Emmys: The good and the mostly bad and ugly from the Creative Arts ceremony

Senior Television Writer
08.22.10 41 Comments

The Emmys, like always, are split into two separate presentations: the one with most of the big awards that NBC will air a week from tonight, and the Creative Arts Emmys, a ceremony that features a lot of technical categories the average viewer doesn’t care about, plus some more prominent awards like guest acting, reality show host, and more.

The Creative Arts ceremony took place last night in LA (Fienberg has a complete list of winners, plus a red carpet gallery that includes three different Christina Hendricks pictures, if you happen to enjoy that sort of thing), and I was glad, as usual, to have it take place when it did. This way, I have a week to remind myself that the Emmys are silly, that if the award goes to the most deserving person or show, it may be by accident, that the people who work in television don’t have much time to watch television, and that it’s not worth elevating my blood pressure over these things.

Some specific thoughts on the good and the (mostly) bad and ugly of the Creative Arts Emmys coming up after the jump…

Be our guests: By far the biggest locks not only of the Creative Arts categories, but of the 2010 Emmys overall, were John Lithgow from “Dexter” for drama guest acting and Betty White’s “SNL” stint for comedy guest acting. No way was Betty White gonna lose in this, The Year of Betty White(*), nor was Lithgow’s amazing work going to be ignored, even though he qualified for the guest category under the letter, but not spirit, of the law. (When you’re in every episode of a season, I don’t care how you’re billed; you’re a regular that year. But Lithgow was the best of this category, and his placement here means that someone else I like can win the supporting actor trophy.)

(*) Interestingly, though, the Snickers ad with White lost the commercial award to Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” though I suppose this is also The Year of TMYMCSL.

I didn’t see Ann-Margaret’s “Law & Order: SVU” turn, so I can’t comment on her beating Elizabeth Mitchell from the “Lost” finale, et al. And Neil Patrick Harris’ “Glee” turn came in one of the handful of “Glee” episodes I missed, but the reaction from all the Gleeks is that the surprisingly excellent Mike O’Malley got robbed, and it was gracious of NPH (who later shared another award for his Tonys gig) to mention O’Malley in his speech.

Television IS a visual medium: “CSI” has always been a snazzy-looking series, particularly in the way it picked up the baton from “The X-Files” in showing how much can be done with scenes set at night. But when it comes to cinematography, it’s not remotely in a league with what Michael Slovis has been doing on “Breaking Bad,” which is the best-photographed scripted TV series I’ve ever seen, and one I would watch just to look at even if the writing and performances were terrible. So, of course, Slovis lost to Christian Sebaldt from “CSI.”

Musical crimes: Of the three notable music categories from last night, I’m okay with Randy Newman’s song from the “Monk” finale winning Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics. I preferred Steve Earle’s beautiful “This City” from the “Treme” finale, and probably some of the comedy nominees as well (notably “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit” from the “How I Met Your Mother” 100th), but Newman’s song was fine, and a nice note for the long-running “Monk” to go out on.

As for the other two? Bleh. Michael Giacchino’s incredible score for the “Lost” finale lost to Sean Callery for the “24” season premiere. And the absolutely awful, tonally-inappropriate, “Boston Legal” soundalike theme to “Nurse Jackie” won the theme song category (beating, among other things, Bear McCreary’s terrific “Human Target” theme). Not that the “Jackie” producers were likely to change the theme anyway, but once you endorse it with an Emmy, we’re stuck with it for sure.

(On the plus side, “Jackie” lost the award for main title design to the clever “Bored to Death” title sequence. I’d have preferred either “Human Target” or “The Pacific” in that category, but if “Jackie” had swept both title sequence awards? Ugh.)

The voters have spoken: Jeff Probst is now three-for-three in the lifespan of the reality host category. It looks like he, like “The Amazing Race” in the reality competition category, is just gonna keep winning until the show goes off the air – even though his “Survivor” performance has notably worsened in recent years as he hasn’t been able to help himself from playing favorites and trying to influence events in favor of the people he likes.

Writers get no respect: I have no problem with the writing staff from “The Colbert Report” beating their counterparts at “The Daily Show,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “SNL” and the Coco version of “The Tonight Show.” I’m just bummed the category got bumped to the Creative Arts ceremonies, as the mock films each show would produce to introduce their writers was always a highlight of the deadly middle section of the primetime Emmy show.

On her way to EGOT?: Anne Hathaway won the voice-over acting award for her “Simpsons” guest spot as Princess Penelope. Since fellow nominees Hank Azaria and Dan Castellaneta have multiple wins in the category, I have no problem with her beating them, but I’d have liked to see this go to H. Jon Benjamin for his hilarious work on “Archer.”

This about says it all to me: The “FlashForward” pilot won the stunt Emmy (beating both “Human Target” and two-time category winner “Chuck,” notably), and while that pilot did have a bunch of car crashes and such (and a kangaroo!), that means that “FlashForward” not only ends its run with more Emmy nominations than “The Wire,” but has one more win than “The Wire.”

(And, yes, I recognize that it’s a bit of an apples-to-oranges thing, and that many, many, many shows inferior to “The Wire” have at least one Emmy. But still.)

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com

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