The Emmy Blues

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So much TV, so little time. Except when you have too much time to extol the virtues of TV. Ha! As if the producers were attempting to show us or even talk about great TV.

Actually, I’m not quite sure what it was. A way to trend on social media and grab the “young people?” Not so much. The best line of the night was Larry David explaining how he dates, admitting he’s grown tired of saying to women, as a way of pretending he’s interested, tell me more about your niece. I wonder if Emmy has nephews. Not that I’d ever ask, or even pretend to.

LOL

LOL

Of course, there was also the moment when host Jimmy Kimmel’s faux arch nemesis Matt Damon came out eating an apple after Kimmel and his show lost for best something or other, and proceeded to rake him over the coals for three minutes. Kimmel took it like a champ and then slyly retorted: Thanks, Jason Boring.

Okay, I thought it was funny. But trendy or trending –- not so much. Again.

I don’t blame the host, who seems likeable, nice and game. And he’s certainly an improvement over Andy Samberg or the time I attended a few years back when we had the reality star trifecta-plus hosting skills of Heidi Klum, Jeff Probst, Tom Bergeron and god knows who else. Now that was quite an evening. Or three.

Ahem, ME! #SeacrestOut

Ahem, ME! #SeacrestOut

How do you do a show about the best that’s on television and not show one clip of what’s ON television? Check that, the In Memoriam segment did show two or three-second moments of recently deceased stars with nothing but the sound of Tori Kelly singing Hallelujah – one of the greatest and most misused songs ever consistently sung on awards shows. But what chance did it have? Henry Winkler started the segment pre-song extolling the many virtues of the wonderful and wonderfully talented, recently deceased king of perennial 80s comedy, Garry Marshall (Note: Okay, 70s, whatever) and we didn’t get a snippet of the Fonz, Laverne and Shirley or even Richie Cunningham.

That would have had a much better chance of favorably trending than the bit where therealJeb!Bush pretends he’s Kimmel’s limo driver and admonishes him for being…oh, who the heck remembers anything Jeb ever says anyway?

This really happened #NoTipfromChair #Ubernightmare

This really happened #NoTipfromChair #Ubernightmare

Point being there was a time when audiences got to celebrate the work of the honored actors, creators, directors and writers by actually watching clip packages of the real work being honored. This would seem even more necessary these days when absolutely NO ONE can possibly watch the entirety of more than 50% of ANYTHING that is being honored. That is, unless they themselves are a DVR and the networks are now going for the eyeballs of machines.

Speaking of the BIG FOUR networks – which thus far have been the ONLY hosts of the Emmy awards show in history – could they be the culprit? Well, perhaps. For why would they want to give free clip service to sub networks, streaming services and basic/pay cable channels like HBO, Amazon, Netflix, BBC America, USA, FX and PBS? Isn’t it enough that HBO’s Game of Thrones and Veep won best drama and comedy series? Or that Sherlock won best television movie? Or that American Crime Story’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson took best limited series? Yeah, FX is a subsid of Fox but, let’s face it, it’s not part of the big 4 profile – and certainly not the Big 3. Why give them any more of the free publicity they’re already getting??

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia #nuffsaid

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia #nuffsaid

Everything in the entertainment industry is one part a business decision and another part creative decision. But are they ever EQUAL parts? Well, certainly not very…often? One is usually in the dominant position but if the other one is dragged along to success with that strategy kicking and screaming, at the end of the day everyone’s happy. Or claims to be.

You want to know the awards the (formerly) major networks won Sunday night? Well, NBC was the big victor with two – one for The Voice in the best reality show category and the other for the brilliant Kate McKinnon as best supporting actress in a comedy series for Saturday Night Live. Fox made the cut for best direction of a variety special for Grease Live and Regina King was awarded supporting actress for her work on ABC’s innovative American Crime. As for CBS, anyone? Bueller???

Not so fast CBS! Even Janney walked away empty handed.

Not so fast CBS! Even Janney walked away empty handed.

