Television has changed drastically in the past 67 years, mostly for the better. It has grown from "radio with pictures" into the most diverse and engaging of the dramatic media.
Once dismissed as a "vast wasteland," television has surpassed film and live theater in artistry and cultural impact.
And then there is the Emmy awards show.
As illustrated once again Sunday, the Emmys dwell in the awards-presentation cellar, the least entertaining of a genre of questionable entertainment value to begin with.
The Grammys and the Tonys at least make a show of it. The Emmys don't even try. Beyond the entertaining opening musical number, the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards might as well have been the sixth or seventh. What has changed?
We won't blame Andy Samberg. Yes, a better host could have been found, but the problem was less his smirking acknowledgement of the weakness of the material he was forced to deliver than the jokes themselves. The Emmys have an entire year to prepare, yet the opening monologue wasn't as good as the ones Jimmy Kimmel serves up five nights a week.
The jokes seemed razor sharp, though, when they were puncturing the voluminous boredom of the acceptance speeches. Each winner acknowledges the unlikelihood of winning against such strong competition before thanking a laundry list of people we don't care to hear about. It's like watching an NFL postgame news conference without watching the game itself.
On the subject of football, the Emmys went up against the Seattle Seahawks-Green Bay Packers game Sunday night and were trounced in the ratings. Early calculations had the Emmys at about 10 million viewers and the NFL at 22 million. And frankly, the football watchers made the better choice.
It would be great if some of TV's many creative minds got together and figured out a way to make the Emmys an innovative show that matches the state of the medium today. But they won't, because there is little incentive.
The Emmys show is a known quantity that costs little to produce, takes minimal effort and still draws 10 million viewers even up against a top-level NFL matchup. Why try to do better when competence pays the bills?
As for the awards themselves, I won't complain too much. Many of the choices weren't ones I would have made, but they were defensible, with a couple of exceptions. ("The Voice"!?)
Regular readers know "Game of Thrones" is far from my favorite show, but it is beautiful and exceptionally well-crafted, probably the most visually ambitious TV series ever made. And given that the Emmy voters all work in television, a series that spends gobs of money on location shoots, special effects and a giant cast must be particularly appealing.
It is easy to dismiss "Game of Thrones" as a populist choice elected under the Emmys new, wider voting rules. But then how does one explain the comedy-series win for "Veep," a critics' favorite that draws nowhere near the ratings of rival "Modern Family"? Or the awards for "Transparent," which can only be seen by subscribers to Amazon's Prime service?
Let's just say that after years of passing "Game of Thrones" by for the big awards, the Emmy voters had a change of heart.
Now what will they do to make up to "The Walking Dead"?
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