Emmy nominations: Reacting to the reactions

No sweat: Ed O’Neill in “Modern Family.”


NEW YORK, July 8, 2010 — A couple of things about today’s Emmy Award nominations, based on all the overheated reactions that come flooding out from every misinformed corner of the universe when these things are announced every July:

1) On Ed O’Neill and Katey Sagal — co-stars so many years ago on “Married With Children” — somehow being “snubbed” (every critic’s favorite word this time of year) for Emmy nominations, as if longevity in the TV business is one of the criteria for recognition:

First of all, that’s not a criterion.

Katey Sagal in “Sons of Anarchy”

Second of all, Ed O’Neill is not exactly setting the acting world on fire in “Modern Family,” which happens to be an enjoyable TV sitcom but not some sort of landmark production in the history of acting, as you might imagine from seeing all the cast members nominated for Emmys this year.  Ed did some of the best work of his career on “John from Cincinnati” on HBO, a show that was completely snubbed (there’s that word again!) by the Emmys.

As for Katey Sagal, I’m sure it’s a challenge to play the matriarch of a brutal California motorcycle gang in “Sons of Anarchy,” but my guess is, this show was way too far out — in its violence and extreme subject matter — for the TV Academy to shower it with nominations.   Plus, this show doesn’t receive the kind of buzz that can sometimes trickle down (or maybe up) to the TV Academy voters and help them “decide” which shows are worthiest of recognition.

2) On the significance of Conan O’Brien’s “Tonight Show” being nominated for four Emmys and Jay Leno’s ill-fated prime-time show getting none:

Well, for one thing, NBC has to be embarrassed over seeing a show whose host the network humiliated so publicly get nominated for some of the TV industry’s highest honors — nominations based on the quality of the show’s production, which NBC didn’t feel was valuable enough to preserve.

But before all the Team Coco-heads start hooting and hollering about how their guy is better than Jay (sorry, I guess I’m too late for that), it’s worth mentioning for the umpteenth time that the quality of writing and directing — as judged by some obscure jury based on a couple of individual shows — doesn’t mean much in the long run if the show can’t draw viewers.

Now, in hindsight, with Leno’s “Tonight Show” declining in the ratings early this summer, you might conclude that NBC should have stuck with Conan.  Well, maybe — but hindsight’s always 20/20.  It remains true that NBC will have to replace Leno eventually, and that means they are challenged more than ever to cough up a replacement, though no one in particular seems to be warming up in the on-deck circle (I love a baseball metaphor, don’t you?).

3) On the Emmys being meaningful: Well, sometimes.  For instance, if Conan O’Brien wins one or more Emmys this September, it will be a great and fortuitous way for him to launch his new late-night show on TBS, lessening the risks, at least somewhat, for a venture that is fraught with them.

Generally speaking, the Emmy nominations are a great p.r. boost for TV in the dog days of summer.  It gets everyone talking about television — on television, on the Internet, in newspapers, and amongst each other.  As always, people will argue about who is most deserving, basing their arguments mainly on which shows and performers they happen to prefer personally.  But the Emmys aren’t about that — these awards, like the Oscars and others, are about an industry rewarding its own based on production criteria and aspects of craft that are generally indiscernible to us outsiders.  This is why the nominations often strike the general public as incomprehensible and endlessly debatable.

Contact Adam Buckman: AdamBuckman14@gmail.com



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