Sunday, September 21, 2008

An Eye on Television

The Emmys are the most insane of the award shows.

The evening’s first two awards set a dreadful tone. Jeremy Piven won for a third consecutive year for Entourage. How does that make any sense. We all love the character Ari Gold, but three consecutive wins just shows how stupid the tabulating is for the Emmys. Neil Patrick Harris or John Slattery should have won.

Jean Smart won for Samantha Who?, a show that no one watches. Holland Taylor or Kristen Chenilworth should have won.

There was a strange shut out of Hugh Laurie and Jon Hamm by Bryan Cranston for best actor in a drama; Glenn Close did the same to break the Kyra Sedgwick/Holly Hunter dead heat in best actress in a drama.

There were some good moments. A nice tribute to Tommy Smothers. I’m always thrilled to see Martin Sheen. The Tina Fey juggernaut was okay, and I’m glad that Alec Baldwin won, since he went to my high school.

But all in all, it was a pretty discouraging state-of-the-television universe to someone who watches television fairly seriously.

However, I did have a positive television experience last week. The cast of Broadway’s The 39 Steps came to The Paley Center for Media to introduce 3 classic episodes from Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Arnie Burton and Cliff Saunders—who perform 40 different characters in the play between them in the innovative stage play—did the honors. They were funny and informed.

But the highlight of the evening was “Lamb to the Slaughter” with Barbara Bel Geddes, directed by Hitchcock himself; “The Man from the South” written by Roald Dahl, starring Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre; and “The Glass Eye” starring Jessica Tandy, with a young William Shatner, and costarring Billy Barty.

“Man from the South” was the most surreal and creepiest of the lot. Peter Lorre wielding a meat cleaver while Steve McQueen’s hand is tied down to a table while he tries to light his pocket lighter 10 times in a row was incredibly suspenseful.

It was a treat to see Hitch himself in the filmed bumpers around the episodes: he was funny, macabre, and disparaging of the commercial side of the medium. It was classy, intelligent, weekly television. A timely reminder that it can happen.


Tim Footman said...

Would have been nice to offer a valedictory crumb to The Wire, seeing the next POTUS thinks it's the greatest show on TV, but... naaah...

I can't help but think that 20 years ago David Simon shagged somebody's wife, and this is payback.