It’s the 70th Primetime Emmy awards tonight and that surely must mean something. In this have-it-now, trend-changing, drive-thru, disposable, binge-watch culture we have going on in the early-morning stretches of this century, we should probably hold true to some long-running institutions. Especially the ones that are only partially problematic, like entertainment awards shows, and not wholly regressive, like beauty pageants. At least all of the made-up nominees at the Emmys have a legit and obvious talent, and it’s only Henry Winkler who has tried to sleep with the academy judges this year.
(Joke, not true)
One of the talking-points of this years’ awards is that HBO have been toppled from the most-nominations title, an accolade they’d held at the Emmys for the last seventeen years. Netflix can now claim bragging rights over best creator of content on the small-screen, with one-hundred and twelve nominations across forty different shows. Which, really, is less than three nominations per show — are you even trying Netflix!?
It appears as though the model of ‘throwing as much money at as many projects as possible and some things will stick’, is working over at Netflix. In my opinion the average quality of their shows are far lower than any other network, but they appear to be making a lot more than anyone else. For every BoJack Horseman there’s a Pacific Heat, for every GLOW there’s an Insatiable, for every mediocre yet popular superhero franchise there’s an Iron Fist.
HBO are fortunate that season seven of Game of Thrones is included in this award cycle. Even though the quality of Thrones dwindled last season, it’s still head and shoulders above many TV dramas, thanks to it’s blockbuster-level budget and water-cooler-worthy talking-points.
I hope HBO receive some recognition for Barry, the Bill Hader-fronted dark comedy about a hit-man who wants to make it as an actor in LA. A bunch of talented people poured a lot into those eight episodes and they’re well worth a watch if you haven’t tried it already. Of course it’ll be up against Atlanta, GLOW and The Good Place in many of the comedy categories, all excellent shows in their own right.
HBO don’t deserve quite as much praise for the second season of Westworld, which was a meandering mess when compared to the lofty-heights of the near-perfect debut season. I’m all for piecing together a complex narrative, but when that results in gaping plot-holes and characters behaving nonsensically, I can’t keep playing that game, no matter how strong the performances are, or how beautiful the shot composition is.
Twin Peaks: The Return didn’t receive as many nominations as I’d hoped, but Lynch is at least getting some recognition for his directing. At a time when we’re making the best TV programming in history, but where companies are starting to rest on bankable brands and franchises which never change, Twin Peaks returned to flip the script once more.
Just as it did back in 1990, when it taught today’s TV-makers that the small screen doesn’t have to be about single-episode procedurals, in 2017 we were reminded that capturing a feeling, a raw nerve at the edge of an idea strung out in an unconventional fashion, is sometimes enough.
Twin Peaks invited us to view and feel, it was a piece of visual art displayed over eighteen hours of freeform television. If we didn’t want to think, we didn’t have to think, we could simply experience. Compare that to Westworld, which was a ten-hour piece of science, where we were told we had to think, forced to figure out the equally disjointed narrative. The difference between the two was that David Lynch remembered that TV is still escapism, Nolan and Joy forced the viewer to remain in their own world to explain the events of the imaginary one, in order to find satisfaction. Give me some time in the Black Lodge over Westworld any day.
Of course none of that matters, because Game of Thrones and American Crime Story will walk away with the awards in the dramatic categories.
I hope Sarah Silverman gets some love for her late-night talk-show, I Love You, America. It’s a refreshing twist on the format and she manages to educate on a variety of subjects without ever coming across as preachy or agenda-filled. She follows the format of a male-hosted late-night talk-show, whilst lovingly poking fun at the genre, with self-aware segues such as “okay shut up it’s time for my monologue” and managing to include sincere discourse in the form of couch-style chit-chats.
I’m glad that Charlie Brooker has another writing nomination for the Black Mirror episode ‘USS Callister’, which was definitely the best of the most recent series. It was a visceral critique of male-dominated nerd culture, and the episode even managed to have a happy ending, a rarity for the dystopian nightmare anthology series.
I’m looking at the list of nominations for directing in a comedy series, an award that Barry deserves, even if the other comedy awards go elsewhere, and I’m seeing that The Big Bang Theory has been nominated for an episode — For best directing? I love the studio sitcom style, but given the traditional camera setup and rigid format, I don’t think we should be praising it for outstanding directing. Especially for a show that’s been on the air for eleven years already.
I’m sure the Emmys will be just another thing that happens, and that some people will be deserving whilst others will go without. I’m sure that everyone will continue to make great television, as the best stories and biggest talent are moving from the big screen to the small. I’m also sure it’ll be one shiny, statue-sized distraction from all the bad things in the world, if only for a few hours. Which is really all television is to begin with.
Today is Monday, September 17th and redrafting is not as fun as writing a first draft, but it’s annoyingly necessary.
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