The Emmys should reflect our miserable lives

[22 September 2008]

By Barry Koltnow

The Orange County Register (MCT)

Didn’t I just go to the Oscars yesterday?

I can’t believe that awards show season is upon us again. And when I say “us,” you know that I really mean “me.”

I anxiously count the days between the annual Emmys telecast and the annual Oscars telecast. As soon as the Oscars are over in February, I can stop working the rest of the year.

But Sunday’s Emmy Awards telecast started the work cycle all over again.

I had hoped that the Emmys would be canceled this year because of the failing economy. Last year, I hoped that the telecast would be canceled because of a hangnail.

But I suppose that fashion designers, tux rental stores and limousine companies have a right to earn a living. You can’t expect them to survive on proms alone.

And, more important, fragile show business egos must be massaged. If TV stars don’t get a daily dose of back-patting, they wither and die.

And doesn’t it make all of us feel better about our miserable lives to see richer, better-looking people enjoying themselves?

I suppose someone could trot out an “expert” - there are experts available to support whatever position you’re taking these days - who would explain how important it is for us to watch celebrities congratulate each other, even as we watch our retirement years disappear with each passing closing bell. These experts would say that we need to be lifted and entertained during hard times, just as Shirley Temple lifted and entertained an entire nation during the Great Depression.

Anyway, I’m not buying it.

If they won’t cancel the Emmys, the least they could do was to try to reflect what’s going on in the real world.

They could have still saluted a lifestyle that few of us will ever hope to experience. Let them have their gowns. Let them have their 40-second acceptance speeches. Let them feed the backstage media with giant prawns. (Did I mention that I was working backstage?)

So, let them have their celebration, but how about an acknowledgment that things are not quite as rosy in the real world as they appeared Sunday night in the Nokia Theatre?

How about some awards that mix a little reality in with the fantasy?

I have no problem handing out awards in the traditional categories, such as “Outstanding Comedy” or “Outstanding Supporting Actress, Drama” or even “Outstanding Reality Show Host.”

But for next year, I would suggest that the Academy of Television Arts & Science add a few non-traditional categories to bring a sense of real-world practicality to the glitzy awards show.

I think it would make a lot of us feel better to know that celebrities are not only aware of the financial troubles that plague us, but are actually feeling the economic crunch as well.

And who among us doesn’t secretly desire an even longer awards show?

With that in mind, I propose that awards be handed out in the following categories:

Outstanding salary cuts, comedy: Given to a network bean counter who was able to trim production costs by reducing the salaries and health benefits of new cast members.

Outstanding performance by a stuntman: Presented to the stunt coordinator who was able to reduce car crashes by at least 15 percent during the last business quarter.

Outstanding performance by a focus group: Handed out to the focus group that didn’t diminish the creative process during the previous year. If no winner can be found, the award will be discontinued.

Outstanding use of public transportation: To the actor or actress who most often turned down use of a private jet during the film-festival season.

Outstanding use of layoffs to save executive positions: To be given to a studio head in a nontelevised ceremony at an exclusive club in downtown Los Angeles.

Outstanding performance by a tax accountant in a supporting role, drama: To the accounting firm that convinced a network to film all its new drama series in Canada, thereby putting more Americans out of work.

Outstanding performance by a rich actor portraying a person struggling to pay the rent: To the actor with the best memory of what it was like to struggle.

Outstanding performance by an actress pretending to be a single mother trying to make ends meet: To the actress in a series, special or miniseries who is convincing enough in her performance that we forget about the private sex tape being sold on the Internet.

Outstanding script by a millionaire screenwriter living in Malibu that best depicts life in a lower-income neighborhood: Some of these writers are truly gifted.

And finally:

Lifetime achievement award: To the person who invented the reality show, which as we know, downsizes writers and actors and puts them in the unemployment line with the rest of us.

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