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August 30, 2010


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I'm so confused. You think Lost was better than Mad Men, and you think the quality of Breaking Bad's two winning stars is so low that the awards are clearly not about rewarding talent, but about advertising? (And if so, HBO wouldn't so consistently win awards, since it's the one of the only channels that does NOT deliver advertising.)

One change I'd have made was to nominate Friday Night Lights for more, but no, I think they got the big awards more-or-less right on.


Um, in a word: no. Not what I wrote at all.

I thought Lost was the best drama I watched last year. I haven't watched Mad Men, so I don't have an opinion on it. My larger point was that I don't care that some other people think Mad Men was better or more deserving or whatever criterion they use. I liked Lost and that is unchanged.

Do I say that nothing of quality wins? No. In fact, I say that sometimes quality does win. But that there are clearly other factors. I'm also talking about the way we talk about these awards, in particular, the kind of talk that I featured above: if someone good wins the award again and again, the pressure is on to "spread it around" or, in the case above, to give it to someone so something dramatic will happen. Which makes the whole thing kind of meaningless.

I'm glad that you largely agree with what they said. On some points, I do, too! But to the larger picture, it's just not important. What's important is what you like.

I'm with you on Friday Night Lights. That show was amazing this season.

Josh James

I agree about Daily Show, in fact I'd even go so far as to say that show deserves MORE awards (he's particularly on fire lately, the ep where he exposed the biggest minority holder of NewsCorp was brilliant, worthy of a Pulitzer, IMHO) and better than anything else of its type.

The other stuff, it's hard to quantify as that it's taste and accessibility ... a lot of great shows are now on pay cable and you can't catch them right away (I love Dexter, but I watch if via Netflix) or at all ... I like Breaking Bad a lot, think it's the best written show on TV, but I've still only watched the first two seasons.

but I don't know that anything else I've seen really has touched it, but I haven't seen Mad Men or Glee (and, uh, Glee looks fun but not really to my taste) ... and that's the rub, it depends, right? I'd watch Nurse Jackie if I had Showtime, I'd watch a whole lot more shows.

I am very glad Kyra Sedgwick won for Closer, a great show and she's awesome, if tho it's an old school procedure (seriously Old School, and you know one reason L & O is moving to LA is because of the success of the Closer) ...


Of course there's a matter of taste: I watched a little of Modern Family. I was bored to tears. But then again, I'm a single guy living in a big city. I don't know, necessarily, that the humor is aimed at me. I went in much more for Community.

I'm just saying that the subtext (and sometimes the actual text) of these things aren't about the work that's actually being done or its quality: it's about the "story." Which means it was dreamed up by someone's PR department or manager to get people to watch. I think there are plenty of good things that win the awards, but there are great things that don't and the weird politics of an industry-bestowed award in what is, essentially, a three-hour long commercial for that industry, factors in and, for me, right now, overshadows the actual quality. If we were talking about Oil Executive of the Year, we wouldn't be so worried about "quality." But that's basically what we're talking about.


Thanks for clarifying, I was confused given this line ("But let's be clear: quality isn't the only thing winning statues out there.") and your statement about Lost and Community being your favorites--I took that as you snubbing the awards because yours didn't win. Sorry!

I disagree, though, that the awards are trying to be dramatic by spreading things around: there's a reason Bryan Cranston keeps winning, a reason Mad Men keeps winning. And considering the average TV viewer, it's terrific that Modern Family won--it's leagues above The Big Bang Theory in value. (It has heart.)

I don't think the awards are meaningless in helping audiences to discern quality--I think they're meaningless because audiences could care less about quality. They just want to be entertained, and any old vice will do. Do they peel eyes away from the CSIs and L&Os? Should they?

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I say no. If they enjoy 'em, enjoy 'em. I know I do. But let's also be clear: none of these awards have anything to do with audiences, not in any direct way. It's advertising to them, but that's about it.

I guess in a way, I'm wondering about the worth of these kind of awards at all. I mean, who is determining that Modern Family is better than The Big Bang Theory? If these were critics' choice awards or something, that would be one thing. But it's a bunch of insiders honoring the people they like the best or they think the audience will like the best.


But if the insiders were just honoring the people they liked the best, then HBO--whom the networks have complained about--wouldn't ever win, nor would shows on cable television (or at least not as frequently). And if they were just honoring the people they thought audiences would like the best, you'd see a lot more wins for actors on the high-rated procedural shows, or to big-appeal comedies like (for some reason) Two and a Half Men, instead of the more niche 30 Rock. From what I've seen, too, there are plenty of TV critics who *would* have voted in favor for the people who won--and in fact were calling some of these winners much earlier in the year, which makes me think that the voters are influenced by critical taste, too.


When I say "insiders," I don't mean exclusively network executives. The Emmys are voted on by a number of artists and creative types who have A) artistic opinions themselves and B) some measures of "skin in the game." They're honoring their friends and colleagues and, you're right, sometimes trying to help out things they like. It would be a more honest thing if it was like the MVP or the Cy Young Award and went to the show that did the best in the ratings. What we have is effectively a popularity contest. Modern Family is effectively more popular among a certain subset of the population (made up primarily of TV people) than Glee. Does that make it a better show? Is Two and A Half Men a better show because it's more popular among a different subset of the population?

Josh James

You're effectively speaking about industry people who vote anonymously, so not only do they vote to support the shows they work on, of course, but also the the artists / work they admire, and that's why shows like Breaking Bad win, not only because it's awesome, but because the folk in the industry admire the craft of it ... so they vote for it.

I tell you, there's not a writer / actor / director out there who doesn't wish they were doing Breaking Bad, or Mad Men ... because they like the work so much, they honor it.

And that's really what the show is about, the industry honoring the work they feel is excellent ... it's not the frigging People's Choice Awards, it's the Emmys, the industry deciding, by itself, the work that is best.

