Despite all the pieces heralding this as a golden age of television, the Emmys — or more accurately, those who mounted and attended them — still haven’t gotten over their infatuation with movie stars, or retired their age-old inferiority complex. And while people are to be forgiven for ogling Matthew McConaughey, the cumulative weight of all the attention he garnered from the stage went from cute to unseemly, as if nobody could believe a recent Oscar winner would deign to attend their party.
Not only does this fly in the face of history — movie stars aren’t exactly a new feature of Emmy voting — but it does a general disservice to those who have rightfully garnered praise for their television work. Besides, Bryan Cranston just won a Tony for the play “All the Way;” should people be doing cartwheels that he found time to show up?
Yet there was McConaughey on the red carpet, being asked by “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush about doing a TV show in the midst of his suddenly thriving movie career. McConaughey allowed that the fine work in TV rivaled features, which sounds generous, until one tries to name movies with which he was associated before “The Dallas Buyers Club” and “Wolf of Wall Street” that would have ranked alongside this year’s best drama nominees; or one of his romantic comedies as funny as “Modern Family” or “The Big Bang Theory.”
This is by no means intended as a knock on McConaughey, who was sensational in “True Detective” and gracious through awards season. It’s rather a commentary on a hard-to-shake mind-set, evident even in smallish cues during the show that spoke to this lingering star obsession, including an on-air tease that said, “Julia Roberts in 10 minutes,” heralding that she would soon be presenting an award.
All this would be understandable — hey, Julia Roberts, for heavens sake! — if you didn’t have to think all the way back to, oh, last year, when there were headlines like “Movie Stars Invade the Emmy Awards,” and viewers were treated to the sight of Michael Douglas making out with Matt Damon. Or ignore names like Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Helen Mirren, who have all found quality TV roles in recent years.
McConaughey was certainly a ripe target for jokes on Monday — including Jimmy Kimmel’s crack about having to sit through his quirky acceptance speeches — but the cumulative effect of all the attention was a sense that TV, in its own collective mind, still hasn’t shed its second-class-citizen status.
As McConaughey himself might say, “Alright, alright, alright. Now time to get over it.”