The Secret Meaning of the Emmys

Awards voters, like the Freemasons and the New Black Panther Party, are a mysterious and confusing group.

The first thing you have to understand about them: no award can be taken at face value. Awards voters, whether they’re deliberating on the Oscars, Emmys, Grammys or Tonys (whatever they are), almost never vote for a nominee just because they think he or she is the most deserving.

Rather, a vote is a form of communication with the outside world — a cry in the dark, sometimes angry, sometimes defiant, sometimes defensive.

Every win on every awards show sends a message; once you learn the odd subculture of a particular group of voters, it becomes easy to read the subtext. And no voters are as interesting to study as the members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

The Emmys are even more dysfunctional that most awards — actors, writers and directors are judged on one episode; while series are judged on a handful. So, in theory, an actor who mailed in an entire season but pulled out all the stops in just one episode could beat an actor who was consistently excellent over 13 or 22 hours.

Even beyond that, though, Emmy voters are notorious for being behind the times, playing favorites, and choosing familiarity over quality (see: Tony Shaloub winning Best Actor three times for “Monk”).

Every few years, in an effort to appease vociferous criticism, the Academy promises to shake up either the voting process or the telecast, but nothing of substance every changes. No major reorganization was promised for 2010, yet the show seemed fresher than in recent years, with fewer repeat winners and less predictability.

Still, there’s a lot to parse. Here are some of the major award winners last night, along with what those wins really mean:

Winner: Lead Actress in a Comedy Series – Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
What The Emmy Voters Were Trying to Say: OMG! OMG! OMG! We have a chance to vote for Carmela again! Happy days are here again. It’s like “The Sopranos” never left!

Best Supporting Actress in a Drama – Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife
We love “The Good Wife.” It’s proof that procedural network dramas not named CSI or NCIS can still kill in the ratings. It’s proof that we can stop making terrible “Lost” rip-offs like “The Event” and “FlashForward.” It’s a show of reasonable quality that doesn’t require much attention or intelligence to watch and enjoy. You don’t need to see every episode to know what’s going on. Also, apparently, we have no interest in seeing Christina Hendricks walk to the stage dressed like this:

So, you know, fuck you America.

Variety, Music or Comedy Series – The Daily Show
The Daily Show is going to win this award every year, as long as Jon Stewart is hosting. Why? Because we want you to know we’re liberal. And yes, it would have been awesome to see Conan win, even though his show was wildly inconsistent, just to see what he’d say at the podium. But, once again, fuck you America.

Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
“The Big Bang Theory” is hot, right? We think we read that in USA Today. The purple section. Anyway, we don’t want to repeat our mistake with “Two And a Half Men,” and not recognize greatness while it’s still part of the zeitgeist. We want to strike while the iron is hot.

Lead Actress in a Drama Series – Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Connie Britton? Never heard of her. Can’t pick Close or Hargitay again — we’ll get yelled at for repeating the same winners over and over. January Jones is in the tabloids too much, and we resent her beauty. So…Marguiles or Sedgwick? Fuck it; flip a coin.

Supporting Actor in a Drama Series – Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Hey all you punks in the press, who want to start shit by printin’ lies instead of the things we said — That means you Alan Sepinwall at HitFix, James Poniewozik at Time, Tim Goodman at the San Francisco Chronicle — What, you don’t think we’re hip? You don’t think we watch “Breaking Bad”? You don’t think we’re capable of giving an award to a lesser-known actor? Fuck you. Suck our fuckin’ dicks.

Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie – Al Pacino, You Don’t Know Jack
You might not know this about those of us who work in television, but we have a massive inferiority complex. We know you fuckers in the public and the press think we’re not as talented or important as people who work in film. And frankly, we’d all rather be movie writers and directors if given the opportunity. So if a bona fide movie star deigns to humble himself and appear in something made exclusively for the small screen, well, you’re goddamn crazy if you don’t think we’re validating that movie star’s ego with an award. Meanwhile, we’re conflicted between the thrill we feel at associating with a movie star and the shame we experiencing by betraying our own kind. What’s that you say? Dustin Hoffman’s going to star in a new HBO series this year?!
/starts furiously jerking off

Miniseries – The Pacific
Hanks will show up, right? And he’ll give the acceptance speech, right? Not some lame associate producer or something?

Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series – Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
We support gay marriage! Also, fat people are hilarious.

Drama Series – Mad Man
The only HBO nominee is that vampire show? Are you sure? OK, “Mad Men” it is, I guess. We do enjoy deciphering the clues that the “ad game” on the show is really just a stand-in for our industry. And the series reminds us of a simpler time — before the Internet, before illegal downloading, before cable and satellite — when networks ruled the roost, and we were all flush with corporate dollars. Men could be men, and TV execs could be TV execs, you know what I mean? Also, they smoked all the time back then! Even when they were pregnant. Too funny.

Comedy Series – Modern Family
The sitcom’s back, baby! Reports of its death were fucking premature! Can I get a fist bump? And I’m not talking about these smarty-smart faux sitcoms like “Arrested Development” and “Community” with all their winking references and punchlines flying everywhere like stray gunfire. I’m talking good old-fashioned American sitcoms, with simple plots that always resolve in 22 minutes, and hysterical stumbling buffoons. And hot chicks! Oh hell yeah. It’s like the ’80s never ended.

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Filed under Television Has AIDS, The Dilemma

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