There Are No Television Comedies Other Than ‘Modern Family,’ Apparently

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So, the 2012 Primetime Emmy Awards were last night, and considering we still have a bad taste in our mouths from our inappropriate drunk uncle Billy Crystal hosting the Oscars, for the most part, they were actually pretty fun to watch. Jimmy Kimmel had some funny bits, Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul hugged it out and made us all verklempt, Lena Dunham ate cake naked and Julia-Louis Dreyfuss and Amy Poehler stole the show with their acceptance speech switcheroo.

In terms of the awards themselves, the recipients were almost painfully predictable, especially in the comedy category. The drama awards were mostly bang-on, as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the most part avoided the soapy pleasure of Downton Abbey and Don Draper’s steely gaze to actually reward what probably are the two best dramas on TV right now, Homeland and Breaking Bad (Aaron Paul’s Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series award made our hearts happy). And Louis C.K. took home two awards — one the writing on Louie and one for his standup special at the Beacon Theatre.

But in terms of comedy, once again, the Academy chose to throw Louie its one bone—the equivalent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences giving the most envelope-pushing film of the year Best Original Screenplay and then kind of ignoring it the rest of the night—and then choosing to celebrate thoroughly mediocre stuff. In a run similar to the one Frasier made in the mid-‘90s, for the past three Emmy cycles now, Modern Family has dominated the comedy categories to the point where even better stuff from the banal, laugh track-y, Chuck Lorre school of TV comedy was ignored (come on, as eye-roll-worthy as The Big Bang Theory can be sometimes, seeing Mayim Bialik win an Emmy, especially as the show’s saving grace that is Amy Farrah Fowler, åwould have been golden). All four of Modern Family’s big winners—Outstanding Supporting Actress Julie Bowen, Outstanding Supporting Actor Eric Stonestreet (convinced that there is one dude voting in the Academy who is just still totally super shocked that a straight dude can play a preening gay man even though this is 2012, y’all), Director Steven Levitan and the show for Outstanding Comedy Series — are repeat wins, with the show itself and Levitan earning them back-to-back-to-back. This year, the rest of the show’s adult cast members were nominated for acting awards.

I like Modern Family. It’s cute. Ty Burrell and Sofia Vergara are eternally fun to watch. I usually walk away from it not hating myself. My whole family watches it (cross-demographic appeal!). And granted, the Outstanding Comedy Series pool was a little thin this year—the token Lorre (The Big Bang Theory), two former comedy powerhouses that are still very funny but mostly over-the-hill (30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm), and the two other HBO shows, Girls and Veep, which were long shots anyway. But at a time and place where so many awesome things are happening with television comedy, at a time when a fart and smunny show like Parks & Recreation or something that, love it or hate it, can spark an international conversation like Girls or a show that is so funny and so human like Louie or a show that celebrates its dweebiness so joyfully like Community or a great traditional thirtysomethings-in-the-city sitcom like Happy Endings can all exist, it seems a disservice to let more of the same rack up statue after statue. It seems kind of silly to rant—the Emmys will probably never change and TV comedy is full of niches and Modern Family certainly isn’t the worst thing to happen to television ever. But when the whole run of programming is so totally awesome, it would just kind of be nice seeing the celebration of the awesomeness spread around a bit. At least Leslie Knope won her city council election. Better luck next time, Team Dunphy.

So, to make ourselves feel better about everything, here’s Aaron Paul’s acceptance speech again. 

Reid Scott on His Villainous ‘Veep’ Role and Baltimore’s Foodie Paradise

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“I’ve grown to love acting so much,” says Reid Scott, “because I get to flex completely different creative muscles in front of the camera than I do behind it.” Scott, who is best known for his role as Dr. Todd Mauer opposite Laura Linney on Showtime’s cancer comedy, The Big C, initially had dreams of life in the director’s chair. But the film school graduate will have to put those plans on hold after hitting the actor’s jackpot with a part on HBO’s new workplace comedy, Veep. In the sharp, fast-talking show, adapted by acclaimed British satirist Armando Iannucci from his own BBC series, Julia Louis-Dreyfus portrays the American Vice President as a frustrated and marginalized second-in-Commander in Chief. Scott is the smarmy Dan Egan, a “snake in the grass” who sells out his senator boss for a chance to join the VP’s staff. “Who doesn’t like to play a bad guy?” Scott asks. “You get to exorcise all of your own demons.”

Unlike a perfectly contained Aaron Sorkin script, Veep has a more naturalistic style. “It isn’t glossy like The West Wing; even though that’s fine acting and fine writing, it doesn’t seem real. I’m pretty sure things don’t happen that way.” During shooting, the cast, which includes Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale, was sequestered in Baltimore, “marinating” in their characters but still finding time to enjoy the city’s nocturnal comforts. “I had this preconceived notion that Baltimore was not going to have good food, and was completely surprised because every place we went had terrific food,” says Scott. “We always ended up at Salt, a little place with great beers. We’re all beer drinkers, and the food was awesome.

Photo by Damian Sandone