The Other Emmys

One of the biggest Emmy mysteries is what that statuette is all about.

One of the biggest Emmy mysteries is what that statuette is all about.

On Sunday night in the United States (but screened in Australia on Monday), the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences gave out another lot of basketball-playing-angel statuettes* for the best stuff on the box over the last year.

The major awards were fairly unremarkable. The frontline nominees were Mad Men with 17 nominations; Glee with 19; and the Australian-shot miniseries The Pacific with 24. The Pacific duly cleaned up in the miniseries category and Mad Men won Best Drama Series; but Glee was pipped to Best Comedy Series, along with previous favourite 30 Rock, by the newcomer Modern Family.

Despite inspiring host Jimmy Fallon’s Bruce Springsteen opening number, the show-choir chipmunks from McKinley High failed to win in any of the other major categories – although Neil Patrick Harris deservedly won a guest-acting Emmy for his spot as Will Schuester’s high-school choir rival.

Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) were surprise comedic Best Actress and Actor winners. The unassuming biographical telemovie Temple Grandin also unexpectedly scooped several awards.

Meanwhile, the highly fancied Mad Men cast missed out in all the dramatic acting categories; Breaking Bad‘s meth-cooking duo Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul bagged best lead and supporting actor. The Academy also missed its opportunity to recognise Conan O’Brien’s notoriously ill-fated Tonight Show for Best Variety, Music or Comedy Series, giving that award to Jon Stewart.

So The Enthusiast thought we’d take a look at a few of the minor Emmy categories, which actually yielded some pretty interesting winners.

Best Animated Program – Disney’s Prep & Landing
What could beat The Simpsons, South Park and The Ricky Gervais Show? It’s this nifty Christmas TV special by Disney, which aired last December. Prep & Landing is reminiscent of Monsters, Inc in that it shows the world of childhood whimsy as a technologically advanced corporation. It also cleverly repurposes various aspects of yuletide popular culture.

The title refers to the elite elf reconnaissance team who smooth Santa’s way every year. Crushed when he misses out on a promotion, veteran elf Wayne gets sloppy – so will little Timmy miss out on presents this year? The half-hour CGI film totally deserves its place in the Christmas programming canon.

Best Writing For A Drama Series – Matthew Weiner and Erin Levy, Mad Men
Series creator Matthew Weiner shared the Emmy with Erin Levy, who received her award looking very excited. Levy’s story is intriguing and not without controversy. As this Variety article put it, she’s like the Mad Men character Peggy Olson: “Promising young talent comes into the office, impresses the in-house creative genius, who decides to give her a big chance with a big assignment.” Levy started on the show in its third season as a writers’ assistant, but was invited to co-write the season finale with Weiner. Levy also has a solo writing credit on episode five of season four.

But she isn’t the first youngster plucked from obscurity to write for Mad Men. At last year’s Emmys, Weiner shared the stage with Kater Gordon, who’d originally been hired as Weiner’s PA. But as Hollywood news site Deadline reported, just a month later Gordon had left the show amid debate over whether she jumped or was pushed.

The incident sparked debate from Deadline readers over whether Gordon had been promoted too swiftly, or out of proportion to her ability as a writer (read the comments; they’re really something). Soon afterwards, Weiner’s original assistant-turned-writer, Robin Veith, also left the show.

So, um, enjoy your Emmy, Erin.

Princess Penelope (Anne Hathaway) serenades Krusty the Clown.

Princess Penelope (Anne Hathaway) serenades Krusty the Clown.

Best Voice-Over Performance – Anne Hathaway, The Simpsons
Hathaway has been a guest voice on The Simpsons twice. Last year she played Jenny, a goody-two-shoes love interest for Bart. But her Emmy-winning performance was in the show’s 450th episode – which marked its 20th anniversary – as Princess Penelope, Krusty the Clown’s Long Island-born princess sidekick-turned-fiancé. Hathaway also sang three songs in the fairytale-inspired episode.

She beat her co-stars Dan Castellaneta and Hank Azaria, as well as Robot Chicken‘s Seth Green. Robot Chicken, however, took out Best Short-Form Animated Program.

Best Creative Achievement In Interactive Media (Fiction) – Star Wars Uncut
The Enthusiast is pleased to see that interactive media – websites, ‘webisodes’ and community-building exercises – are rewarded in the Emmys. Of course, NBC has to ruin everything by annoyingly calling its show microsites “digital experiences”, and so it was that The Jimmy Fallon Digital Experience took out the Emmy in the nonfiction subcategory.

But the fiction category saw a deservingly innovative winner – Star Wars Uncut, the fan-driven, shot-for-shot remake of Star Wars. It’s the initiative of Casey Pugh, who worked as a developer at Vimeo and wanted to harness the fan-made scene re-enactments that are popular on video-sharing websites.

The Uncut team chopped Star Wars Episode IV into 15-second grabs and invited members of the public to claim, and re-film, each one. The results are adorable, technologically resourceful, but most of all are entirely driven by genuine affection for the pop-cultural artefact, rather than being part of a crappy ‘competition’ or cynical user-generated ad campaign. The Uncut team plans to give more movies the same treatment.

Best Original Main Title Theme Music – Nurse Jackie
Surely only shows that have premiered in a given year are eligible for this award. It was an interesting field. Fox’s military-tinged Human Target was also nominated (but lost) for Best Main Title Design. Justified, FX’s southern-fried justice show starred Timothy Olyphant, used the song ‘Long Hard Times To Come’ by New York City bluegrass/hip-hop hybrid outfit Gangstagrass.

NBC’s Parks and Recreation was nominated for its jaunty instrumental, while Syfy’s Warehouse 13 managed to cram at least a dozen different evocative genre flourishes into its opening theme. But the winner was Nurse Jackie, which starts off all innocent and twinkly before indulging in some guitar shredwork. Compared to some of the other nominees it’s quite a confused theme, really.

TV blogger Myles McNutt agrees. “When it’s quiet and contemplative I think it could potentially capture the way Jackie often exists in her own head to escape the madness around her (often through the use of drugs, of course), but when it suddenly turns into 70s porn music I don’t know what they’re trying to portray,” McNutt writes.

We also find it rather odd that the theme from David Simon’s jazz-flooded Treme didn’t score a nomination. Who do you think should have won this category?

* Note to pedants: apparently the statuette depicts a winged muse (representing the arts) holding aloft an atom (representing the sciences).

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