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Emmy winners and a bad case of Mad Men-itis

In television on 09/21/2009 at 9:46 am

So here’s the full list of Emmy winners, but if you missed the Sunday-night gala, I can advise that you didn’t miss much. After I finally found a bit of red carpet coverage on CNN (a three-way split screen in which one screen was apparently linked to either a very drunk camera operator or a dog with a wandering eye for human legs), I ;tuned to the actual show on CTV and CBS was a little startled by the opening musical number in which host Neil Patrick Harris pleaded again and again and again for me to put down the remote. True, the Emmy awards broadcast was under a lot of pressure to increase last year’s record-low audience, but addressing the problem by saying “Please don’t go away”? How about giving me a reason not to stray?

The larger issue is not the awards show itself, but the fact that the Emmys are obsessing in their nominations and awards about shows that very few people are watching (Mad Men and 30 Rock were named best shows, and took home armfuls of Emmys and neither have crazy high ratings). I have to credit a piece in The National Post today for focussing my crankiness.

I suppose I could accept that Mad Men, 30 Rock and even Breaking Bad (it’s an AMC show that is so far not been made available to Montreal AMC-free cable) get all the attention at Emmy time if there was nothing else of quality on the big four networks: Fox, ABC, NBC and CBS. But that is not the case. Take House, which returns tonight, after a Sixth Sense season finale that I’ve watched three times now. Same with Fringe, which is not Proust, but has a story hook and is learning to use it more and more wisely. And what about Lost? Too dense? Okay, but very well-controlled storytelling. And those are just three of my current faves. Acting? How about a little love for Nathan Fillion in Castle? William Petersen, formerly of CSI? Or Jim Parsons of Big Bang Theory? Julia Louis Dreyfuss in The New Adventures of Old Christine? Does it take Mad Men-esque tumblers of whiskey, cigarettes and starchy early 1960s wardrobes for these shows and actors to get some respect? And, by connection, the respect of the viewers who watch these shows not because they’re zombies with no appreciation for the dramatic arts but because the performances are vigorous and the writing is engaging? Not all art is high art. Wake up Emmys.

But what about the rest of the Emmy show? Actually, not too bad, although I admit to wandering away to do a couple of chores and phone calls. Harris ran a tight ship, only four minutes past the 11 p.m. ET deadline. He milked his supporting-actor-in-a-comedy loss to Two and A Half Men’s Jon Cryer, but didn’t overdo it. He also did a fun bit as his Dr. Horrible character, accompanied by Fillion, on the Internet future of television. And then, he mostly stayed out of the way.

In the ad lib department, a big “Nice try” goes out to most of the nominees for the best supporting actress in a comedy for donning funny glasses for their audience shots as the winner was announced, and a big phooey to Vanessa Williams who shook her head no to the glasses. Geez. Best shot of uncontained, outraged surprise by a nominee at having been passed up has to go to The Office’s Rainn Wilson (losing, like Harris, to Cryer). But the best moment goes to Sarah Silverman, who sported a spectacularly sophisticated moustache when caught by the camera as her name was read; she was nominated for her own show for best lead actress in a comedy and lost to the wonderful Toni Collette for the Showtime/Movie Network great The United States of Tara.

But that’s just me. What’d you think of the Emmys?

— Denise Duguay

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