Emmy night: blah blah blah SURPRISE blah blah ...

Yes, the Emmys can get awfully repetitious. Tonight, Jon Stewart won for the 10th straight time, "Amazing Race" for the ninth time in 10 years. "Modern Family" has now won in all three of its seasons, winning five of the six supporting-actor/actress awards; this year brought the second wins for Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet.

Still, the occasional detours keep us watching. Tonight, they included:

-- The drama sweep for "Homeland." This tangled (but brilliantly acted) show won for best drama series, for the writing and for the lead actors -- Claire Danes and Damian Lewis -- in complex roles. These were the first such wins for Showtime and came at the perfect time: Next Sunday, "Homeland" starts its second season.

-- The movie-or-mini-series category, which is new every year. We had expected HBO's "Game Change" to dominate (see three previous blogs for my Emmy previews) and it did, with awards for best movie-or-mini and for its star (Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin), director and writer. Still, it was interesting to see the History Channel get two wins for "Hatfields & McCoys," its ratings hit. Kevin Costner and Tom Berenger both won.

-- One more HBO win -- Julia Louis-Dreyfus as best actress in a comedy, for "Veep."

-- A lone incursion for "Downton Abbey," which moved into the series category. Its one win during the telecast (supporting actress in a drama) was for Maggie Smith, 77, who doesn't really need it: She has two Oscars, which she won 33 and 42 years ago.

-- Tom Bergeron as best reality-show host, for "Dancing With the Stars." The guy has consistently been better than the shows he's on; that might be why I thought he would have been logical as Kelly Ripa's new co-host.

-- My favorite moment -- Jon Cryer getting a best-actor Emmy for "Two and a Half Men." Cryer kept being mis-labeled as a supportig actor and only won once; when he finally competed as a lead, he got a well-deserved Emmy.

-- And the general comedy fun throughout the night. The "Modern Family" film (portraying the little actress who plays Lily as a scheming demon) was brilliant. Jimmy Kimmel was excellent (if brief) throughout the night. My favorite moment came when he talked about the rough breaks for HBO, which cancelled "Luck" after a horse died; then Kimmel advised people to be wary of the meat in the sliders at the HBO party.



TV folks, you may already have a winner

The strange thing about tonight's Emmys is that many of the fun categories have already been decided.

To keep tonight's ceremony (8-11 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, ABC) moving, the Emmy people have an advance night for the majority of their categories. My previous blogs had an Emmy preview and a list of key nominees; here's the other story I sent to papers, listing some of the advance  winners:



Some of the most interesting Emmys have
already been awarded. They were handed out in an advance ceremony, to
people who showed us zombies and penguins and dancers and more.
Here's a sampling:

– Reality show (non-competitive):
“Undercover Boss”

– Non-fiction series: Discovery's
“Frozen Planet” topped frequent winner, PBS' “American

– Non-fiction special: HBO's George
Harrison profile won an overall award and another for its director,
Martin Scorsese

– Guest actress, comedy: Kathy Bates
playing a guy (Charlie's ghost) in “Two and a Half Men”

– Guest actor, comedy: Jimmy Fallon,
returning to “Saturday Night Live” as host.

--Guest actress, drama: Martha
Plimpton, “The Good Wife.”

– Guest actor, drama: Jeremy Davies
as the villainous Dickie Bennett, “Justified.”

– Animated show: A “Penguins of
“Madagascar” special on Nickelodeon won, topping “The Simpsons”
and other primetime series.

– Children's show: “Wizards of
Waverly Place,” Disney Channel.

– Original song: The Tony Awards'
“It's Not Just For Gays Anymore” topped originals from “Smash,”
“Saturday Night Live”and two movies.

– Choreography: Joshua Bergasse won
for two “Smash” routines, beating three nominees from “So You
Think You Can Dance,” plus a “Dancing With the Stars” duo.

– Prosthetic make-up: “The Walking

– Visual effects: “Game of Throne



Emmys: A little that's new, a lot that's not

In the previous blog, I had my Emmy preview, with comments by Jimmy Kimmel and Don Mischer. With the ceremony tonight (8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, ABC), here's the sidebar I sent to papers, with key nominees and a few stray comments:



Here are nominees in key Emmy
categories. We've added comments after each series category, then an
overall one for actors:


– Best Comedy: “The Big Bang
Theory,” CBS; “Modern Family,” ABC; “30 Rock,” NBC; and
:”Girls,” “Veep” and “Curb Your Enthusiam,” HBO.

Comment: “Modern Family has won in
each of its first two seasons and it won't stop now. Still, “Big
Bang” is the best show on TV.

– Drama: “Mad Men” and “Breaking
Bad,” AMC; “Game of Thrones” and “Boardwalk Empire,” HBO;
“Downton Abbey,” PBS; “Homeland,” Showtime.

Comment: “Mad Men” has won four
straight times. Still, this could be the year for “Downton Abbey”
– elegance meets soap opera – to pull an upset.

– Movie or miniseries: “Game
Change” and “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” HBO; “Sherlock: A
Scandal in Belgravia,” PBS; “Hatfields & McCoys,” History;
“Luther,” BBC America; “American Horror Story,” FX

Comment: “Hatfields” caused a big
whoosh this year, but “Game Change” is likely to have wins for
itself and its stars.

– Variety: Jimmy Fallon and “Saturday
Night Live,” NBC; Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Comedy Central;
Jimmy Kimmel, ABC; Bill Maher, HBO.

Comment: Why does Stewart's “Daily
Show” keep winning. Because it's consistently brilliant.

– Reality competition: “Amazing
Race,” CBS; “The Voice,” NBC; “Dancing With the Stars,”
ABC; “So You Think You Can Dance,” Fox; “Top Chef,” Bravo;
“Project Runway,” Lifetime.

Comment: Last season, “Amazing Race
finally lost. Don't expect it to happen again.

– Special: Grammys and Tonys, CBS;
Oscars, ABC; Golden Globes, NBC; Louis CK stand-up, FX; “Herbie
Hancock, Gustavo Dudamel and Los Angeles Philharmonic Celebrate
Gershwin,” PBS.

Comment: With Neil Patrick Harris
hosting, it was a great Tony ceremony.


– Comedy, actor: Jim Parsons, “Big
Bang Theory” and Jon Cryer, “Two and a Half Men,” CBS; Alec
Baldwin, “30 Rock,” NBC; Louis C.K., “Louie,” FX; Don
Cheadle, “House of Lies,” Showtime; Larry David,” Curb Your
Enthusiasm,” HBO.

– Comedy, actress: Tina Fey, “30
Rock,” and Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation,”NBC; Lena
Dunham, “Girls,” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep,” HBO; Zooey
Deschanel, “New Girl,” Fox; Melissa McCarthy, “Mike &
Molly,” CBS; Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie,” Showtime.

– Drama, actor: Jon Hamm, “Mad
Men,” and Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad,” AMC; Michael C. Hall,
“Dexter” and Damian Lewis, “Homeland,” Showtime; Hugh
Bonneville, “Downton Abbey,” PBS; Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk
Empire,” HBO.

– Drama, actress: Juliana Margulies,
“The Good Wife,” CBS; Kathy Bates, “Harry's Law,” NBC;
Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey,” PBS; Elisabeth Moss, “Mad
Men,” AMC; Claire Danes, “Homeland,” Showtime; Glenn Close,
“Damages,” DirecTV.

Comment: “Downton Abbey” might win
some acting prize, probably for Maggie Smith in support. Also,
Deschanel could come up with a rookie-year victory.

Comment II: It would be great to see
Cryer with an overdue win … or to see Bates – who already has an
Emmy this year for playing a guy – win for playing a woman. Then
again, it would be great to see Hugh Laurie get the win he's always
deserved, but he isn't even nominated. Mostly, it will be the same
old people at the podium.


When Emmys have Jimmys, we can expect fun

The Emmy awards are at their best when someone who really savors TV -- Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Neil Patrick Harris -- is in charge. Now it's Kimmel's turn, at 8 p.m. today (Sunday, Sept. 23). Here's the story I sent to papers:


This is Emmy week, a time to savor
what's good on TV. That means a Jimmy should host.

Two years ago, it was Jimmy Fallon, a
big TV fan. On Sunday, it's Jimmy Kimmel, with similar tastes.

Both were born in Brooklyn, a few years
apart. (Kimmel is 44, Fallon is 38.) Both spent their childhood in
front of a TV, especially talk shows and situation comedies. “'Late
Night With David Letterman'” is my all-time favorite show …. 'The
Honeymooners,' is one of my favorites,” Kimmel said.

He watched the great sitcoms (“Cheers,”
“Taxi”) and the others. “You look back at 'Welcome Back,
Kotter' and go, how was I laughing at this?'”

And that gives him the Jimmy-esque
skills for his current work. “I did not study in high school or
college,” Kimmel said. “And that's why I know so much about
television. I watch a lot of shows.”

That qualifies him to interview people
late-night. (This year, Kimmel and Fallon have Emmy nominations for
best variety series; Letterman and Jay Leno don't.) It also suits him
for other duties, from “American Idol” commentary to hosting the
American Music Awards and the Emmys.

“I do make an effort,” Kimmel said,
“and I use only my own writers.”

On Emmy night, he wants to be around
for quick quips or commentary – which is the approach the producer
prefers. “We have 26 awards to present,” Don Mischer said, “which
is a lot …. We have about 21 minutes … for all the other things.”
That's often where the fun comes in, he said, as “Jimmy weaves
himself in and out, … bringing people on or making comments about
somebody who just won.”

The awards are split into four main
sections, each with its own clips package:

– DRAMA: Often, Mischer granted,
cable has dominated. “It's hard (to compete with) a show on cable
that might have a much higher budget, no commercial breaks, freedom
to use whatever language.”

This year, five of the six nominated
dramas are on cable – two on HBO, two on AMC, plus Showtime's
“Homeland.” Breaking the dominance is PBS' “Downton Abbey”;
after switching from a mini-series to a series, it found itself with
16 nominations, including best drama.

