit diss was in good fun. The overall mood of the show was one of gaiety and fellowship. Guy Pierce’s saucy acceptance speech, in which he made numerous puns about his steamier scenes with co-star Kate Winslet in Mildred Pierce, was innocent fun, awkward almost, but emblematic of the tight-knit friendship that pervaded this year’s Emmys.
Mention should also go to the host, Jane Lynch, who really held the show together. Lynch was the perfect hinge between every presenter and act (sometimes a part of the act), and her ‘no nonsense’ humor was a good addition to the ceremony. She seemed to level the playing field. Lynch gave finger pistols to John Hamm, for crying out loud. Her jokes were great, too, and subtle. When she introduced the cast of Entourage, it was an explanation for her sexual orientation. When her wardrobe changed, Lynch brought immediate attention to the fact. With just the right balance between ago and self-deprecation, Lynch successfully worked all the tropes of an awards ceremony host, and transcended them as well.
However, less impressive was the Emmytones, of which includes a fallen Wilmer Valderrama. Their opening renditions for each award category were, to say the least, annoying and a little bit too much of a nod to the past hokey-ness of television. Sure, it might have been ironic, but the end product was simply filler. And the audience could tell, clapping because they had to.
This year’s ceremony wasn’t so much about outstanding performances. Rather, it was a celebration for a fantastic year of television. The entire night was devoted to showcasing the very finest talent that can be seen on American TV. If the networks can continue to produce such quality programs as last year, then we can all look forward to a satisfying Emmy show next year. After all, everyone of us wants TV to enrich our lives, to give us a deeper understanding of the connection between art and entertainment, not just to provide a vapid escape. At least that’s the hope, right?