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.