The never-ending airtime, the In Memoriam segments that made us cringe worse than This Week's Really Terrible Things That Happened On Breaking Bad, the mere fact that BrBa was also on, and airing its penultimate episode — none of it mattered. The Emmys telecast drew its biggest audience in eight years: 17.6 million viewers tuned in to CBS for what Variety deliciously dubs "the kudocast"; that's 33 percent more than ABC's broadcast last year. On a fist-pumpier note, Breaking Bad didn't seem to lose anyone to the #thekudocast. This week's "Granite State" passed last week's "Ozymandias" and set a new viewership record. The finale will almost definitely be Breaking Bad's most-watched hour ever, unless the NFL makes a last-minute decision to do the Super Bowl next Sunday.
The Emmys Are Become Death, Destroyer of In Memoriam Tributes
Alex Pappademas: I think if Cory Monteith were still alive, he'd have wanted his mom to find a way to for some reason get into an argument with the heirs of the late Jack Klugman via TMZ. But that's beside the point. I need to talk about this show's treatment not of individual deaths but of death itself. Knowing that there's an In Memoriam montage on deck has always been the thing that gets me through the slough-of-despondiest moments of even the most endless and joyless awards-show telecast. I don't even care who wins or loses. Give every award to Modern Family, even at the BET Awards. Dig up Jonas Salk and give his Presidential Medal of Freedom to Seth MacFarlane during the next Golden Globes — whatever, I don't care. Just bring out the dead. As long as I get to sit on the couch and watch my wife suddenly learn, thanks to this montage, of the often-not-recent deaths of at least five famous actors, and hear her say "[He/she] died?" with a pang of genuine sadness in her voice, I'll sit through travesties of justice and entertainment alike.
But this year's Emmy People Who Died montage reduced everyone to a black-and-white head shot, like a tribute assembled by a very bereaved dry cleaner. No clips? Not even in those very special spotlighted tributes to extra-iconic performers we're meant to feel extra-sad about, the Oneworld Elite Pass Dead People Club treatment that Jack Klugman was controversially denied, thus causing his spirit to roam the wastelands of Burbank in eternal torment forevermore?
So it happened. It really happened. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences called AMC's bluff and went through with its awards ceremony last night despite running against the first, Twitter-spoiler-rife airing of Breaking Bad's supersize, penultimate episode, blithely handing out every last one of its statuettes like nothing more important was happening down the programming grid. They did not, as we humbly suggested in a very polite letter addressed to the President of Television, divert the hundreds of limousines carrying the presenters and nominees into the Nokia Theatre parking structure and hold everybody there until Monday night, with full in-car food and beverage service by always-accommodating host Neil Patrick Harris, so that we could have the necessary time to digest the more important show before dealing with the unnecessary distraction of their awards presentation.
But they never answered that letter. And so we, either because we are insane or because we made a cold, hard calculation about how to get through four hours and 15 minutes of total viewing as efficiently as possible, actually watched the Emmys first. Well played, TV Academy. We were weak. We blinked. We hope you feel good about the fact that we waited around to discover who took home your biggest prize before we allowed ourselves to actually watch that very same series demonstrate its current creative dominance. You're the winners today.
Oh, right: winners. We're here to talk about the winners. If you require the list of all the Emmy winners, you can find that right here, from your Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series to your Outstanding Costume Design in a Two-Time Variety Special (if that was a category — maybe it was. It's hard to be sure; they're handing stuff out for three hours). Right now we're more interested in the big winners, the totally unexpected winners. The winners we're still thinking about this morning, in the moments when we're able to catch our breath between the post-traumatic heart palpitations Breaking Bad gave us.
The real winners.
Let's run through them before the shortness of breath kicks in again.
If you're still genuinely upset about the Batfleck, well, I feel bad for you, son: The world isn't done messing with your tender comic-fan heart, as proven by Justin Bieber Instagramming a photo of himself holding a Batman vs. Superman script (otherwise known as the Man of Steel sequel) with the most inflammatory hashtag: "#robin?" Obviously (for reasons outlined by ScreenRant, and also reasons you could probably supply with your own brain), it's a fake, and likely relates to an upcoming Funny or Die skit Bieber recently shot. Think of this as your intensive training course in cinematic anger preparedness, and learn to alleviate your fury with repeated viewings of Batfleck tossing sandwiches into the back of the Good Will Batmobile, as seen above.
I hate every awards show except the MTV Video Music Awards. The Oscars, the Emmys, the Grammys, the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and all of the other fringe awards shows have it all wrong by pretending like their stupid trophies matter. We only watch awards shows to judge the way people look and facilitate our sick obsession with critiquing the projected personalities of celebrities.
