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Emmy rebuttal to Paul Brownfield & Scott Collins

August 28, 2006 |  3:28 am

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In the spirit of fair Emmy play, permit me to offer counterpoints to the Emmy disappointments of my L.A. Times colleagues Paul Brownfield and Scott Collins. To read their full articles, CLICK HERE for Brownfield, CLICK HERE for Collins.

Let's take these issues comment by comment:

Brownfield: "The Emmy telecast was . . . a horrible showcase for the series that make TV a hot medium — 'Lost,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' 'The Sopranos,' 'American Idol.'"

Rebuttal: Yes, the shut-out of "Grey's Anatomy" was sad, but it lost best drama series to an acclaimed show cheered by TV critics for just having had its best season ever ("24"). "Grey's" dual defeats in the writing race went to the best episode of a show you also bemoan not doing better ("The Sopranos"). Should "Sopranos" have won best drama? Most critics say it didn't have a superior season, at least not better than "24." Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson lost to a worthy, gifted rival and one of showbiz's grandest acting dames, Blythe Danner. "American Idol" keeps losing for two reasons: 1.) the thrill of that show has more to do with its competition than what we actually see on the tube and 2.) it deserves to lose based upon its episode submissions. One TV academy member who judged that race told me he was "really disappointed" in the episode sample entered by producers, a complaint I've heard year after year. "Lost" got shut out of the drama series race because it failed to pay attention to how the Emmy game is played, by giving the nomination-panel judges an episode ("Man of Science, Man of Faith") that was full of dangling plot lines that made little sense to judges who aren't regular viewers of the show. That doesn't mean that those judges don't ever watch the show, just not all of them continuously, which was necessary to understand what was going on. Frankly, I didn't think much was going on plot-wise in that "Lost" episode, period: we see a bunch of islanders fretting on and on about opening a hatch they find in the jungle floor, we see glimpses of a mysterious man down below in a bunker pad and meantime, back up above, other islanders chase after a dog into the jungle at night. That's Emmy-worthy? Why didn't the producers of "Lost" submit what TV Guide called its best episode last season? Had they given judges the Tailies episode, it might have done a better job grabbing voters and, egads, it even might've made sense: it had a story line with a beginning, middle and an end. I strongly suspect that if the producers had entered their best work, like they were supposed to do, their show would've been nommed. Do you criticize the Olympics for failing to give a gold medal to a competitor who fails to compete smartly?

Brownfield: "It's not so much that 'Lost' deserved to be nominated, it's that none of the series are being judged in their totality."

Rebuttal: A juried award system can't do that. We can't realistically expect jurors to watch two dozen episodes of all five nominated series and then pick a winner. That's why nominee wannabes must submit a sample of their best work for the nominating process, and, if nommed, then six samples in the final round to decide a winner. Unfortunately, this year, when the Emmys experimented with a new nominating system, there was an epidemic outbreak of the Susan Lucci Disease, which doesn't happen often, but "Lost," "Desperate Housewives" and even Lauren Graham ("The Gilmore Girls") all came down with delirious fevers (or something) that caused them to hand in lousy sample episodes. Granted, the Emmys shouldn't decide anything based solely upon one episode and I think they know that now and will field more episodes from contenders next year.

Brownfield: "So you sit there and watch Megan Mullally win for 'Will & Grace,' a show living in syndication, and Blythe Danner for 'Huff,' a canceled Showtime series watched by less than the population of Palm Springs, and Tony Shalhoub for 'Monk.' Already, you could sense the demo leaving the room — and that was before Barry Manilow won the award for outstanding individual performance in a variety or music program."

Rebuttal: It would be outrageously unfair if the Emmys penalized a TV show for leaving the airwaves after airing episodes during the same eligibility period as ongoing programs. Why shouldn't they all be judged equally? What if a show had its best year as its last? It should be dismissed by voters whose job is to critique quality? It would be equally bad if voters punished a program for low ratings. If Emmy voters did that over decades past, it's a good bet that some of TV's greatest series — including "Cheers," "Hill Street Blues," "Cagney and Lacey" and/or "All in the Family" — would've been canceled without the Emmy wins that saved them. Is Tony Shalhoub undeserving? Did you watch the episodes submitted by the five contenders for comedy actor? What's wrong with Barry Manilow? He should be shuttled because he's old news like "Will & Grace"? He's widely regarded as one of the greatest music artists of this era.

Brownfield: " By the end of the evening, I had lost total faith in the idea of an Emmy."

Rebuttal: By the end of the evening, my faith in the Emmy was greatly enhanced.

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Collins: "Wow, NBC's 'The Office' won the Emmy for outstanding comedy Sunday night. This means ... well, something. Right? Certainly it tosses some welcome creative validation to writer-producer Greg Daniels, lead actor Steve Carell and colleagues, who've bravely soldiered on with their loony satire of corporate life, even in the face of anemic ratings. 'The Office' is indeed one of the best comedies on TV, although when the Emmy competition includes 'Two and a Half Men,' it's safe to say that our epoch is not to the sitcom what the Restoration was to stage comedy."

Rebuttal: There are some esteemed TV critics who disagree with you. Robert Bianco of USA Today is among those who believe that "Two and a Half Men" is not only underrated because it suffers from the reputation of its genre, being a sitcom, but that it's one of the best shows on the tube. Indeed, I think one of the nicest surprises that resulted from the new Emmy nominating panels was that oft-dismissed genres like sitcoms ("Two and a Half Men," "King of Queens") and procedural crime dramas ("Law & Order: Special Victims Unit") suddenly got hiked respect from TV professionals (those Emmy judges) when viewed up close during panel inspection. Later, when I watched those episode samples submitted to jurors, I agreed that they were good, even worthy of Emmy consideration — and one win (Mariska Hargitay).

Collins: "But, more important in the calculus of Hollywood, does this mean that 'The Office' will finally turn into the slow-roasting hit that, say, Fox's spy drama '24' has become? Here's an answer in two words: 'Arrested Development.' You may recall that Fox's low-rated, critically acclaimed comedy about a loony Orange County clan won the Emmy for best comedy in 2004. The producers held hands with the network suits and waited for the surging influx of viewers who watched 'Arrested's' Emmy triumph. Two seasons later, they were still waiting. 'Arrested' had its swan song Sunday, losing out to 'The Office' in the comedy category. The show was canceled earlier this year."

Rebuttal: One more time — the Emmys, if they do their job right, shouldn't care a hoot about Nielsens or even whether or show is alive or dead. Only with how good it is. When "Arrested Development" won best comedy two years ago, its victory was widely hailed by America's TV critics as one of the best Emmy wins ever. As a result, the Fox network gave the show an extra year or two of life that can now be enjoyed by the TV fans on DVD for generations. TV's Golden Girl, Emmy, did her job brilliantly, and nobly, as she has done so often in the past by bravely embracing a deserving, low-rated show with a top win. She shouldn't be condemned now because mass viewers failed to follow. As you say, Emmy voters got best comedy right this year — "The Office." Why do you turn that into a damning negative?

Oh, yeah, two more things: Conan O'Brien performed brilliantly as host, especially that irreverent "River City" slam at his employer and the Emmy telecaster. That took guts and he pulled it off with panache and a deft soft shoe. His opening montage should not have been nixed because a plane went down in Kentucky.


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