My new mail carrier is getting a little impatient. Almost every day, she is forced to ring my doorbell so she can hand me yet another box of DVDs that won’t fit through my mail slot. I’m sure she thinks I’m a porn addict. Maybe I should tell her the real, more frightening truth: I am a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and it’s Emmy season. Yes, it’s television’s turn to do what we in the entertainment industry do so well and so often: praise and congratulate ourselves on a job well done. A couple of weeks ago, when the first carton from the Academy’s printing company arrived, I placed a large cardboard box next to the front door, so now I can immediately toss the daily shipment of Emmy worthy programming into it for perusal at a later time. I try to be a good academy member and I do watch a lot of it, but I suspect no one is capable of withstanding the full onslaught.
This will be my second time to vote on the Emmys. I joined the Academy last year and was instantly hit with a tsunami of DVDs, plus quite a few requests to serve on special juries. I wound up as a member of a “blue ribbon panel” and a “screening committee,” but I was never too sure which one was which. In one case, I received a box of DVDs and was asked to vote on some actors’ performances which was pretty easy. In the second situation, I was voting on one of the big “Best Series” categories, so I was required to show up at a fancy hotel where a group of us watched TV shows all day in a conference room. It was sort of intense, but fun. They fed us a very nice lunch and I think we all enjoyed exercising our teeny little bit of power - especially in a business where most of us have none. Of course, it’s always nice to get out of the house, but I personally prefer to judge the artistic efforts of others while lying on my sofa with a bowl of popcorn on my stomach and a remote in my hand. This is where I do my best critical thinking.
Since I don’t generally watch a ton of TV, I enjoy Emmy season. It gives me an excuse to camp out in my house and see what everybody’s been up to. When it comes to choosing my Emmy entertainment for the evening, I have to admit that I’m frequently attracted to the DVDs that come in the more deluxe packaging. Despite the new pressure to be “green,” the boxes from HBO still look like something created to commemorate the Queen Mother’s birthday. Sleek and elegant, they offer an array of DVD’s arranged like an exotic collection of Belgian chocolates. The other networks are no slouches either. Last year’s colorful container from PBS reminded me of a package of Starburst Fruit Chews. In fact, I’m hoping that soon someone will invent low-carb, edible DVDs so that once I’m done reviewing Teri Hatcher’s performance for “Best Lead Actress in Comedy Series,” I can eat it.
Because I belong to the “Performers” branch of the Academy, I receive a lot of postcards and DVDs from actors. These campaigns are a little like running for class president – only the popular kids have any real shot. I love it when “So-and-So Entertainment” or “Blah-Blah Management” wants to submit their client for my consideration (sort of suggesting that the actors themselves have no knowledge of this DVD and would be mortified if they knew I’d received it). In addition to the DVD campaigns, large sums of money will soon be spent on ads in the trades or in the annual special edition of “Emmy” magazine dedicated to showcasing potential nominees. Some of these ads can seem a little delusional; featuring actors you’ve never heard of, or octogenarian performers who weren’t all that great 30 years ago. Yesterday, I received a card from a young actor who is seeking a nomination for “Best Guest Actor” on a comedy series. I looked him up on IMDB. He’s eleven years old.
I myself understand Emmy fever because I’ve had it. Last year, for a hot minute, I thought I was going to be nominated for “Best Guest Actor” on a drama series. It didn’t happen, but it gave me a new respect for the stress and expense that goes into securing a “nod.” I remember there was one guy who (not wanting to spend the dough) was running sort of a grass roots campaign. He just showed up at every academy event and handed out DVDs of his performance on this mini-series from the Sci-Fi channel. It was a little awkward, but I admired his willingness to openly shill for himself.
Because the Emmys strive to acknowledge the whole universe of television, they are by nature, a little weird (Who exactly is the “Best Host?”) Like most award shows, their heart is in the right place and the money generated by the telecasts goes to support the Academy which offers some wonderful programs (like health insurance for academy members who might not otherwise have it) so it feels creepy and mean-spirited to make fun of them. Like a lot of people, I guess I find TV itself a little mystifying. Does it really reflect us? How can you have something as brilliant as “Mad Men” on the air alongside… Hmmm... Maybe I shouldn’t finish this sentence. I don’t want to offend you in case the piece of shit I was about to mention is your favorite show.
It’s been a rough season for television. Between the damage done by the recent strike, the threat of another one looming, and the general anxiety being created by new media, there are lot of people wondering how much longer there will even be “TV” as we know it. But the really gnarly question is what the hell am I supposed to do with all these DVD’s when I’m done watching them? Last year, I passed the bounty along to neighbors or just tossed them in the recycling, but now I keep hearing rumors about tracking devices and secret serial numbers. I have reoccurring nightmares about the FBI kicking down my door because somehow my Emmy screener of “Dancing With the Stars” fell into the wrong hands; thus wiping out the whole market share in Zimbabwe. I just heard that the Academy is creating a drop box where you can return the DVD’s so they can then be shipped to US military personnel and their families. This strikes me as an excellent idea. I’m hoping that when our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan find out that they are being asked to remain for six or seven more tours of duty, our screeners of “John from Cincinnati “ or “Mind of Mencia “ will make them feel a little less depressed about it. At least they’ll know they aren’t missing anything all that great on TV.
Copyright 2008 Quitcher-Bitchyn Entertainment
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David Dean Bottrell is an actor (“Boston Legal”) and screenwriter (“Kingdom Come”) who writes a weekly blog about being undeniably middle-class in Hollywood at www.partsandlabor.tv