The MTV Video Music Awards is the perfect awards show because every year it is a slave to hyper-recent cultural trends. Above all else, the VMAs create a stimulating awards show for the viewer by being completely shameless when it comes to curating a handful of moments worth talking about. This is the same sort of trend-addiction vortex that got Psy to a billion views on YouTube. The VMAs aren’t like the Oscars, piling the legacy of the entire show on one guest host. Their strategy seems to be putting as many celebrities as possible in the same room and hoping it turns into chaos, which basically means a black rapper interrupting a teenage white girl’s acceptance speech.
This past weekend the news was dominated by Comic-Con, Hollywood's annual overheated orgy of fan service and flop sweat. And though neither Chris Ryan nor I attended this year — my slave Leia outfit was at the cleaners, unfortunately — a little thing like firsthand knowledge never stopped the two of us from forming strongly felt opinions. And so we cleaved through big stories like Zack Snyder's upcoming Superman/Batman movie, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past like heat vision through the nicest sideboard in Wayne Manor, taking time to explain just what, exactly, an Ultron is and why there's a talking tree bound for household fame.
All this talk of formulaic movies led us to a detour into the actual formula that's ruining movies: Blake Snyder's dangerous Save the Cat. But since Chris and I both actually like cats, we thought it best to abandon that negativity and breeze through the Emmy nominations. Consensus? It's not Tatiana Maslany's time yet, even though she played multiple roles. At least not until Eddie Murphy gets the shine he has been too long denied. Taste the soup!
Kate Mara was a no-show for the Emmy announcements this morning, broadcast as they have been since time immemorial from the steerage class mess hall on Les Moonves's war yacht. Airplane trouble was to blame — the actress was reporting a story for Slugline in Arizona — but no matter, because the pre-dawn ceremony was about the only place where her House of Cards didn't make an appearance. The doomy Netflix original crashed the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards in a big way, garnering nine nominations in major categories ranging from dramatic actor (Kevin Spacey) to dramatic actress (Robin Wright) to dramatic clavicle (also Robin Wright). That means the happiest person in Hollywood this morning isn't actual Emmy host Neil Patrick Harris, whose celebrated podium charm replaced Mara at the last minute. It's Reed Hastings. This was exactly the outcome the Netflix CEO was envisioning when he outbid HBO for 24 episodes of the David Fincher–helmed Cards. Hastings knew his company needed the strong appearance of quality, if not the thing itself, in order to get attention and respect from a dubious industry. Regardless of whether Netflix actually goes home with any awards on September 22 — Jason Bateman was also nominated for Arrested Development; I have a feeling Spacey is taking the trophy — Hastings has successfully evolved his company from red envelopes to the red carpet.
That was the biggest takeaway from what felt like a transition year for the Emmys. All of the old favorites were nominated — and, in the case of Dame Maggie Smith, I mean that quite literally. 30 Rock received 13 nominations for its phenomenal final half-season and even a wheezing The Office grabbed a writing nomination for series adapter Greg Daniels's tasteful finale. The casts of Modern Family and Downton Abbey once again clogged up the ballots in the comedy and drama categories, leaving little room for fresh blood like New Girl and The Americans. While, speaking of blood, Game of Thrones (16 nominations) and American Horror Story: Asylum (17) treated the technical and miniseries categories the way Walder Frey treated guests at the Red Wedding. Boardwalk Empire was the only formerly major player to fall off the map this year (10 nominations, but mostly for hairstyling and costuming), and it's probably best to think of that not as a snub (although the second half of Season 3 did improve considerably) but as the first sign of big changes to come.
On Sunday night, former Entourage super-agent Jeremy Piven took to Twitter to thank his fans for checking out the American premiere of Mr. Selfridge on PBS, his new show about the adventures of a fast-talking Yankee department-store magnate set loose in the stuffy world of London retail. In what was perhaps an attempt to assure any skeptical followers that it was, in fact, the Piv himself @-replying to their adoring messages, he provided an Instagram accompaniment to his online chat session, as one does.
But we're interested in only one question: How many of Piven's three Emmys are "accidentally" visible in the frame of the not-at-all-meticulously-composed photo of the social-media-loving star typing with his back to the television, for some reason? The answer after the jump!
Amid all of the secrets and lies being spilled at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour are highly intriguing reports about Behind the Candelabra, the long-in-the-works, “too gay for Hollywood” Liberace biopic that Steven Soderbergh was finally able to get made thanks to HBO. Critics were treated on Friday to “a lengthy first look” at the movie, which is about the scorchingly flamboyant entertainer’s turbulent affair with his much younger assistant Scott Thorson. Vulture reports that Michael Douglas “disappears into his role” as Liberace, whose involvement with Thorson (played by a blond mop-topped Matt Damon) eventually ended in a highly publicized palimony suit. The preview included clips of Douglas and Damon making out by a pool and bickering at home in bed, as well as Douglas consulting his plastic surgeon (played by Rob Lowe, “whose eyebrows were arched to a stunning extreme for the role”) about how to make Thorson appear more Liberace-like.
