Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Emmys don’t mean CENSORED

Yeah, that’s right. I almost had the CENSORED to write that the Emmy’s don’t mean CENSORED!!!!
I am censoring myself incase children read my blog. For those of you under age 12 whose Mommy and Daddy are letting you read this please call DFACs so you can tell them what a great job they are doing.
The Emmy’s do not mean anything for real. They claim to recognize outstanding performance in TV, which is a good thing, but in reality it recognizes either: 1. The studio that has the best PR campaign or 2. What a group of high brow critics that are not worldly enough to do movie reviews think about TV. Some tv series can be evaluated in an entire season, but what is often forgotten is that many times only one to three episodes of a TV series is evaluated when selecting the nominees.
That being said I think the Emmys are good for TV and media in general. With the rapid expansion of TV channels, there are too many hours available to produce good thought provoking, smart, entertaining television. As a result, we have five, YES I SAID FIVE, shows about Real Housewives, and too many “Reality Stars” and not enough good TV. I think the Emmys can call out shows that are very well done, break barriers, challenge what is regular TV and take chances that 10 years ago network TV would NEVER have done. “The Shield” is the perfect example of this. When it came on TV almost 10 years ago, very few scripted shows were being produced outside the four major networks, HBO and Showtime. It’s first year, despite low ratings, it won the Emmy for Outstanding Drama and Lead Actor in a Drama for the great Michael Chicklis. The Shield had it’s critics. It did deserve the criticism it received. The show was produced for half of a regular network series and ALL of the actors took home about half of what they would have gotten on a network series. A network would also NEVER have it’s lead protagonist murder a fellow police officer on the first episode. That scene set the tone for the seven seasons that followed. That scene broke all of the rules about what a TV series could and could not do. It gave us a great anti-hero that you loved and hated. That opened the door for Nip/Tuck, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Justified and for other non-networks to produce challenging TV series. The Shield also gave a financial blue print for how to make a show financially viable. You made the show inexpensively, you provided an opportunity for people who wanted to direct to direct, you resold it via DVD, and you created a buzz.
Here are some thoughts on what is right with TV:
1. Louie – it is a very funny, but not great TV show. It’s budget is 3.5 million PER SEASON!!!! The cast of friends made 7.2 million PER EPISODE. It is a smart, funny show that is giving a blue print for how a star centric show can be made. Louis CK (star, director, writer, etc.) is given almost complete freedom to create the show because of minimal financial investment FX can easily make money on the show with very little risk. Louis CK , who is nominated for an Emmy this year, gets complete artistic freedom and as a Producer of the show, another trick that FX pioneered by giving their stars Producer credits after the first year of the show, he will make syndication money off of the show.
2. Breakout Kings (A&E) – no, you have not heard of this show. It may not come back for a second season, but the performance of Jimmi Simpson was the best thing on TV. He was robbed of a supporting actor nominee.
3. Dexter – best drama on TV. It is dark. When your lead character has murdered over 100 people and kills someone every episode it is not for the faint of heart. It is also very funny, human and somehow relatable. Michael C. Hall deserves all of the credit he receives. The rest of the cast, many of who started on the VERY underrated “OZ” on HBO, are equally great. Note: Check out the show OZ on DVD. The cast of Oz went on to populate the shows Law and Order: SVU and Dexter. The best supporting actor on the show is C.S. Lee who plays CSI Vince Masuka. His character is insecure, politically incorrect, self absorbed and a walking sexual harassment case. He is the perfect counterpoint to Dexter. Dexter is in no way open with the people he works with and Masuka is in no way closed. Their contrast is very entertaining.
4. The Chicago Code – RIP. It was smart, gritty and had amazing acting. Jason Clark was the cinematic of The Shield’s Vic Mackey. Damaged, but ethical and driven. I would want Jason Clark to patrol my neighborhood. Delroy Lindo was incredible as always. Has he ever been bad? They show did not find an audience and we are left with 13 episodes of what might have been.

This year the Emmy’s went to Mad Men and Modern Family. These are good shows. They are well written, well acted and take safe chances. They are the definition of solid television. Take a chance on the shows that are brave, bold and dare to do things that other shows do not.

1 comment:

  1. I imagine the Emmys are a good way to give attention to some series that might otherwise disappear into a ratings black hole, but probably do little to save such programs from cancellation, since it seems TV is a cut-throat medium which offers little forgiveness for low-performing shows, no matter how critically lauded those shows might be.

    I have long wondered about the lifespan of TV series versus film; it seems the whole 26 episode a season formula backfires in the end, as there is simply too much material, much of it feeling too dated, for future viewers to wade through (anyone catching up on "The Rockford Files" or "Hart to Hart" lately--or even acclaimed miniseries like "Roots"?). Even if it's swiftly canceled, more people will probably tune into the "Charlie's Angels" remake than will rent and re-watch an original season of that show in 2011.

    Yep, "The Emmy Award Winning Series!" doesn't have quite the resonance that "Academy Award Winning Movie" does, and doesn't do much to increase longevity after a show graduates from syndication. Indeed, to borrow from the great Benny Bell, the Emmys don't mean shaving cream.