Last week’s Emmys proved two things without a doubt. The person whose idea it was to have reality show hosts MC the Emmys ought to be blocked from ever making any major decisions like that again, and it has become clear that there is no distinguishable difference between cable and network television except that, perhaps, on cable they take risks, write well, embrace the new and aren’t afraid of turning off audiences.
Did the producers of the Emmys fear the politically charged climate so much that they were afraid to choose any host that might compromise their please-everyone, bland disposition? These hosts’ regular gigs are almost unwatchable. They’re saved only by the superimposed drama over the “reality.” Take that away and what do you have? Heidi Klum’s cuteness wore out its welcome at the thirty minute mark and Jeff Probst, who won Best Reality Host, just looked lost and confused and desperately in need of a helicopter to get him the hell out of there.
The Emmys themselves were mostly unwatchable, except for the bit with Ricky Gervais and Steve Carrell. It wasn’t that the right people didn’t win. John Adams was, as expected, handsomely rewarded for being one of the best things to hit television in years, and by some miracle, Mad Men won in the Best Drama series category. Could it be the Emmys are actually getting more daring in their choices? Less repetitive?
The truth is that Mad Men and John Adams really didn’t need Emmy love to feel validated; they stand on their own. The Emmys needed them. If the Emmys inspire other production companies and networks to take chances on something new then it would have been worthwhile. Well, except for those reality show hosts.
The big story of the day was that cable triumphed over the networks. It wasn’t so much that the networks had failed to turn out original product, it was just that cable is better all the way around. Cable, though, isn’t under the same kind of pressure the networks are. They have to deliver fewer dramas, for one thing. One channel, like AMC, can showcase Mad Men in all its glory, and then roll out its second season like a feature film. John Adams had the luxury of being a complete story, not an ongoing episodic drama where something original must happen every week.
There are still some great things coming out of the networks; it’s just that they aren’t new and they certainly aren’t daring. Mostly they’ve been taken over by game shows, reality shows and news magazines that either do a whole show on where Jesus lived or else focus on a missing or murdered white person, preferably female and pretty, preferably rich.
It’s a good thing we have so many choices, otherwise it would really be worth complaining about. With Mad Men and John Adams airing this past year, things are looking brighter and brighter for television, no matter what channel you’re watching. The real drag about Emmy night was that it was tape-delayed for California so anyone who happened to care about the winners could have found out long before the telecast aired online. And they wonder why the ratings were so low? It’s called YouTube.