October 17, 2018

Politics, gender and Jewishness loom large at Emmys

In a high stakes election season in which a slow moving economy has dampened national spirits, the 64th Annual Emmys telecast proved that television has a sense of humor about itself. 

As the actress Julianne Moore put it when accepting an Emmy for her portrayal of Sarah Palin in “Game Change”: “I feel so validated because Sarah Palin gave me a big thumbs down.”

The presidential campaign provided the butt of most jokes Sunday evening as host Jimmy Kimmel mocked Hollywood Republicans and well, Republicans in general.

The British class drama Downtown Abbey? “It really gives you a sense of what it must have been like to grow up in Mitt Romney’s house,” Kimmel joked about the best drama series nominee.

Accepting the award for outstanding miniseries or movie, actor and “Game Change” producer Tom Hanks said, “We’d like to thank our founding fathers for the Democratic process they came up with that has provided us with a plethora of material.”

If anything, the television academy showed itself to be playful and teasing, the more at ease counterpart to the self-serious Oscars.

“What kinds of people make the best comedy directors?” Kathy Bates and Jimmy Fallon wondered before presenting the award for best comedy direction.

“Jewish men?” Lena Dunham muttered, albeit ironically, in a pre-taped video sketch (Dunham, the 26-year-old Jewish female virtuoso was nominated in the writing, directing and acting categories for her work on HBO’s “Girls”).

Jason Winer, whose work directing “Modern Family” got him a gig directing feature films, was more blunt: “Jews,” he said, undoubtedly referring to himself and his former boss Steve Levitan, creator of “Modern Family” which took home awards for acting, directing and finally best comedy series for the third year in a row.

Jon Stewart, whose politically deft “Daily Show” took home its 10th consecutive Emmy for outstanding variety series countervailed his gratitude with a dose of humility, “We make topical comedy,” Stewart said, “which has the shelf life of egg salad.” Though in all honesty, Stewart’s searing and satirical takedown of media and political hypocrisy has kept his long-running show fresh and relevant.

Had Stewart’s team been available to write the Emmy’s telecast, Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke might not have griped about the show’s lack of wit. “Oh…Stupid me,” Finke wrote on Deadline.com. “The comedy is absent because the writers, presenters, and Hollywood audience are all practicing solemnity for Yom Kippur next week.”

So much for Stewart’s firmly censored “F-bomb.”

Jokes about Jews were second, however, to comments on female power.

“I don’t see anything funny abut me being Vice President of the United States,” Julia Louis-Dreyfus said during her acceptance speech for lead actress in a comedy for HBO’s “Veep”.

“We’ve heard a lot this [election] year about the war on women,” Stephen Colbert  of “The Colbert Report” said while presenting the award to Dreyfus. “I think we can hope this is the last year this happens. We should be celebrating women! Women are wonderful — for the most part, obviously. Some women are awful,” he said dryly.

Not the women of “Homeland,” however. Upon accepting their first award of the evening for best drama writing, “Homeland” creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa accompanied by executive producer Gideon Raff, whose Israeli series “Prisoners of War” provided the conceit upon which “Homeland” is based — made a show of thanking their wives. “Wives, we love you!” Gordon shouted before being escorted off stage.

“Homeland” was the evening’s big winner, taking home the outstanding drama series Emmy — Showtime’s first — and an upset for “Mad Men” whose cast and crew had hoped to make history with a fifth consecutive win. Instead, “Homeland” swept the night,  also taking home acting awards for its stars Claire Danes and Damien Lewis.

In an eloquent display of female confidence, a radiant and pregnant Danes thanked her husband, the actor Hugh Dancy, “my husband, my love, my life — this doesn’t mean anything without you,” she said, holding up her golden statuette.

So much for prevailing myths about “The End of Men.”

A campaign’s war on women becomes an award show’s parade of female power.

What’s a male host to do except, well, joke about it?

“The important thing is you get out of here as soon as possible so you can go home and put on your fat pants,” Kimmel joked. Kimmel seems to have learned a thing or two about the ways that women suffer; after all, his evening began when TV’s leading ladies literally beat the Botox out of him.