Scene Selections: the Emmys
The 70th Primetime Emmy awards go live tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, marking the beginning of awards show season, coming in fresh off the heels of a rocky, unpredictable year for the entertainment industry. As with all award shows, there’s a lot to unpack here — Scene writers share what they’ll be thinking about when hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che hit the stage. Let’s dive in.
“An Emmy for Megan” … didn’t win an Emmy
By Nora McGreevy, Scene Editor
Here’s to a wonderful moment on the Internet and a missed opportunity for the Emmy awards. Megan Amram produced, wrote and starred in her very own short form web series with a singular, noble goal in mind: to win an Emmy. “I have never wanted anything that bad as winning that Emmy,” she deadpans in the opening lines of the first episode, and from there she launches into one of the wackiest — and wittiest — scripts that the Internet has to offer in six neatly-parceled videos of seven minutes or less. In the series — the express purpose of which was to qualify for the minimum requirements for an Emmy — Amram plays an outrageously narcissistic and hilarious version of herself, doggedly doing everything in her power to achieve her goal.
Amram, an experienced writer for beloved shows such as Parks and Recreation and The Good Place, forayed into a new genre with the help of her circle of accomplished and funny friends, including Ira Madison III, who delivers a few excellent lines in a deeply sarcastic episode on “Diversity,” and Shannon Woodward, who plays a concerned friend to a tee. The end result is an over-the-top, meta series of short clips that ruthlessly lampoon the standards by which we judge modern television.
Alas, those Emmy people don’t know an exceptional thing when they see it. Although Amram was nominated in two categories — Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series and Outstanding Short Form Comedy or Drama Series — she lost in both, to Christina Pickles and a James Corden snapchat story series, respectively. On Amram’s popular Twitter account, where she often inhabits a character similar to the one in her web series, she acknowledged the loss with grace: “Please respect me and my family’s privacy in this time,” she tweeted. But fans shouldn’t worry for too long — “season 2,” she said, “will be all about…….. revenge.”
“The Good Place” got snubbed
By Jake Winningham, Scene Writer
Hey, Emmys. How the fork did “The Good Place” only get one nomination? I know Ted Danson was hysterical as an immortal being trying to control his human charges in the afterlife, but you do know you’re allowed to nominate more than one part of a show, right? Why not Manny Jacinto as the idiotic Jason, who turned loving Blake Bortles into TV’s funniest running joke? Or D’Arcy Carden as the human Siri Janet? Or any of the other actors on the show, all of whom are uniformly fantastic? Could you at least recognize the show’s writing staff, which tackled puns (like an Italian restaurant called “Biscotti Pippen”) and heady philosophical digressions with equal deftness? Most importantly, how was it not nominated for Best Comedy when it’s so clearly that? Come on. “The Good Place” is unlike any other show on TV — it’s a endlessly rewarding, ridiculously funny and shockingly humanist masterpiece. I said this on Scenecast, but I’ll say it again: if you like television, you should already be watching “The Good Place.” And if you don’t like television, this show will change your mind.
Ted Danson for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
By Carlos De Loera, Scene Writer
Twenty-five years ago Ted Danson was on top of the TV world. He had just wrapped up an 11-year run as Sam Malone in one of the most successful series of all time — “Cheers,” and had a litany of acting roles at his disposal. Following “Cheers” Danson has been the lead in a handful of TV series — some more successful than others — and has had notable guest roles in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Damages.” But no gig has found Danson in a better place than “The Good Place.”
The show has justifiably been lauded for its writing team that was put together by series creator, Michael Schur, who also created “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” But what really elevates the series to such great comedic heights is the all-star cast that is headed by the now-Emmy nominated Danson. In his role of Michael, the architect of the good place, Danson skillfully portrays a charismatic, goofy and well-intentioned supernatural being who has a fascination with humans. His ability to deliver some of the show’s most ridiculous lines with such perfect timing and inflection highlights Danson’s deep comedic chops. It’s hard to get in to the specific reasons of Danson’s brilliance without giving too much away about the series, but the fact that he is able to outshine fellow cast-mate Kristen Bell should say a lot.
Danson does, however, find himself in the highly competitive Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category that includes the likes of Donald Glover, Bill Hader and Larry David. It’d be an awards show tragedy if the only representative of one of the best shows on TV didn’t get recognized. So grab your fro-yo and cross your mother-forking fingers for Danson.
