Jack’s first birthday prompts reflection on vast changes in the TV biz
The Emmys always inspire talk of streaks, whether it’s “The Daily Show’s” 10 straight wins for variety series or Susan Lucci’s 19 years of unrequited noms before her “You like me!” moment for “All My Children.” Yet my 20-plus-year stretch covering the awards came to a crashing halt in 2012, all because of my son, Jack.
Jack wasn’t due until mid-October, but he was kicking so vigorously I had doubts about his willingness to stay in his designated timeslot until then. So during Variety’s pre-Emmy meeting, I suggested we might need a contingency plan in case my wife, Jenny, went into labor prematurely.
The day before the Emmys, Jenny awoke and almost immediately began experiencing contractions. Having joked about the nightmare of having that happen the following weekend — during Carmageddon, when the San Diego freeway would be closed — I still hit considerable traffic making it to UCLA Medical Center.
We arrived at 9:30 a.m. Jack made his unscheduled debut 45 minutes later.
Despite my “You will not have the baby in the car” warnings, we came uncomfortably close.
Once everything settled down, I emailed my boss saying, “Jenny does not follow instructions,” indicating we would have to pursue Plan B for Emmy night.
Apparently a product of hardy peasant stock, Jenny was feeling surprisingly spry by Saturday afternoon — so much so that she asked if she could go home that evening to our other kid. Hospital staffers acted as if she was crazy, and with all the precautionary poking, testing and blood-taking, we didn’t check out till the next day around noon.
There was a fl eeting thought even then that I might be able to watch the show — it’s televised live now on the West Coast — but that proved overly ambitious, with Jack’s early arrival having left us not fully prepared for his homecoming.
So I missed the 2012 Emmys beyond seeing a few random highlights. Heard good things about Jimmy Kimmel as host and was happy the “Homeland” guys won best drama, until I got halfway through season two.
It took a while for the personal significance to sink in, realizing I had covered every Emmys as either a reporter or critic since 1987 — for the Hollywood Reporter (once), Variety or Los Angeles Times. Then again, if it took a major event to get Lou Gehrig out of the Yankees’ lineup after 2,130 consecutive games, at least this was a happier day in my life (… life … life).
The streak also prompted refl ection on what’s changed in TV and Emmy-wise since 1987 — the sort of reminiscing that inevitably sounds like Rutger Hauer at the end of “Blade Runner.”
That year, “Golden Girls” and “L.A. Law” nabbed series honors; NBC actually swept the comedy nominations, since cable wasn’t eligible; Fox was still a newborn, limited to programming a couple nights; Netflix, FX and CW (nee WB and UPN) didn’t exist, but the financial interest and syndication rules and a robust made-for-TV movie business still did; AMC strictly aired old movies; Variety was published daily and was owned by its founding family; two of the four “Girls” stars hadn’t been born; and I was beardless.
Named after my late father-in-law, Jack will celebrate his first birthday on Emmy day — sharing it, in let’s-suck-up-to-both-sides-of-the-family timing, with my mother.
Obviously, he inherits a transformed media world — one where his kids likely won’t understand concepts like “holding a newspaper” or “subscribing to cable.”
Not to say he’s a chip off the old block, but his favorite household item — the one he lunged for before he could crawl — is the TV remote. Beyond eating a lot and rudely grabbing himself whenever his diaper is changed, it’s hard to think of anything he could do at this point to make papa prouder.
And yes, I will be back covering this year’s Emmys. Streaks were made to be broken, but with a little luck, you can always start a new one.