After four and half hours of Creative Arts Emmy Awards action — a two-night affair dubbed “the junior prom” by presenter Jane Lynch — what have we learned?
• Emmy voters really, really love “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.”
• They’re hopelessly devoted to “Grease Live.”
• “The Late Late Show With James Corden” is the late-night phenom to watch.
• “Making a Murderer” got under the skin of TV Academy voters.
• “Game of Thrones” is prepared to scorch everything in its path in a valiant quest for back-to-back Emmy domination.
The final tally for the 80-plus awards presented during the Sept. 10-11 Creative Arts ceremonies, as always, is a good bellwether of the victories to come at the main event — the Primetime Emmys on Sept. 18.
But this year, the TV Academy can count itself among the big winners, as industryites seemed to have universal praise for the decision to spread out the Creative Arts presentation over two nights at the Microsoft Theater in Downtown L.A.
“I give it a big thumbs-up,” said Ryan Murphy, the uber-producer who attended both nights to support craft and technical nominees for his FX productions “The People v. O.J. Simpson” and “American Horror Story: Hotel.” “It doesn’t feel like the five-hour slog. I went to the bar once and there was no one there — which is always a good sign.”
In past years, the Creative Arts ceremony was often referred to in less-than-flattering terms (“death march” being a popular one) because of the mind-numbing number of awards handed out. This year the Academy broke with tradition in an effort to produce a better show all around. Each ceremony ran about two hours and 15 minutes and served up 41 awards presentations, plus a few extras, such as an “In Memoriam” segment and the Governors Award presentation to “American Idol” on Sept. 11.
Chris Hardwick, a winner for Comedy Central’s “@Midnight with Chris Hardwick,” noted when he came backstage at the end of the Sept. 10 ceremony that under the old format “we’d only be at the halfway point by now.” (That observation produced a shudder among the assembled reporters.)
Creative Arts attendees used to desert the auditorium after their rooting interest had passed, which meant that many winners gave their thank-yous to a half-empty house.
“By the end of the show, a lot of people had left, or they’re outside because their legs are falling asleep,” Hardwick said.
Rob Corddry, a winner for Adult Swim’s “Childrens Hospital,” added, “I think we should have three or four Emmys next year.”
Creative Arts nominees already battle an inferiority complex because their disciplines are not included in the live Primetime Emmy awards. The fact that the Creative Arts ceremony in the past had to rush through so many presentations added insult to injury. The new format allowed more time to highlight the nominees and let winners breathe — and gush — onstage.
“There’s a lot of emotion and anxiety in that room,” said composer Sean Callery, who picked up a trophy Sept. 10 for main title theme music for Netflix’s “Marvel’s Jessica Jones.” “Every award is valid and important, and this gives people a little more time in the moment.”
TV Academy officials took pains to split up the categories according to disciplines and along the narrative/unscripted divide in order to limit the number of nominees who needed to attend both nights. The result was that far more people — nominees along with their cheering sections — were able to come, according to TV Academy president and chief operating officer Maury McIntyre.
Given the strong positive feedback, the bifurcated approach seems likely to stick; but McIntyre said a final decision will be made after surveys of TV Academy members.
“We will make sure we improve on it for next year,” he said.
After all the hardware was handed out, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” had collected nine trophies. The wins, for everything from casting to visual effects to stunts, underscore Emmy voters’ appreciation for the craftsmanship that has dazzled viewers for six seasons.
“Thrones” will sit out the Emmy race next year, as its seventh season won’t bow until June 2017. This might have encouraged voters to load it up with wins on the theory that other deserving dramas will have a better shot next year.
“People v. O.J. Simpson,” “Making a Murderer,” and “Grease Live” came away with four wins apiece. The momentum bodes well for “Simpson” to clean up in the limited-series categories on Sept. 18.
“The Late Late Show With James Corden” made an impressive Emmy debut in its first year, claiming the wins for interactive program and variety special. The latter was for the “Carpool Karaoke” primetime hour that aired on CBS in March to mark Corden’s one-year anniversary on the air.
“Late Late Show” executive producer Ben Winston, Corden’s longtime producing partner, and a fellow Brit, marveled that he didn’t think that the show
would be on CBS after a year, let alone collecting Emmys. (It’s also up for variety-talk series, which will be awarded on Sept. 18).
Winston said he is proud to have “unleashed the most talented man I’ve ever met on America.”
In their excitement, numerous winners referenced the power and the influence television uniquely wields as a medium that reaches into living rooms — and now into pockets and purses via streaming video. “Grease Live” executive producer Marc Platt said that he never appreciated network TV’s power to command audiences until he shepherded Fox’s live staging of the beloved musical.
“The communal feeling across the country was so powerful and instantaneous,” Platt said.
But the emotional high point of the Creative Arts presentation came toward the end of the second night’s ceremony, when the A&E series “Born This Way” won for unstructured reality program. The show follows the lives of seven young adults with Down syndrome. As cast members excitedly gathered around executive producer Jonathan Murray, the crowd rose to its feet.
“Born This Way” is part of a “movement for the rights of the disabled,” Murray said. The show, he continued, demonstrates “that people with disabilities have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else.”