It's not about popularity, really ... at least, popularity among the viewing public (30 Rock didn't get great ratings its first year or so, but the awards helped get it noticed, and it got awards because the folks in the industry admired it so much) ... it's about popularity among the industry.

Not so different from the Oscars ... the Oscars are voted on by people in the industry, and their taste is not always the same as the public at large.

That's really it, don't you think?

Daily Show is hugely popular AND hugely admired, for reason ... but do you remember the Kilborn years? Not as much, really.


I'm talking as much about the Emmys show, about the quote above about giving an award to Conan O'Brien because it would be interesting and the fact that he didn't get an award maybe having to do with a certain segment of the voting populace not wanting to have sit there and watch someone else bite the hand that feeds them. I'm talking about the whole culture of it all. And why the hell do we need to invest in it? Why the hell defend these awards as though they matter? To whom? What for? And I'm including the Oscars in this. And the Grammys and, to an extent, the Pulitzers and the Tonys (I didn't watch those, either).

It's funny: we all buy into and read about and think about the "storylines" and the "drama" about the "backstage" whatever, but when I suggest that those dramas influence the way people vote and might counter-balance pure quality, people seem to get uncomfortable.

Josh James

You're talking about gossip and pundrity, in a sense, are you not? The folks writing about the show find it more interesting if Conan wins because that's a more compelling hook for them to write about the show ... it's less interesting if the same great show wins several years in a row ... I get that from your original post, and I guess my point is ... the culture you're speaking of isn't necessarily completely represented by the author of that paragraph ... it's easy to forget, but true, right?

I cannot stand Chris Matthews, hate him, I think he's a blowhard know-nothing on most matters ... in fact, I think quite a few political pundits are, regardless of the "side" they take (except for Rachel, she rox) and I have to constantly remind myself, he doesn't "represent" political thought, he only thinks he does, as do the people who pay him ... does he have influence? Sure, all reporters do ... but his culture is not necessarily the one we live in ...

don't you think?


But the punditry and the gossip and all of that does seem to have an effect on the discourse, doesn't it? Both in politics and in entertainment: look at Sandra Bullock. She makes movies that very few people consider good, has rarely made a movie that's considered any good at all. But she seems to be well-liked, so when she was nominated for the Oscar, it became about how nice she was and that meant she deserved to win, even if she was the only good thing in a cheesy, but popular movie. That's the storyline we get soaked in and the industry gets soaked in. But it's a manufactured storyline.

Pundits and reporters and editors do indeed have an actual effect on popular opinion and culture, but the problem is that they're often part of a closed circuit society. The kind of thinking evidenced in the post above and in the entire notion of "Emmy snubs" is part of that closed circuit.

Again, though, the larger question is why does it matter? Why does it matter that this limited group of people thinks Mad Men's last season was better than Lost's last season?

Josh James

I think that many people believe Bullock's work itself is good, and by work, I mean her individual choices and craft as an actor ... therefore, that's how she got honored, thru the work ... the fact remains, whether she did good movies or not (and I confess to liking at least a couple of her films) she is consistent in her craft ... and that's ho she got honored.

Is Mad Men better than Lost? I don't know, I only watched one. Does it matter? Not to me, but definitely to some people ... people who watch and vote.

does it matter, in terms of theatre, that one show is better than the other? It does to those who do it, and those who watch, and those who write about it ...

So I find the award shows sometimes frustrating, sometimes amusing, and oftentimes unnecessary, but they're not only for me, I don't plan on being on Broadway, so the Tonys mean nothing to me ... but they can be fun to watch and see what matters to show whom it means much ...

Does that make sense?

I agree about the pundits and the manufactured storyline, absolutely, and they do have an affect ... that's the kinda thing that's been with us from before WR Hearst bought his first newspaper ... however, at the end of the day, the shows like this are still about artists honoring other artists ... it can be ridiculous or unnecessary, but that's relative to the importance to the reviewer ...


BTW, I'm not trying to be contrary, I hoot and holler as much as the next guy, I actually find this conservation very interesting ... I once knew an actor who named his kid Oscar because he wanted to win one, and I find that kind of thing really out there ... but, you know, different things are important to different people, some of whom are bound to be disappointed by it ...

As a famous muppet once said, "Fame, fortune ... a jedi seeks not these things ..."

Josh James

Forgot to include ... the gossip and punditry has an affect on the work, but at the end of the day, it's still NOT the work ... the work is the work, and it will live or day, eventually, on its own terms ... that's what I think ...


I'm with you: the work is the work. And that's really what matters to me. I'm not any more or less likely to see Mad Men because Matt Weiner has a shiny new statue on his wall. What matters is the show.

But I can't go to the place of saying, "Well, it's just artists honoring artists." I buy that for the SAG awards, but the "bigger" ones, there are a lot of other threads and agendas and juggling acts going on. Even the obvious fact that, less so for the Emmys, but often for the Oscars, the award isn't really for that performance but for some other performance that wasn't deemed Oscar-worthy due to some political thing or whatever, then it's not really about "honoring artists" at all.

And don't get me wrong: I'm all for awards, desiring awards, winning awards if you want (though maybe not to the point of saddling my kid with the name Oscar). I just don't buy it as any reliable indication of quality. And I don't like watching the shows any more. Or caring who won or lost.

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Michael Chamberlin

'Curb Your Enthusiasm' and Larry David's performance in particular were especially brilliant this year. Bouquets all around for integrating the Seinfeld reunion so believably into the Curb world. And the Seinfeld storyline wasn't just a gimmick or a mere throwaway, but an entirely plausible extension of those iconic characters. I know Curb was applauded mightily last fall when it aired but I say the praise wasn't enough- it deserved to win everything.

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