On today's pod, Andy and I would like to thank Brad and Brad over at WME, the writers' room, our hair and makeup people who make us look beautiful every day, and our long-suffering wives ... oh, sorry, I was having another one of my "episodes." Let's try that again. On today's pod, Andy and I have a discussion about the Emmys. We ask the important questions: Was Homeland's coup of Mad Men expected? Does Modern Family's reign mean network sitcoms are back? Has anyone told NBC that? Is Tom Berenger still, spiritually and sartorially, in Romania? And what year is it there?
Following our acceptance speeches, Andy and I checked the pulse of Parks and Recreation and The Office, the former coming off an episode that saw it in full flight, full of Capra-esque sweetness, Cheers-esque joy, and Roy Hibbert, while the latter ... well, it's the last season of The Office, guys. I somehow get very emotionally worked up about Jim and Pam, by the way; I know you were all waiting for that.
The Wolf and the Bear: When Movie Stars Crash the Emmys
One of the terrible things about the Golden Age of Television that is either upon us or just winding down, or maybe just gearing up, is the culture of nice that pervades. Everyone loves everyone and we’re all doing great work and hahaha TV is the king medium! This is never more apparent than at an awards show like the Emmys, where perfectly decent bros like Aaron Paul melt down over What an Honor It Is to Be in This Category With These Gifted Heroes of Mine. Sometimes, though, if we’re lucky, a real jerk wins something. And I mean “jerk” in the grandest, finest possible way. Last night, Kevin Costner was said jerk, a man out of time, a real movie star stuck among the small people from television. For Costner, who won for his portrayal of Anse “Devil” Hatfield in the highly viewed (by old people), 83-hours-long Hatfields & McCoys miniseries he produced for the History Channel last spring, this was just one more bummy awards shindig. This guy won an Oscar for Best Director, America. He beat Martin Scorsese! Who was nominated for Goodfellas! He followed the colossal and colossally documented failure of Waterworld (directed by Hatfields helmer Kevin Reynolds, incidentally) with the colossal-er failure of The Postman! So he didn’t wear a tie last night. He sat in the front row with his deeply blond, deeply young wife. He smirked that wolfish smirk. He laconically accepted his award and then acted like he didn’t want it. And while it has been many, many years since Costner, who is 57, was a real movie star, he still knows how to act the part.
It’s a neat trick to manage to be predictable even while surprising, but that’s just what the Emmys were able to pull off last night in Los Angeles. Smooth host Jimmy Kimmel attempted to punch up the proceedings — or at least get punched — but not even the prone, non-nunchaku-bearing corpus of Tracy Morgan could trip up the parade of familiar faces and well-telegraphed upsets. But I’m not here to point fingers — that’s best done inside the comfort of a mani-cam, anyway. After last year’sa cappella–induced atrocity, the 64th Emmy Awards were a competent, serviceable affair. Cable may be ascendant, but the three-hour ceremony — on the dot! — was a tribute to old-fashioned network professionalism, eschewing innovation for slick proficiency. And the unscripted moments mostly followed suit: Jon Cryer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus had never won in their respective categories for these roles before, but their victories certainly didn’t feel fresh. The calm competence of director Tim Van Patten (Boardwalk Empire) silenced the nervy genius of Vince Gilligan (Breaking Bad). The best comic bits — Louis-Dreyfus swapping speeches with Amy Poehler, Jimmy Fallon tackling Jon Stewart, the way Kerry Washington said “David Strathairn” — felt DIY and fleeting. And when the diciest moment of a live broadcast is a puffy Tom Berenger scatting about raccoons and garden gnomes while soft jazz attempted to play him off, you’re doing something right behind the scenes, even if we’re fighting to stay awake in front of them. At one point, in a meta-twist the Emmy-less Community might appreciate, ceremony director Glenn Weiss won an Emmy while directing the Emmys. It was an appropriate symbol for a night that was all reward and very little risk.
With visions of Morena Baccarin's sternum still dancing in my head, here are my takeaways from a very long, very punctual evening:
As our own Andy Greenwald noted earlier today, fans of Important Television didn't have too much to whine about this morning after the 2012 Primetime Emmy nominations were announced — the lists were surprisingly well-balanced, with popular favorites like Modern Family right up there with critical darlings Girls and Louie, and realistically, that's probably about how things should be, right? (I'm assuming all Community fans have stopped reading by now.) So, huh. This is weird. Is there anything left to get irrationally angry about?
Yes, yes there is! Here are your 2012 Outstanding Reality-Competition Program nominations: