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Emmy Telecast Begins and Ends as 'Modern Family' Awards Show
September 18, 2011  | By David Bianculli

AMC's Mad Men won again, deservedly, at the end of Sunday's 63d PrimeTime Emmy Awards on Fox. So did ABC's Modern Family, which won the final award of the night. Modern Family also won the first award of the night. And the second. And the third. And the fourth...

It was the only show to take home Emmys for the first half hour, and even Jane Lynch, the evening's host, finally took note.

"Welcome back to the Modern Family awards," she said dryly, and accurately -- and that was at the 8:40 p.m. ET mark.

The show won its final award, the big one for Outstanding Comedy Series, more than two hours later -- after already amassing awards for direction, writing, supporting actor (Ty Burrell) and supporting actress (Julie Bowen). And at the end, co-executive producer Steven Levitan managed to do something most of the people appearing earlier in the awards show had not. He was funny.

(Though not as funny as his wife, which I'll get to later.)

Levitan thanked the cast standing behind him, and singled out the youngsters.

"Modern Family was this close to being animated," he said, putting his thumb and forefiner a few inches apart (photo at top above). "That's how much we didn't want to work with kids." Then he accepted praise for his sitcom making people "more tolerant" -- making it okay, he joked, to accept the love between an older man and a hot young wife.

If only Levitan had written the Emmy telecast itself.

Bad writing, and equally bad production decisions, really slowed down the awards show Sunday night.


One great, grating example: The Emmytones -- a sextet of 1950s-style close-harmony singers, some of whom were such low-level celebrities even their superimposed IDs didn't help identify them -- sang badly written lyrics, and sang them just as badly. For comedy, the lyrics rhymed "yuks" with "sucks."

Some reviews write themselves.

And the clips the Emmytones were introducing -- montages of dramas, comedies, etc. -- were put together less with an eye to quality than with an eye for inclusion. No purpose, really, other than to waste valuable Emmy show time, which, as the program progressed, lost value by the minute.


The writing at this year's Emmys was annoying subpar, both of Lynch's hosting bits and the announcer's snarky but not funny remarks as winners walked to the stage. The unseen announcer, in this case, should also have been unheard. And in the opening film clip, only Lynch's interaction with the cast of Mad Men (right) was truly amusing. The rest? Fast, pointless cameos.

The Emmy telecast's overall tone was unsettlingly schizoid: belittling TV on the one hand, extolling it on the other. The written remarks for presenters were so unfunny that one of the biggest laughs of the night came from an audience member, and one who didn't say a word.


When Levitan, early in the night, co-accepted the Comedy Series Writing award for Modern Family, he admitted that the plot of the winning episode -- about kids opening their parents' bedroom door to discover them making love -- was based on something that happened to him and his wife.

The camera cut to his wife (right) in the audience. She did a perfectly impromptu, yet perfect timed, eye roll of resigned embarrassment to the camera, and got a huge laugh from the black-tie audience. Twice.


On the other end of the unexpected live-TV spectrum, what in the hell was Charlie Sheen's appearance all about?

Were we really supposed to believe, after all that Tiger Blood was spilled in the media earlier this year, that he wished the cast and crew of Two and Half Men "nothing but the best for this upcoming season"?

His wasn't the only puzzling appearance on the Emmy stage, either.


Drew Barrymore, bringing out the new cast of ABC's imminent relaunch of Charlie's Angels, stood there proudly with the new show's three stars.

I've seen the premiere episode of the new series -- and trust me, Sunday's telecast will mark the one and only time anyone from the new Charlie's Angels will ever walk upon the Emmy stage.

The entire stage was filled, on the other hand, with all six nominees for Outstanding Comedy Actress -- a show of playful solidarity that earned a standing ovation from the crowd, even though it clearly had to be worked out in advance.


For one thing, there were props on hand. The bit paid off with the winner -- Melissa McCarthy, a dark-horse victor for CBS's Mike and Molly -- getting crowned with a tiara and handed a bouquet of roses.

Among other winners, Kyle Chandler finally won an Emmy for Friday Night Lights -- clear eyes, full hearts, didn't lose! And the wins for Margo Martindale, for her amazing supporting work on FX's Justified; Peter Dinklage, for HBO's Game of Thrones,; and the aforementioned Melissa McCarthy all resulted in very honest, charming acceptance speeches. A rarity, these days, and a pleasure to watch.


Martindale, in her emotional shout-outs, even thanked "Robert Bianco, who got the ball rolling." Bianco is the tasteful and talented TV critic for USA Today, and I'm rather certain his mention marked the first time a TV critic was every thanked at the Emmys in the entire 62-year history of the Emmys. Something to shoot for in the future, I guess.

And to that end, let me be the first to start the ball rolling, for next season's Emmy Awards, for Jessica Lange in the Supporting Actress Drama Series category, for her deliriously creepy portrayal on FX's upcoming American Horror Story.

You don't have to thank me in your acceptance speech next year for getting the ball rolling, Jessica -- but it'd be nice...




TM said:

Guess you were were in a subpar mood last night.

[Actually, no. Not until the show started, anyway... -- DB]

Comment posted on September 19, 2011 11:01 AM

Rich said:

...Sadly, the Emmys have become the MTV movie awards - all back patting and faux irreverence. The opening bit was the best part. I would have had 4-5 cool hosts in different locations and have the camera already ON THEM when the winner is announced - give your speech there (no walking & fumbling).

Have the TV characters Give out the awards! - seriously have Sheldon & Leonard ("Big Bang") give out best supporting actress. Have Jessica "True Blood" give out best comedy male. Have Roger Sterling "Mad Men" give out Best Female actress - It's cross-promotion, it's acting, You'd watch just to see what happens next- regardless of winners. It's a fourth-wall breaking night of TV.

And for anyone curious about Jane Lynch's opening number, you can check it out in its entirety on YouTube

Comment posted on September 19, 2011 2:34 PM

Tausif Khan said:

I thought the line Jane Lynch had about people asking her why she became a lesbian and responding by introducing the cast of Enoturage was pretty funny. Mark Walberg was even cracking up at that one!

Comment posted on September 19, 2011 4:00 PM

Eileen said:

As awards shows go, this was a real clunker. Not blaming Jane Lynch; the material she had to work with was really subpar.

It was a pleasure to see Kyle Chandler win, at last. And it was also gratifying to see some of the "underdogs" get the prize, i.e., Margo Martindale, Peter Dinklage and Melissa McCarthy; I like when the wealth is shared from year-to-year.

I thought Ty Burrell's acceptance speech was charming, witty and thoughtful. As was Julianna Margulies.

But aside from that, not much good came out of three hours of viewing. They need to really streamline these shows.

And I'm on board for next year & Jessica Lange. From all you've written about American Horror Story as well as Jessica's credentials it's got to be a sure thing. Here's hoping...

Comment posted on September 19, 2011 9:04 PM

wilberfan said:

While I was pleased with many of the results ("Yay, Margo!"), I turned off the show after about 45 minutes.

Unfunny and unwatchable.

I thought Sarah Silverman captured my sentiments when she tweeted during the show: @SarahKSilverman: Whoever's writing the voice over guy's banter should not do that anymore”

Comment posted on September 20, 2011 6:09 PM

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