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2016 Emmys: Turn On-Tune In-and Veg Out

“Game of Thrones” leads the way with 23 nods! Yes, this year’s Emmy nominations have been revealed! Quick, name last year’s winner in any major category. If you are like me, and the vast majority of TV viewers, you’d have to look it up. But here’s a tip: if Julia Louis-Dreyfus had a show on the air, she probably won.

This year’s Emmy nominations have been revealed! So what do I do now? For 30 years I have covered all the major award show spectacles for a basic cable network. Now I don’t. So no need to staff-up, launch research or attempt to identify stories that might be of interest to women in the age group 14 to 35.

For the past 15 years or so, I spent every major award show day in a production truck, never actually entering the arena where the envelopes were opened. I wrote continuity, questions for hosts on the red carpet, factoids that would scroll across the bottom of the screen, and breaking news stories (Whitney Houston’s death the night before the 2012 Grammys was particularly challenging, but resulted in huge ratings). More recently I headed a team that searched and accumulated pertinent comments from social media, a task for which I lacked both understanding and interest.

For four years our network actually aired an Awards Show that was a non-major, but featured a star-filled turnout. That was a lot more fun and gave me a chance to do more than “cover” the big show. Most award shows have from five to twenty-five writers. We had me. I wrote the host’s banter and the presenters’ witty repartee. It wasn’t like writing a movie or a TV series, but I got a kick out of hearing some of the world’s greatest entertainers say my lines, or at least some of them.

All television copy is written to be rewritten. At our Awards show I was positioned backstage by the teleprompter operators in order to make any requested changes to the script. One year, just before the award for Outstanding Director was to be presented, I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Excuse me, are you the person I see about changing my speech?” “Yes I am.” “Would it be possible to change the line ‘Directors I have long admired’ to 'Artists who have inspired and influenced me?'” Just for the Gonzo of it, I wanted to say, “No way man, nobody fucks with BigBoy Medlin’s words!” Instead I replied, “I can make sure that happens, Mr. Spielberg, thanks for being here.” “My pleasure.”

Another time Clint Eastwood was scheduled to receive a Lifetime Achievement-type award. Sean Penn was presenting it. I did my best on the presentation speech, but everyone knew Mr. Penn would rewrite it. Sure enough, just before show time, he approached me. I took a deep breath, and vowed to keep my cool. “Hey man, I need to tweak the script.” “OK.” “You know the part where you compare Clint to John Wayne?” “Yeah.” “I don’t want to say John Wayne. What’s another name?” “Gary Cooper?” “Cooper? Yeah, that’ll do it. Thanks.” That was it. The Hollywood bad boy was polite as is humanly possible, and only changed that one name. That night when Penn masterfully made my words his own, we had a camera shot of something I never expected to see, the stoic Mr. Eastwood with a tear in his eye. I made Clint Eastwood cry! Or, more accurately, Sean Penn did when he packed so much emotion into my humble little speech. But forget all that, This Writer Made Clint Eastwood Cry!

The poker-faced illusionist David Blaine was backstage at that same show. “Hey David,” I boldly announced, “I am going to pull off a trick even you couldn’t accomplish.” “Oh Yeah, what’s that?” “I am going to end an Award Show on time.” Making David Blaine laugh and Clint Eastwood cry were truly career highlights.

So what about this year’s Emmys? The great English actor, Ian McShane, appeared on two seasons of “Game of Thrones.” McShane was quoted as saying about the show “It’s only tits and dragons.” But it is much more. Where else can you get prolonged scenes of sadistic acts, oodles of gratuitous violence, so many incomprehensible plot lines, such stilted meaningless dialogue, and gobs and gobs of spiritual mumbo jumbo to go with all those tits and dragons? I never miss an episode.

“The People v. O.J. Simpson” got the second most noms. I hear it is great, but I do not care. Back in the day, producing live gavel-to-gavel coverage of the actual trial filled me with a loathing for the entire subject. I witnessed attorneys from the DA’s office getting out-lawyered over and over by the defense team. The lack of professionalism by the LAPD was also less than encouraging. Going only by the evidence and arguments presented in the presence of the jurors, I would have voted to acquit. If you watched this epic, please let me know how the show deals with the defense’s brilliant decision to allow O.J. to try on the glove without testifying.

Back to this year's nominees -- I like “House of Cards” a lot, but the British original was better. I’ve never seen “The Americans.” “Homeland” and “Downton Abbey” seem like old news. So my pick for Best Drama comes down to “Better Call Saul” or “Mr. Robot.” The Solomon in me says give an Emmy to “Mr. Robot,” and another to Bob Odenkirk for playing Saul.

Lead Actor in a Limited Series is a category loaded with talent. It is difficult for me to pick a favorite between Bryan Cranston’s LBJ in “All The Way,” and Idris Elba for the superbly noir “Luther.” But since Luther did not draft me and send me to Nam and LBJ did, I reckon I’m for Luther.

Without the support of our production team, I have no idea how to place the accent in Beyonce. But I find the fact that that she is up for four Emmys, more amusing than any sitcom. That’s not to say there is a lack of funny on television these days. Amy Schumer and Key & Peele are hilarious. If they are up for something I hope they win. That’s right, I don’t know if they are nominated or not. And what’s more important, I don’t have to!

Tits and Dragons be damned, I’m the man who made Eastwood cry!

This year’s Emmys will be awarded on September 18th. The most outstanding coverage Live From the Red Carpet will be on E!.

James BigBoy Medlin © 2016

James BigBoy Medlin is a writer who lives in Silver City, New Mexico. He was a writer and the sports columnist for the original Austin Sun.

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