Column after the jump...
Even the cast of "Jersey Boys" serendading the cast of "The Sopranos" wouldn't be enough to get me to watch Sunday night's Emmy telecast if I wasn't getting paid to do it.
Sure, Sunday night's show (8 p.m., Ch. 5) will be the last real hurrah for the "Sopranos" cast and crew, who lead all series with 15 nominations. And, sure, the "Jersey Boys" -- or, at least, the touring company -- will be on hand to present a Four Seasons-style musical medley tribute to Tony and Paulie Walnuts.
But even by the silly, narcissistic standards of Hollywood awards shows, the Emmys have rendered themselves irrelevant, year after year, first with nominations that often leave out the best shows, then with awards that go to the least likely, least deserving finalists. If a great show gets some recognition, I consider it either an accident or a sign that the show or performer was so popular that even the ostrich-heads in the TV Academy heard about them while they were enjoying their time in the dirt.
This year's list of nominations completely ignores "The Wire," which is neck and neck with "The Sopranos" as the greatest drama in TV history. It all but ignored the best show on network TV, "Friday Night Lights," not to mention HBO's brilliant "Deadwood," no doubt because the latter aired last summer and the voters have the attention span of a 10-year-old with a Pixy Stix habit. Also no love for the likes of "Battlestar Galactica," "Dexter" or "The Shield," all while giving multiple nominations to name-brand shows like "Grey's Anatomy" and "Entourage" that had seasons even their fans were hard-pressed to defend.
The Emmys have reached guilty-until-proven-innocent status with me. I am fully prepared to see James Spader and William Shatner hit the stage ahead of more interesting winners, to see Mariska Hargitay get another statuette, to see "Two and a Half Men" beat out both "The Office" and "30 Rock" for best comedy, etc., etc., etc.
The last straw was when Emmy historian Tom O'Neill posted a report on his Web site, GoldDerby.com, that Fox executives debated between two choices to host the telecast: "American Idol" emcee Ryan Seacrest and "House" star Hugh Laurie. In one corner was Seacrest, who's good at keeping a live telecast moving, but whose speciality is facilitating performances by other, more talented people -- a skill that's not as essential on a night that's all about people giving soul-deadening speeches thanking their business managers and attorneys. In the other was Laurie, who in addition to being a deserving Emmy nominee for best actor in a drama is a gifted musician and an experienced, hilarious sketch comedian, the exact sort of guy who could liven things up in between the attorney-thanking.
Guess who Fox chose?
As if it wasn't bad enough that the people who vote on the Emmys can't be bothered to choose the right nominees and winners, now we find out that the people who run the Emmy telecast can't even be bothered to choose the right host.
So I'll be watching on Sunday night, but only out of obligation to you fine readers. My professional motto is "I watch so you don't have to." Keep that in mind, do something else with your Sunday night and pick up a paper Monday morning to keep your aggravation at a minimum. And if the "Jersey Boys" medley is any good, it'll be on YouTube.
(No) Music City
Basic cable spent all summer cleaning the networks' clocks, both in terms of ratings and quality. While the networks tried and failed with one new reality concept after another ("Pirate Master," "On the Lot"), cable scored with the kind of scripted product that used to be the networks' bread and butter: sitcoms (TBS' "Bill Engvall Show" and "My Boys"), dramas (TNT's "The Closer" and "Saving Grace," not to mention AMC's brilliant "Mad Men"), even made-for-TV movies ("High School Musical 2").
So I suppose it's appropriate that the the first new network show of the season would be an MTV-style "docu-soap" from the people who unleashed "Laguna Beach" and, by extension, "The Hills," upon an unsuspecting populace. If the competition's beating you at your own game, maybe it's role reversal time.
"Nasville" (9 p.m., Ch. 5) follows a group of easily defined types around the country music capital: the privileged rich girl (Terry Bradshaw's daughter Rachel), the privileged rich guy (trust fund player Clint, the obligatory villain), the has-been (Matt, who once had a song that got radio play and now struggles with dive bar gigs), the rising star (Chuck, on the cusp of a big record deal) and a literal coalminer's daughter (Mika, new in town from rural Kentucky).
Though all but clint are trying to make it as country singers, the music is really just an excuse to throw together a bunch of attractive young people for the usual partner-swapping and catfights. Rachel, you see, has a boyfriend -- whom she dumps, by phone, with a crib sheet of excuses on her lap -- but has a crush on Clint, only he's hot for Mika, only Matt has a thing for Mika, only... you know where this is going before it even starts. Reality TV began as an unpredictable alternative to all the clichés we got from the scripted shows, but now it's become another form of comfort food for its audience.
Also predictable -- and making shows like this largely critic-proof -- is the way you know going in whether you'll like it or not. If you don't mind how contrived so much of it is -- how, for instance, Matt and Mika are "introduced" to each other by their landlord without either one bothering to say, "Hey, you have a camera crew following you, too! Awesome" -- or how shallow the entire Clint/Rachel/Mika love triad seems to be, you'll be fine. If not, don't even bother.
Still somewhat cloudy
"You guys are the most horrible people alive!" a guest start tells the main characters of FX's "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" early in the show's third season.
The comedy wears that description like a badge of honor. No amount of bad behavior by its anti-heroes -- three lunkheads who own a Philly bar, plus a sister and a non-biological father (or is he?) -- is too foul, too appalling, too offensive in the quest for a good joke.
Unfortunately, the focus too often is on the degree of outrage and not the degree of funny. The two can go hand in hand, as evidenced by "Curb Your Enthusiasm," but season three of "Sunny" features a lot of yelling and not a lot worth laughing at. The characters are interchangeable in their awfulness, behaving in whatever way serves the joke instead of letting the jokes be defined by their behavior. And the frequency of the shocks becomes wearisome after a while; I laughed when one character was told he was an abortion survivor ("I had an abortion! It just didn't take!") but could barely muster a raised eyebrow by the time two characters were being manipulated into incest to claim their share of an inheritance.
Sometimes, extremes aren't necessary. Maybe for season four they should just try to be among the most horrible people alive.