This doesn’t say much for any of the Big 4’s regular prime time, non-reality schedules, does it? And perhaps that is the root of the problem. For anyone under 30 ( and perhaps even 40) there is no regular prime-time schedule. There is little appointment television anymore and when there is it has to be great, or unusual or at least timely. That’s what award shows honor and that is why there’s been a reversal of big network dominance. Most of their schedules cater to very little of that.

Was anyone asking for this? #deepthoughts #NBC

Was anyone asking for this? #deepthoughts #NBC #CominginDecember

It is also interesting to note that the night’s two most deserved and surprising winners were Rami Malek for USA Network’s Mr. Robot and Tatiana Maslany on BBC America’s Orphan Black for best dramatic actor and actress. Both do unusual, almost superhuman work and both play extremely troubled and disaffected people under 30.   They anchor two of the most current and trendy shows on television – neither of which would ever have a chance of getting on the air solely through the American Network Big 4.

YES YES YES YES YES #CloneClub #FSociety

YES YES YES YES YES #CloneClub #FSociety

This brings us full circle back to the mix between creativity and business. After all, it is the entertainment industry or show biz.

The problem with the Emmy awards is no longer what’s on TV today but who’s showing what on TV today. And for what reason. And for whom? You can almost hear the collective sighs of the Big 4 honchos every time one of the major award winners was read. Followed by grumbling, disgust, denial, anger, depression and fear.   But what they really need to do is get to the final stage – acceptance. It would make their shows, and certainly the Emmy awards show, a lot higher rated. And certainly more entertaining.

But what do I – an inveterate fan of Mr. Robot, Orphan Black and a host of many other nominees and winners, know? I’m only the audience.

 

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Please Bore Me

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Every semester I implore my writing students: please, don’t bore me. Not in a Miranda Priestly way. I like to think of myself as their sometimes nicely dressed angel rather than a devil in too hip designer duds waiting to take a bite out of their souls. They have plenty of time after school to experience the latter, if they haven’t already.

The same goes for my taste in art. I’d rather be offended by your creative output than have it put me to sleep. (Note: This actually happened during the second act of the Broadway musical Annie in the seventies but that’s another subject.). In truth, there is nothing that fires me up more and sparks my own creativity than a good homophobic, racist, or sexist rant.   Sure, I loathe them. But as a guy with ADD and a lifelong procrastination problem, I often need a push – make that a shove – in order to do anything about it.

Me at my most creative #differentsteven

Me at my most creative

This is what current Republican nominee Donald Trump delivered this past week and Hillary Clinton can never deliver.

But see, the actual world is not a fictional land that a writer (or any artist) can mold to their liking. That’s why one does creative work to begin with. So we can evoke the world as we see it – create one that reflects our point of view, that is of our choosing, not yours.

Nor are actual world leaders characters in a book, movie or TV show to root for or hate watch. Well, okay, you can hate watch them – as I did with Trump last week – or root for them – as I’ll do with Hillary this week – but that is not their primary function in our lives.

OK... but this was pretty funny

OK… but this was pretty funny

They exist to lead us, to enact and enforce a set of laws that bring people together and create some sort of existential order than enables us to achieve whatever we so choose and thus become the best of ourselves.

In other words, they’re not here to put on a show, they’re here to run the show.

And what they are also most certainly not put here for is our amusement.

I’ve always liked following politics but personally I’d find it as boring as Annie Act 2 if I were a real life politician – or worked for one. All the hand-shaking, broken promises, arm-twisting, behind-the- scenes maneuvering. Not to mention compromises. Constantly. Oh – and asking for money. Do you know politicians spend 50-75% of their time fundraising?

That's it, I'm going back to bed

That’s it, I’m going back to bed

And that’s the fun part. How about the endless hearings, crafting the legislation, engaging in ad infinitum drafts of bills that will look nothing like you imagined them to be – that is if they ever do get enacted. Not to mention you’ll also have to talk your bone-headed colleagues on the other side of the aisle into the milquetoast compromise you didn’t want in the first place and often smile sincerely enough for them to believe you at some point while you’re doing it.

