The 2010 Primetime Emmy Awards: The Post-Game Wrap-Up

First of all, I’d just like to say that it’s cruel of both “True Blood” and “Mad Men” to air new episodes on the same night as the Emmy Awards, especially when neither show is sending out advance screeners anymore. Yes, I’m a big whiner, and I don’t care. It’s 11 PM, the Emmys have just wrapped up, and now I’ve got to go blog both shows. I’m sorry, but there’s no way around it: this sucks.

Okay, enough of my bitching. Let’s talk about the Emmys.

As far as I’m concerned, Jimmy Fallon did a fine job as host. The “Glee”-inspired opening segment was awesome: Jon Hamm ruled that bit with his sweet-ass dance moves, but Joel McHale leaping in front the camera was pretty awesome, too, and once they switched over to the live performance, I laughed out loud at just how happy Randy Jackson seemed to be to get to play in front of the audience. Sometimes you forget that the guy’s got some serious studio-musician street cred.

The minstrel-in-the-aisles bit was hit or miss, but Stephen Colbert was hilarious, and I was pleasantly surprised at Kim Kardashian’s performance. Jimmy’s quick quip at Conan’s expense was pretty funny, too. I wasn’t as big a fan of the farewells to “24,” “Law & Order,” and “Lost,” mostly because all I could think was, “This kind of takes away from the seriousness of the farewells to the folks in the industry who really have died.” The segment with the “Modern Family” cast meeting with the network was hysterical, though.

And now on to the awards!

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Conan ain’t interested in NBC’s 12:05 AM pitch – UPDATED

Although NBC has, in the wake of their decision to cancel Jay Leno’s prime-time show, spoken openly about their desire to restructure their late-night line-up to offer a half-hour of Leno, then “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” it’s taken until today for Conan to break his silence on the matter…with a great big “no.”

The New York Times’ Media Decoder column has offered up the full text of O’Brien’s formal statement, and you should absolutely read it in full, as it’s a ballsy missive that’ll make a whole lot of his fellow comedians (not to mention quite a few TV critics, including myself) stand up and cheer. But if you’re just looking for the highlights, here they are:

* “It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule.”

* “I sincerely believe that delaying ‘The Tonight Show’ into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. ‘The Tonight Show’ at 12:05 simply isn’t ‘The Tonight Show.’ Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the ‘Late Night’ show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.”

* “I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of ‘The Tonight Show.’ But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction.”

* “I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.”

Okay, first of all, as I said above, this makes me want to stand up and cheer, because Conan’s getting screwed by NBC, plain and simple, and I think it’s awesome that he’s not just going to bend over and take it. But with that said, I can’t see the network doing anything other than saying, “Oh, you’re not going to do it? Fair enough, then we’ll put Jay back into ‘The Tonight Show,'” because they’re certainly not going to give Leno his walking papers.

What do you think Conan should do?

UPDATE: I just popped over to see what was being said about the matter at Deadline.com, and it seems as though there’s a meeting going down at NBC-Universal…or, at least, there was at 1:45 PM PST. According to Nikki Finke, “On one side of the room are NBCU bigwigs Jeff Gaspin and Marc Graboff. On the other side of the room are O’Brien’s reps: manager Gavin Palone, WME agent and board member Rick Rosen, and the newest member of Team Conan — Hollywood litigator Patty Glaser who was hired on Sunday and is WME’s legal shark of choice.”

Per Ms. Finke…

My insiders say O’Brien’s reps didn’t want him to do (release the statement). “They were not thrilled. They told him it would undercut his negotiating leverage,” one source revealed to me. “But Conan wouldn’t listen to them. He wanted to make it.” When Conan read the statement to the staff, “he broke up. He began to cry,” one of my insiders reveals. “Because for 17 years he was working towards The Tonight Show, and now he says he’s prepared to walk away from it. That’s an amazing thing. An amazing thing. But he takes very seriously the fact that The Tonight Show baton was passed to him.”

Here at Premium Hollywood, we can sum up our position on the matter in three words:

‘Nuff said.