Bill Hader for Best Actor in a Comedy Series
By Jake Winningham, Scene Writer
In HBO’s freshman series “Barry,” Bill Hader gives the best performance you’ll see on any screen this year. Playing the dark comedy’s title character, the SNL veteran imbues his hitman-turned-actor with pathos and determination. In Hader’s best moment on the show, he takes Barry’s stilted reading of a single line from “Macbeth” and conveys an amount of emotion that lesser actors would need a whole season to get across. It should also be mentioned that Hader’s “Barry” is an awful actor — ironically, proof of Hader’s acting greatness comes in how he gives a great performance as a terrible performer. The show itself was near-perfect as it turned what could have been a tonal misfire into a genre-hopping mix of deadpan humor and stark violence. “Barry,” the show, has no chance at winning the Best Comedy Emmy (I predict “Atlanta” will win, and is the best show nominated), but the Emmys should award Hader in the Best Actor in a Comedy field for his involvement (he also created, wrote and directed the show) in one of the year’s biggest surprises.
“Killing Eve” for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series
By Nicholas Ottone, Scene Writer
Airing on BBC, “Killing Eve” exploded onto the TV scene and gained popularity with every week. A gender-flipped cat-and-mouse yarn, “Killing Eve” pit dogged agent Eve (deservedly nominated Sandra Oh) against stylish assassin Villanelle (Jodie Comer, robbed) to spectacularly entertaining ends. And its sizzling tension, mordant tone and surprising twists were perfectly established in its pilot, “Nice Face,” written by show-runner Phoebe Waller-Bridge and nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. Not only does “Nice Face” ably set up an engaging, wickedly funny caper, but Waller-Bridge also nails the most important detail for any series: character. Villanelle’s introduction reveals a cold, calculating glance focused on practicing a smile. Eve’s introduction begins with a loud scream, only to later reveal that she’s overreacting to a cramp to fool her loving husband. These scenes subvert gendered expectations and immediately ingratiate the audience to these diametrically opposed forces. And Oh, the first Asian-American woman nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, delivers an understated, grounded performance that skates on the edge of likability. She is subtle yet daring, an actress who expertly portrays the determination and sacrifice of her obsession. Both Oh and Waller-Bridge absolutely deserve wins tonight.
Michael Che and Colin Jost, the hosts
By Cameron Sumner, Scene Writer
At the Emmys, the primetime shows we all know and love are celebrated. Different from other awards shows like the Oscars or Golden Globes that recognize works of film, the Emmys hit closer to home for us. Through TV shows, we build deeper bonds with characters season after season, sometimes for years. That’s why I am so excited that Michael Che and Colin Jost are going to be the hosts of this year’s Emmys. Like many of the nominated shows at this year’s Emmys, we know and love the comedy duo from their role on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.
We can expect the best from these hosts, as they will surely serve jokes, both political and benign, and will bring their chummy nature to the Emmys. Aside from the promise of some golden deadpan humor, I’m also excited that two of SNL’s leading cast members are hosting on a night that will hopefully be very fruitful for the show. It’s one of the top nominated of the year, with 21 nominations. Che and Jost could be front and center on a night that recognizes a true American treasure of a show.
“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” for Outstanding Variety Talk Series
By Nicholas Ottone, Scene Writer
America’s political landscape is a mess, and late night is here to help you sort through it. Every nominee for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, with the clear exception of “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” got “political” this year. We saw Jimmy Kimmel tear up in support of healthcare, Stephen Colbert call for accountability for his now-former boss Leslie Moonves, Trevor Noah trenchantly examine race and John Oliver troll Mike Pence with a children’s book about a gay rabbit. Among non-nominees, Seth Meyers expertly dissects daily news with his “A Closer Look” segments, while Jordan Klepper’s short-lived “The Opposition” skewered Infowars while unveiling hypocrisy. But what these men did not have was Samantha Bee’s energy and ferocity, diving into the cesspool of 2018 politics with a maniacal twinkle in her eye and a devil-may-care pantsuit.
No one would accuse Bee of unbiasedness. She tackles subjects typically sidelined as “women’s issues” with the righteous anger and exhaustive research only paralleled by John Oliver. And her jokes, written by a top-notch team, are filthier, more creative and more absurd than her competition. Her segments on Puerto Rico and #MeToo were moving and hilarious, a balance rarely achieved. Bee made a few mistakes this year, but her achievements since 2016 are remarkable. Bee weaponizes comedy to create movement, and the Emmys should recognize her amazing program.