Fine, this is not unlike being a screenwriter in the film business. Still, no one dies or goes hungry when our movies do or don’t get made. Not even us. Not really. And if an artist of any kind can go hungry or be permanently broke, the failure of our projects or constant unemployment do not have national or worldwide repercussions. Even though our egos are such that we are convinced this is the case on every single project we undertake.

A screenwriter's dinner isn't going to make itself!

A screenwriter’s dinner isn’t going to make itself!

Mr. Trump’s charm has always eluded me. Probably because I’ve always detested white, straight macho strongmen rich guys who flaunt their money with the same ease with which they flaunt the latest blonde on their arm. And honestly, I find gold–gilted anything quite tacky – especially when it’s a zillion feet high. No, I’m not talking about his hair.

Nevertheless, I got what he provided for others. A fantasy of luxury.   A mouthpiece to say all the things they couldn’t. Like – YOU’RE FIRED! Heck, who hasn’t wanted to say that at least once a week, or sometimes even once a day?

But experiencing Mr. Trump this past week and the foaming fervor of his supporters at the RNC grew from entertaining hate-watching to terror and panic once I got it through my head this was no longer just good badTV. The Washington Post breaks it down much better than I do so please click here and read.

... and just in case Trump wasn't scary enough, now we got this guy too #HELP

… and just in case Trump wasn’t scary enough, now we got this guy too #HELP

Suffice it to say 75 plus minutes of law and order rants in an undeniable Mussolini/Hitler like timbre was frightening – and not in the Dick Wolf-TV-Mariska Hargitay kind of way. It became much larger than life and certainly larger than any reality show that has ever been on TV. A man who alternately pleaded and shouted that he’d protect you and work for you as long as you gave him the keys and the codes to everything you own and didn’t ever ask him to give any details, or much of a clue, on how he’d do that.

Heck, I had lying, elusive, duplicitous boyfriends in my twenties (and more than a few) who gave me more actual specifics than that. Plus, they were a helluva lot better looking.

Then, on the other side, there is Hillary Clinton. We’ve known her for 25 years and, let’s face it, she’s seldom entertaining.   Okay, there was the Monica scandal and the dress and the brief period the country felt bad for her. And yes, there were those moments and memes as secretary of State when she was texting in her sunglasses pre-Benghazi when it seemed like she could never make a wrong move again. But mostly – not much fun on her own. Certainly not much fun to watch giving a speech.

... whereas this guy #goodspeech #wow

… whereas this guy #goodspeech #wow

Which does not mean she is not a good or effective politician. Or potential world leader.   Rather than getting into a litany of defense, here is the best compilation of facts and attributes I’ve seen in this dailykos article last month, which references other sources – both pro and con. But suffice it to say I remember 25 years ago when she was actually fighting for health care and telling the right wing to go stick it in their hats – a time they resented her simply for not staying home like a good, little first lady and tending the rose garden. Yeah, she was tough and mouthy but I was raised by women like that and always thought that behavior was kind of cool.

See, her kind doesn’t get cast as Secretary of State – we have the glamorous, desirable Tea Leoni for that. And if she does become our first female president, Julia-Louis Dreyfuss will be far more entertaining on Veep in any moment on any given part of the day to most of the world.

Lest we forget Miss Geena

Lest we forget Miss Geena

I can hear the naysayers from here – she lied, she’s crooked, she can’t be trusted! As opposed to um…the neighborhood billionaire? Any billionaire? This is not a defense of lying, or even an admission that Mrs. Clinton does or does not lie.   We’re simply making equivalencies here. The RNC didn’t just nominate Gandhi. Or even Ben Kingsley. Though their nominee is closer to an actor if he’s anything at all.

Which is the crux of the problem. We’re electing a commander-in-chief not an entertainer-in-chief. And certainly, not a clown – no matter how desperate we all are for a laugh. How desperate is that?   We’ll see.