  

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TCA Tour: NBC Executive Session

I think it’s fair to say that there wasn’t a single member of the Television Critics Associate who wasn’t chomping at the bit to see how this session was going to go down. With all of the controversy breaking about the reported cancellation of “The Jay Leno Show” and rumors of its host moving to a half-hour slot at 11:35 PM, thereby moving the other members of the late-night line-up – “The Tonight Show starring Conan O’Brien” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” back by an hour, everybody wanted to know how NBC was going to handle damage control.

“I see we have a full house,” said NBC Universal TV chairman Jeff Gaspin, as he walked onto the stage and stood before a ballroom filled with TV critics, many of whom were poised to pounce. “I heard there were some scalpers outside.”

The levity quickly went by the wayside, however, as Gaspin went into the recitation of what one can only presume was a well-tweaked statement, confirming that, starting February 12th, “The Jay Leno Show” will no longer air at 10 PM. He admitted that, although the series performed at acceptable levels for the network, it did not meet the needs of the network’s affiliates, hence the change in programming strategy. He also stated that NBC’s goal was to keep all three of its hosts as part of the late-night landscape – “The Jay Leno Show” at 11:35 PM, “The Tonight Show starring Conan O’Brien” at 12:05 AM, and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” at 1:05 AM – while acknowledging that this plan was in no way a done deal and that talks are still ongoing.

“It’s a fluid situation,” said Gaspin. “Everybody has the weekend to think about it, and we’ll see what happens when we start the new week tomorrow.”

While he would not confirm the hosts’ specific reactions to the new plan, Gaspin said that all three gentlemen were “incredibly gracious and professional” and that they acknowledged that they knew it was a difficult situation. As for anything else that went down during the discussions, he merely described it as a “private conversation,” adding, “When it’s all settled, you can go and ask them what their feelings were.”

Gaspin expects that the new late-night line-up will be in place by the time NBC’s coverage of the Olympics begins in February.

Unsurprisingly, the critics’ claws were soon out, with one wanting to know exactly what happened with the network’s assurances during the summer TCA tour that the success or failure of “The Jay Leno Show” would not be determined fully until the series had run for a full 52-week cycle. Gaspin maintained that the 52-week plan still would’ve been his preference but again cited the affiliates’ concerns as being the driving force behind the comparatively-quick removal of the series from its prime-time berth.

“Starting in November, the affiliates started calling, saying that local news was being affected more than expected,” said Gaspin. By the end of the month, the stations which utilized people meters for their ratings continued their complaints, now citing statistics where, in some cases, #1 local news broadcasts had dropped to #3. Gaspin continued his constant dialogue with the affiliates, requesting that they wait and see how the show would do against repeats…and, indeed, “The Jay Leno Show” did do better, but only by about a tenth of a rating point, still coming in second to either CBS or ABC on a regular basis. When the smaller affiliates without people meters got their November book numbers, “the drum beat started getting louder,” Gaspin said, and as it became progressively more clear that they were only going to be getting more vocal about their displeasure, throwing around comments about possible preemption, “we realized things were not going to go well if it was kept in place.”

Gaspin continued to clarify, however, that despite the feelings of the affiliates, NBC did not feel that “The Jay Leno Show” was a disappointment on a network level. “It was working at acceptable levels financially, making money at 10 PM,” he said. “For the network, it was not a wrong decision.”

He also underlined that, insofar as he was concerned, the reason behind the limited viewership had nothing to do with the show or its level of quality. “There’s a lot of choice at 10 PM,” he said. “We thought it could be everybody’s second choice, but there were just so many other choices that people thought were better.” In the end, Gaspin conceded that “The Jay Leno Show,” while being easy entertainment, simply wasn’t the first or even second choice of enough viewers.

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TCA Tour – “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson”

When it comes to late-night hosts, I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but…I have almost reached the point where I prefer Craig Ferguson to David Letterman. When it comes to my all-time favorite, I don’t think I’ll ever see a day when Dave will be topped, but there’s just something about Ferguson that comes closer to matching my current sensibilities. In particular, I love the way the guy speaks off the cuff and from the heart. It’s not that other hosts can’t and don’t step outside of the standard talk-show mold to address specific issues of the day, but Ferguson does it every day of the week and throughout the majority of his show, creating a feel of spontaneity where you truly have no idea what he’s going to say next. Plus, he has such a “real person” vibe that you know that, when he does say something, it’ll sound like something that you might say.

