We Need to Rethink the Comedy-Drama Split
Sometime between Jennifer Coolidge winning Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for The White Lotus and Jeremy Allen White winning Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for The Bear, the tenuousness of these categories became very clear. To recap: Succession (the show that gave us “L to the OG”) and The White Lotus (“Peppa Pig?“) are competing as dramas. The Bear and Barry, as straight comedies. Back in 2015, the Emmys made a rule that any show 30 minutes or less was to run as a comedy, while anything longer was considered a drama. By 2021, they dropped this, finally acknowledging the existence of Long Comedy. But for every show that makes sense as a firm contender in its category, there’s another that feels as if it would be a stronger bet in the other. Just don’t use the word “dramedy.” —Gabriella Paiella
Better Call Saul Deserved Better
I can’t even front as if I’m a devout Saul evangelist—I showed up for seasons 1 and 2 before finding the pace a little tedious and trailing off, until multiple homies with trustworthy taste told me to check back in, just in time to watch the final season live. As a great show that went home empty-handed for its entire run, Better Call Saul is not unique; plenty of all-time greats were never even nominated. But how many of those series were the critically acclaimed spin-off of a show that did in fact seem to mint Emmy wins? In that regard, the Saul shut-out just feels weird. The final season felt like a slightly lower-scale monocultural event, one of those increasingly rare instances where it feels like the whole timeline is tapped into the same show at the same time, magnified by the tension of seeing what fates awaited several Breaking Bad favorites. Oh well, Rhea Seehorn: you’re a winner in our hearts. —Frazier Tharpe
Beef: It’s What’s For TV
Beef, Succession, and The Bear dominated the night, nabbing 17 awards between them. And that’s how beef came to rule the 2024 Emmys. Beef is about the beef between two strangers in a road rage incident. Succession is about the beef between siblings vying for control of their father’s media empire. And The Bear is about beef between restaurant coworkers, beef with one’s own trauma, and, of course, actual beef sandwiches. –Gabriella Paiella
Cast Reunions Were Cool for Once
Using presenter pairings as an excuse to reunite beloved casts is a stock awards-show move at this point, but the Emmy telecast producers went the extra mile this time by resurrecting some beloved sets to make the moment land that much harder. And you know what? Seeing Dr. Melfi’s office or Sam Malone’s bar went a long way. My personal favorite: the Martin cast, whose banter hasn’t missed a step—and whose presence added to the incidental MLK Day energy set by several wins for endearing, deserving Black actors like Quinta Brunson, Niecey Nash and Ayo Edebiri. That trio almost makes up for Martin never winning. Almost. —Frazier Tharpe
A Defense of Long Acceptance Speeches That Is Itself A Little Long
When did all of our awards shows become so pressed for time? Early last night, in a clear preemptive strike against protracted acceptance speeches, Emmy host Anthony Anderson introduced his mother, Doris Bowman, who’d been deputized as the evening’s official “play-off mama.” Bowman’s job was to politely but firmly order award winners to wrap it up once their allotted 45 seconds had elapsed. This Jimmy Kimmel-esque bit made tactical sense, at least: Anyone thinking about going long, or about trying to turn their decision to go long into a charming bit (as Julia Roberts did at the 2008 Academy Awards, addressing Oscars conductor Bill Conti as “Stick-man” and ordering him to take a seat) would have to consider the optics of telling an elderly Black mother to pipe down (on Martin Luther King’s birthday, no less). Of the winners, only Jennifer Coolidge dared risk an uncomfortable moment by blowing past her first Doris warning, although Kieran Cullen acknowledged the situation passive-aggressively, promising to move quickly through his thank-yous: “I don’t want to get yelled at.”
Leaving aside whether it was fair to put this all on Doris—who was eventually relegated to holding up handmade signs, perhaps indicating that producers realized having a designated heckler was playing less well in the room than it had in theory—the bit felt like a solution in search of a problem. Yes, awards-show ratings in general get worse every year, and every year there are articles about what the people who produce awards shows ought to do about this, and invariably the pundits surveyed always begin by pointing out that nobody (in the non-famous home viewing audience, anyway) really cares who wins, and that awards shows should therefore do anything they can to put the focus on the “show” part of the show, not the awards. This is a reasonable enough argument—if broadcast networks are going to continue to carry a show like the Emmys, which with each passing year becomes more of a victory lap for the streamers who’ve destroyed broadcast TV’s business model (last night’s Bear/Succession/Beef sweepfest was essentially a tribute to HBO, FX and Netflix presented by Fox) they should be allowed to do whatever they deem necessary to hold viewers’ attention and make that telecast worth three hours of what they used to call prime time, even if it means cutting famous people off in the middle of a life-changing moment to make room for more production numbers, comedy segments, and aging-star-studded cast reunions.
Let’s be clear about what this is, though: It’s a fundamentally anti-awards-show argument disguised as an argument about viewer preference and production expediency. It’s an argument that awards shows should deemphasize what they’re actually about in order to appeal to some hypothetical viewer who hates awards shows but still tunes in for some reason. It’s true that if you were willing to change the rules with TV in mind, the game of baseball could also be made to move a lot more quickly, and might be more exciting if, say, the players running the bases were allowed to use MMA fighting techniques against the opposing team’s infielders—but by making an argument for legalizing the “sweep the leg” move in this context you would be arguing for something that is not really baseball. An awards show where the winners do not get to talk is not really an awards show. At the beginning of the night, an awards show is about red-carpet fashion, but once everybody’s seated in the hall it becomes a reality show about what celebrities do when they’re given a platform to speak extemporaneously while still processing the experience of being handed an award. That’s it. Awards shows are an opportunity to watch celebrities having human, emotional, often unprepared reactions and saying something funny or inspiring or stupid or politically ill-advised in front of the whole world. We accept that everything else about the telecast might and probably will be boring or bad or cringe, because by the end of the night, someone will have forgotten to thank their spouse and someone else’s star-text will have been rewritten before our eyes, both by their having won the thing they were nominated for but also by what they did with their moment once it happened.
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