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Thursday, September 20, 2012

m.e. awards

So here we are.

The Primetime Emmy Awards are coming up this weekend. I’ll watch, but I am wearied of these pageants.

I get a little tired of humanity spending so much of its time trying to figure out what and/or whom all the best nouns are. There are lists in every magazine and newspaper, countdown-style specials on TV, and arguments on websites every damned day about which is the best whatever. But really, who cares?

Calling something the best is always tricky. Nothing is ever the best forever. There was a time when an 11-inch black and white television was the best one on the market. And getting the world to agree on anything, let alone what the best cookie is, or what the best movie is, or who the best actor of all time is, is a fruitless impossibility. The world can’t even agree to disagree, for crying out loud. How can you possibly rank cartoon characters?

But we persist with all the Top 10s and Best Ofs and trophy giveaways. 

And what good does it do, anyway?

Think of the pressure of bringing home a Best Actor award. Some organization has deemed you The Best, but not everyone agrees with that estimation because there are several other nominees in your category who are just as deserving as you, and you may very well have won by a single vote. Plus, you’re only the best until next year. And what does being called The Best accomplish, anyway? Does it make you more talented? Does not being called The Best make you less talented?

But that is not what this is about. Plus, I touched on some of that in “trophies” back around Oscar time. 

There are three things I wish that the Emmys would do when it comes to the acting categories, and they’re all inspired by other awards. 

The Drama League gives a single Distinguished Performance Award in a theatrical season. There are approximately 50-65 nominees, in no particular categories. All of the eligible actors, be them on Broadway, Off, or Off-Off Broadway, be them men or women or children, are all considered equals. I like that. I like that there are no categories to fill. The organization simply honors performances that they have deemed worthy. (Full disclosure: I have not been honored in this way by this group... but I still like how they operate.) 

What I like best about it is that an actor can only win the Distinguished Performance Award once. He or she can be recognized with a nomination in future years, but are ineligible to win again.The Emmys might well benefit from a system like this, rather than just keep handing trophies to the same usual suspects over and over. Not that there aren’t some usual suspects who deserve lots of hardware, but it would certainly make things more interesting year to year. 

Another thing I’d love to see at the Emmys is an award for Best Ensemble, like the Drama Desks and the SAG Awards give. Ensemble acting always gets short shrift, mostly because people are star-hungry: stars equals fame, fame equals great, great equals awards. That little formula is patently untrue in its screwed-up logic, but it’s perpetuated nonetheless. 

People joke about the fourth lead in a sitcom, but if it’s a well-written sitcom with a great actor in the role who has created a memorable character, that fourth lead can be as important as the star that the show was built around, because that fourth lead informs the other characters by reacting to them (and being reacted to by them). No great, successful character lives in a vacuum, no matter how famous or talented the actor who plays it is. 

I think a lot about New Girl in this regard. It’s wonderful that Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield got nominations, but you can’t tell me that Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris and Hannah Simone aren’t vital. They all shine. Greenfield’s Schmidt is a fresh and hilarious character indeed, but he works so well because of the other characters’ responses to him. Community and Parks and Recreation are also great examples of solid ensembles with actors who will never be nominated, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be honored.

The third thing I’d love the Emmys to do is give an award for a performance (or ensemble performance) from 10 or more years ago. It’s not the same thing being inducted into the Academy’s Hall of Fame, but rather a little like what the TV Land Awards do. The hallmark of a truly great performance is that it’s just as wonderful years and years later (or after multiple viewings) as it was when it was initially aired. Hell, some performances actually get better with time. And considering that there are many shows that are canceled too soon, only to be rediscovered on Netflix or DVD or Hulu, it’s an apt thing to do in our brave new age. 

There are way too many deserving ensembles and individual actors from old shows for me to mention, but let me throw out a few: the casts of Soap, Newsradio, The Bob Newhart Show, Arrested Development, Joe Flaherty and Becky Ann Baker in Freaks and Geeks, and the trio of Garry Shandling, Jeffrey Tambor and Rip Torn in The Larry Sanders Show. Wouldn’t it be great to right the wrongs of the past by honoring these folks now?

And a creation that is all my own would be an award for Most Underrated Actor. This year I’d give it to Garrett Dillahut in Raising Hope. In past years I’d have given it to Michael Gross for Family Ties, and Kurtwood Smith for That 70s Show, just to name a couple.

(I know. I’m only mentioning comedies. But I think that dramas and the actors in them get plenty of recognition. Bryan Cranston was an unsung MVP of Malcom in the Middle, but it took Breaking Bad for him to finally get his due.)

But of course, I am not a believer that television is like Little League, where everyone should get a trophy. I think that if there is a show or personality that makes television worse, they should be fined a large amount of money that goes into a fund that teaches kids to write, and maybe that way there will be a brighter future in television entertainment.

Oh, and as for all the writing, directing, and technical categories, well, I don’t know how to reconcile how those awards are given, but I do think that everyone who is nominated in those categories should get to give acceptance speeches in a ceremony streamed online so they can thank their partners, spouses and families... because they work so damned hard that they never see them. And all of the partners, spouses and families should get copious amounts of candy.

Sigh. This is what I’ve come to: writing about prizes and candy. I am still five years old.

Yes indeed. Welcome to me. 

1 comment:

  1. I've never seen Breaking Bad, but we are watching Malcom in the Middle with the kids on Netflix, and MAN is Bryan Cranston talented.