Well, you know, if you had a Scottish brogue. And were funnier.

The TCA has had a long-standing relationship with Mr. Ferguson, but I swear to you that his ongoing gesture of buying us pizza whenever we hold our organization’s business meetings has nothing to do with my enjoyment of his show. With that said, however, I can’t say that the messages that he includes with the pizza – like the one below – haven’t made me respect him more. I mean, as someone who has an affinity to the printed word (as opposed to the online word), I have to give him props for this:

Craig stopped by the TCA tour for what was described as an “informal press conference,” which is no doubt why he started the proceedings by saying, “First of all, let me say my wife is standing by me through this very difficult time,” adding that “Buenos Aires is lovely at this time of year.” From there, he was willing to tackle any and all questions that were thrown at him, but before I offer up some of my favorite moments, I must drop this bombshell: he’s considering getting rid of the puppets.

Yes, I know: I’m as upset as you are. And so were many of the others in attendance, several of whom immediately gasped in horror.

“That reaction right there?” said Ferguson. “That’s what I’m looking for: controversy. ‘No puppets? That’s it! To the presses…that don’t exist anymore!’ I don’t know, I’m getting bored with puppets. If I can’t think of anything else to do with them, I’ll have to let them go the way of all flesh.”

As you can imagine, we did our best to pretend that he never made this comment…I don’t think I want to live in a world where “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson” doesn’t provide me with my weekly puppet quota…and instead chose to focus on the funnier and more thoughtful bits of the “press conference.” Here, then, are ten of my favorites…

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Bullz-Eye’s TCA 2009 Winter Press Tour Recap

Wait, didn’t I just go to one of these press tours…?

Actually, that was back in July, when the networks were busy pimping their new fall schedules; this time, they were presenting us with an idea of what we can expect to see on our favorite broadcast and cable channels from now until they premiere their next fall schedule.

Going out to L.A. in January was a new thing for me, though. It was my first winter tour since becoming a member of the Television Critics Association in 2007 – last year’s was canceled due to the writers’ strike – and, if the rumblings throughout the ballrooms at the Universal Hilton were any indication, it may well prove to be my last January tour. I’m hopeful that this presumption turns out to be inaccurate, but given the current economic climate and an increasing tendency for newspapers and publications to only send their TV critics out for one tour per year, there’s every reason to suspect that the networks will join suit and only be willing to pamper those critics once per year.

Sorry, did I say “pamper”? Of course, I meant, “Treat with the utmost respect.”

It feels a bit odd to be doing a wrap-up of my experiences at the tour before I’ve even had a chance to write up all of the panels I attended while I was out there, but, hey, when you get a good spot on the calendar, you make it work however you can. So still keep your eyes open for my ongoing pieces on the various shows you can expect to find on the broadcast networks during the next few months, but in the meantime, here’s a look at some of the best and worst bits from the January ’09 tour as a whole.

Most enjoyable panel by a cable network: “Rescue Me,” FX.

I’ve been a big Denis Leary fan every since No Cure for Cancer, so I knew the guy was inevitably going to go off on a profanity-filled rant before the end of the panel. What I didn’t expect, however, was that Peter Tolan – who co-created the show with Leary – would start the proceedings by telling Leary to watch his mouth, adding, “If you were going to say ‘cunt,’ don’t.”

From there, the two of them seemingly battled each other in an attempt to offer up the most memorable line. Leary complained about his salary. (“I had a crazy idea of getting paid, like, $250,000 an episode. They put limits on that, let me tell you. That’s Kiefer Sutherland money right there.”) Then Tolan claimed that he was at fault for the show’s fourth-season slump, blaming it on a drug problem and that “I was heavy into a kazillion hookers that year.” Then Leary bitched about how Michael J. Fox was going to guest on “Rescue Me” and get the Emmy that Leary himself has yet to earn. (“Five fucking episodes, he comes in. God damn, $700 million from ‘Spin City.’ He never asked me to do the show. He’s going to walk away with the fucking Emmy. That son of a bitch.”) Then Tolan started mocking Hugh Laurie’s American accent by talking about how he could do a British accent. (“Aye, pip, pip, mate, aye! ‘Allo, Mary Poppins!”) And…well, as you can see, there was really no contest: this may well have been the greatest panel ever.

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