Watching the Emmys was for me a mixed bag, with Seth Meyers struggling with pat jokes contrasted with Bryan Cranston bringing down the house with laughter as he passionately smooched Julia Louis-Dreyfus as she mounted the stairs to retrieve her Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Emmy for Veep. Most of the wins were of the traditional kind, Modern Family winning for the fifth time, Breaking Bad repeating, and The Amazing Race picking up its 10th trophy for Reality Competition Show.
Even Bryan Cranston's Lead Actor in a Drama Series win for Breaking Bad was not a shock, though there was a heavy PR push that made many believe Matthew McConaughey's performance in True Detective was a lock.
However, in all there were very few surprises. Maybe Kathy Bates of American Horror Story: Coven in her category of supporting actress in a movie or miniseries, though she was very deserving, as were the other nominees. And the fact that The Normal Heart, which won Best TV Movie, didn't win any of the other major categories.
Once again, the writers were treated as second-class citizens by the TV Academy, with the nominees names announced on a screen card, whereas the no better known directors were shown seated in the audience just like the TV stars as the envelope was opened, as if the audience at home had a clue who most of them were.
The In Memoriam segment was well done accompanied by Charlie Chaplin's beautiful song Smile, sung by Sara Bareilles, and it was moving to see how many important folks in the industry had left us. Which made me wonder whether it was appropriate to give a special tribute to Robin Williams. Yes, his passing was recent, and the manner of his death was shocking, but this was the Emmy Awards, and his contributions to the medium were not more significant than many of the other notables who were being remembered.
No disrespect, but he had one popular television series, Mork and Mindy, which ran for four years, starting in the late '70s, and it wasn't highly acclaimed in the manner of other series of that decade, such as All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Indeed, it was Emmy nominated for best comedy series and for Williams just once in 1979.
So, was his television career more momentous than James Garner, who recently died and who'd also had a big movie career in addition to many more TV series accomplishments, including Maverick and The Rockford Files? And what about some of the others who passed, including such giants as Mickey Rooney and Shirley Temple? Also, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. who'd starred in two huge series, 77 Sunset Strip (6 seasons) and The FBI (9 seasons). Did their names have less luster? Not to mention Sid Caesar, who, along with Milton Berle, pretty much invented TV comedy. The collective list honoring all but one lasted only four minutes, but somehow it was decided that five additional minutes should be allotted solely to Robin Williams.
I think the producers sometimes succumb to the emotion of the moment and don't stop to think that in honoring one in the manner they did for Williams it does a huge disservice to those who are shown for a second or so with an 8x10 glossy. They did this last year as well, with special tributes for five people, while leaving out Larry Hagman and Jack Klugman whose careers and contributions to TV were more memorable than many of those who'd received extra attention.
In the future, I'd suggest not singling out anyone, and while I realize this may not be a popular opinion on the day after the big show, I thought it needed to be said. So, I did.
Michael Russnow's website is www.ramproductionsinternational.com