The reaction of the “Abbey” people?
“'Overwhelmed' is an understatement ….We have a word in England,
which is 'gobsmacked,'” said Hugh Bonneville.

There are nominations for six “Abbey”
actors, some well-known (Bonneville, Maggie Smith).and most not. “I
was just screaming on the phone and jumping up and down,” Joanne
Froggatt, who plays mild-mannered maid Anna Smith Bates, said of news
of her nomination.

– Comedy: This is one area the
networks still win.

HBO has half the series nominees –
“Girls,” “Veep” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” – but the
network sitcoms (“Modern Family,” “30 Rock,” “Big Bang
Theory”) tend to win. The networks have seven of the 13 nominees
for best actor or actress – and 11 of the 12 supporting nominees,
including all six “Modern Family” adults.

– Movies and mini-series: When
networks dropped out of the movie business, cable took over.

Now it has five of the six nominations
for best movie or miniseries, plus 17 of the 21 for actors. PBS has
the rest, led by one of the “Sherlock” films.

That still drew complaints: Two
nominees – “Luther” and “Sherlock” – were considered
series in England, critics said. And “American Horror”? “It's
not a mini-series, let's be honest,” Kimmel said.

– Reality shows. Bravo's “Top Chef”
finally won last year, ending an eight-year streak in the
reality-competition field for “Amazing Race.”

A bigger question is whether this
category really deserves an equal spot. Mischer says yes. “It's
part of the diversity that is television today …. When you look at
the options we have, it's mind-boggling.”

– Emmy, 8-11 p.m. ET Sunday, ABC;
red-carpet preview at 7.

– E has a red-carpet preview from
6-8 p.m., plus an Emmy preview at 5.



Funny lives become a (sometimes) funny TV show

OK, you may know that I'm not big on the opening episode of "Partners" (8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, on CBS).

Still, I'm very big on the people who created it. They're funny guys who are basing this on their own lives, so maybe it will get better. Here's the story I sent to papers:


Max Mutchnick and David Kohan kept
turning out new comedies.

Most were funny; one (“Will &
Grace”) was a classic. None, perhaps, were as interesting as their

Finally, Mutchnick says, network and
studio executives insisted: “They said, 'Get to work and start to
develop a buddy-buddy comedy with a gay guy and a straight guy who
are best friends.'”

The result is “Partners,” with a
relationship like their own. “We've been friends since we were 14
years old,”said Kohan, 48. “At a certain point, you realize
you're in a marriage.”

Or something like one. “We're more
like brothers,” said Mutchnick, almost 47. “We've had lunch
together for 22 years …. Our families are now very intertwined and
our daughters are best friends.”

They finish each other's sentences,
David Wild wrote in “The Showrunners” (1999, HarperCollins).
“They really do everything together,” Eric McCormack, then a
“Will & Grace” star, told Wild. “In fact, they dress alike,
which gets really annoying.”

They met in the Beverly Hills High
School theater program, where Kohan was a star – he beat out
Nicolas Cage to be Riff in “West Side Story” – and Mutchnick
wasn't. “I only played the character of Baby John,” Mutchnick
claimed. “It didn't matter what the musical was, I was always Baby

They soon had a connection, Kohan said.
“One of my closest friends was his romantic girlfriend.”

That changed from romance to a
Will-and-Grace type friendship, he said, with some rocky times in
btween. “I was the Kissinger of that relationship, doing shuttle

Indeed, Kohan was the one Mutchnick
told he's gay. Here was an “iconic straight high school
personality,” Mutchnick said. “And for some reason, I decided to
pick Dave as the guy I would tell when I came to terms with this. And
David was fantastic.

“I think every gay man should have a
straight man in his life. And I was lucky enough that I was able to
create a life and a great career with him, too.”

Early life was tougher for Mutchnick,
who was 6 when his father died. His mom, however, was a Paramount
executive. “I grew up on the sound stages of 'Happy Days' (and)
'Blansky's Beauties' and that's really where I got the bug for all

It was easier for Kohan, whose dad has
continued to write deed into his 70s. Buz Kohan has13 Emmys for
variety specials and “The Carol Burnett Show”; Jenji Kohan,
David's sister, created “Weeds.”

There was a rough time when Kohan's
marriage fell apart during the first year of “Will & Grace.”
And recent shows – including “(Bleep) My Dad Says” – haven't
done as well as the early ones. “Boston Common” and “Good
Morning, Miami” each had two seasons; “Will & Grace” had

So maybe they needed to get personal
again. CBS executives, Mutchnick said, “came to us and said, 'We
think it's time for you guys to write the thing that we've always
wanted you to write.'”

That's “Partners,” about two
architects. David Krumholtz plays someone a little like Kohan, with
Sophia Bush as his girlfriend; Michael Urie plays someone a lot like

“I'm self-obsessed,” Mutchnick
grants. In real life, he's married to a lawyer; in “Partners,”
Urie is dating a handsome nurse (Brandon Roush, star of the 2006
“Superman Returns”), but tells everyone he's a doctor. TV becomes
like life, but (maybe) funnier.

– “Partners,” 8:30 p.m. Mondays,
CBS; debuts Sept. 24