This year’s Emmys was excellent in many ways. The awards show host Neil Patrick Harris with multitalented skills sang, danced and elegantly presented the show with few jokes that fell flat. Beginning in a room with multiple TV consoles, Harris perused the year’s crop of shows with neatly edited snippets matching random thoughts about the job he was about to do.
The Finnish cell phone manufacturer Nokia Theatre with its massive stage underwent multiple transformations during the evening, fashionably cordoning off the presenters to prevent them from being dwarfed by the expanse. There is still a standard flaw for a globally transmitted program like the Emmys, and that is helping women up the stage with their long gowns when accepting their awards. Jennifer Lawrence brought that home at last year’s Oscars when she tripped over the train of her dress. Are we learning yet?
The first presenters of the evening, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hilariously demonstrated how to safely ascend the steps in a gown by getting down on their hands and knees and hoisting themselves up by their hips several steps at a time. They also provided the first real laughs of the evening sitting in the audience with 3D glasses, eating popcorn and heckling Neil Patrick Harris. They could have said anything than asking him to take his pants off but it was a welcome role reversal where women are often the bunt of the jokes about physicality. They are still there though: a quip was made about the large busted presenter Sofia Vergara by Harris who was introduced as “them” not her.
On his own behalf, Harris commented about his lifestyle requesting to be hoisted one more time by the male dancers although he originally called song and dance routines “too gay”.
Kevin Spacey added spice with several dead pan addresses to the camera made from his seat in the audience. And there was a memorable moment when 78 year old veteran TV star old Diahann Carroll presented alongside 36 year old Kerry Washington. The largesse of TV and film star Michael Douglas (69), the night's outstanding actor alongside Matt Damon revved up the HBO success of outstanding director Steven Soderbergh’s "Behind the Candelabra", also chosen as outstanding movie or miniseries. The HBO movie premiered at Cannes in May, made by a renowned director who believes that working in television is the best. Here would have been an opportunity to show vintage TV footage of Liberace. Elton John’s rather tame new single “Home Again” sung during the show was a tribute to the late entertainer.
There were many well crafted tributes to television stars who passed away this year, such as Maureen Stapleton, James Gandolfini, Corry Montieth, and Jonathan Winters, with commemorations from members of their TV families – Rob Reiner, Jane Lynch, Edie Falco, and Robin Williams. One notable TV star that passed away this year was Mouseketeer Annette Funicello who died after a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis. Her image was displayed on stage alongside those of the many celebrities who have died this year, such as Julie Harris, Eydie Gorme, David Frost, and Dennis Farina.
The concept of "TV family" is not far fetched as millions of spectators become attached to their favorite stars of weekly telecasts. Usually 22-24 installments a year, and reruns make characters household members. But favorites come and go. One reason for the demise of a show like "True Blood" could be that the season is short – 10 to 12 weeks that span the summer, and then a wait of a whole year for a new season. The show has to maintain high quality to sustain several seasons. "Dexter" could have gone on after seven seasons but "True Blood" was fatally over this year with rating declines and will end its final season in 2014. A show with excessive screaming to intensify dramatic tension and a shallow plot often signals the end.
Two New Zealand produced TV shows have lived too short – "Spartacus" had only three seasons, and the "Xena Warrior Princess" series had nine years but still has a legendary fan cult following and a demand to revive it. The team working on both extraordinary creations include executive producers Robert Tapert (Lucy Lawless’ (Xena) husband) and Sam Raimi, associate producer Moira Grant, and directors Michael Hurst and Rick Jacobson. Then there are shows like "Law and Order, Special Victims Unit" now in its 15th season that has experienced exceptional longevity.
Overall this particular Emmys saluted today's television and its history. A focus on the 1960's included the telecast of John F. Kennedy’s funeral in 1963 followed by the telecast of the execution of Jack Ruby, the Freedom March on Washington with Martin Luther King (1963), and the Beatles on the "Ed Sullivan Show" (1964). Looking at those black and white fuzzy images that began when television went nationwide in 1952 makes you appreciate what the crispness and clarity of digital images has done to television. As the tribute to 60’s TV rolled, Carrie Underwood sang a modern day version of the Beatles' "Yesterday", given a thumbs up by Paul McCartney.
With the success of premiere networks like "HBO" and "Showtime" there has never been a better time for television with successes such as "True Blood", "Game of Thrones", "Homeland", and "Dexter". Judging by comments made by the winners, it seems to be an extremely positive place to work.
This year’s Emmys successfully contrasted the legends and the emerging stars of television. The excellence of revered TV series such as "The Sopranos", "All in the Family", and "I Love Lucy" are on the par with some of the new shows of today and this year’s Emmys brought it all home.