A column chronicling conversations and events during award seasons.
Welcome to a special edition of Notes On The Season, Emmy Season that is.
Well if you think the Writers Guild strike and looming possible actions by the DGA and SAG/AFTRA are doing anything to slow down the momentum of the Emmy campaign season as it heads into the stretch with just two weeks to go before TV Academy members get their nominating ballots (I am among them) , then think again. If anything, I can’t remember a year when I, as an Emmy voter, have gotten more email invites of various types, many for shows, even networks, I have never heard of. Clearly hope springs eternal. I also happen to a longtime member of the Writers Guild (although not active for years on any guild sanctioned projects) and fully support their goals (and my pension) with this strike, and the old adage “if it ain’t on the page….”
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But I also realize that it seems a shame that the great work already seen during the past year would become a victim here. If anything proves the value of a writer it is this annual spotlight on the best of the best that television in all its various forms from broadcast network, to cable, to premium cable, to streaming and so on that it provides. Of course it is unfortunate that that the writers themselves don’t get to partake in this lovefest for their work, at least on FYC panels and other highly visible promotional opportunities, but by the sheer size of the numbers of email invites I have been getting , the show goes on and actors, craftspeople, directors, and producers are picking up the slack. And let’s face it, as always it is going to be the stars, and oh yes, the food that will pack ’em in to these events.
STRIKE, WHAT STRIKE?
For most of the month of May however I have been off to New York and then covering the Cannes Film Festival so pretty oblivious to the Emmy doings at home. With the eventual intent of writing about the season though I shuffled off all those daily FYC invites into a digital folder, and only now have gotten bleary-eyed just realizing the wide scope of these campaigns, and why it may be bigger than ever in some ways, even as a potentially truly cripling SAG strike could actually threaten the rest of Emmy season, phase two as it is known, and shut the whole thing down come June 30 when their, and the DGA’s, current contract ends. All you have to do is shudder in recalling the disastrous 1980 Emmy show that took place in the midst of the last major SAG shutdown. Powers Boothe, as one of the only actors who actually showed up had the misforturne of winning, and the notoriety nearly derailed his career. But for now the Emmy season is very much game on.
What is interesting to me is how quickly the studios and networks and streamers all pivoted once the strike got going on May 2. Yes, there were cancellations as the picketing and threats got white hot, and yes the FYC invites took on a different stripe from years past. In my inbox from the Television Academy which handles all mailings to members ($5,000.00 a pop while making it clear the event is not sponsored by the Academy) were a bunch of “FYC Event” invites. Instead of listing the various participants for a Q&A , de rigueur for this practice, they instead invited us to a “Screening” and post reception, although just who there would be to mingle with at the reception was not stated, but knowing food and drink are a must that would be enough to insure turnout. And indeed it was. Then there were the endless “FYC Screening” invites simply reminding you to follow the code and watch the show. Plus there were various “FYC Access” invites , a kind of premium come-on to make you feel more important.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
But now the campaigns, knowing it is crunch time, have gotten much bolder and the myriad of emails I am getting multiple times a day for “FYC Events” are fully listing the participants, in most cases high profile stars of the various shows in question. Of course all are to be followed by a reception and the unspoken, but understood, prospect that voters would be able to hobnob and take selfies with those participants after the Q&A. Some that skip the reception part, are offering “take away food” , “uber eats”, and even in the case of a series called Half Hour With, a special promotion (in one case from Apple TV+) that signing up for their virtually produced panels for Ted Lasso, Shrinking, and Schmigadoon will also qualify you for a $100 Door Dash certificate that can be used only that week, presumably while watching the videos featuring the stars and creatives on those shows.
Another aspect of the Emmy campaign season that has only gotten bigger than ever, even in the shadow of a strike, has been the various elaborate installations and physical showcases, around town for various studios, networks, and streamers. They are usually set up for a specific period of days. Apple TV+ had one early on at Goya Studios, Paramount did a showcase at the Hollywood Athletic Club, NBCUniversal set up shop at the Aster, Amazon Prime’s “Prime Experience” took root at Citizen News, Netflix at Red Studios and so on.
DISNEY STRIKES A DEAL WITH THE DGA
Beginning today Disney, representing what they label as 13, count ’em, 13 brands starts their annual FYC Fest, running through June 14 and beginning tonight with a screening , pre-recorded intro and Q&A with Mel Brooks and reception for HULU’s History Of The World, Part II. The rest of the lineup including sessions with ABC’s Will Trent, Unprisoned, The Kardashians, The Old Man, Tiny Beautiful Things, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, The Mandalorian, The Handmaid’s Tale, Abbott Elementary, and many others will all be in person with star filled panels and mingling opps most likely with various stars like Ramon Rodriguez, Kerry Washington, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, Kathryn Hahn, Jeff Bridges, Shields, and more. And get this Disney, currently a studio being struck by WGA, and as we speak involved in intense bargaining with the Directors Guild on their contract, is taking over the latter’s headquarters, the DGA Theatre for not only the screenings and Q&As for the next 12 days, but also the lobby which is being turned into a Disney branded showcase wonderland space for voters to explore. I not only received separate invites for all 18 shows being featured at separate times (by my math that is $90,000 just for the TV Academy mailings) but also an invite separately to the Critics Choice Association of which I am also a member.
Among the shows being highlighted by Disney is the very fine limited series from NatGeo, A Small Light which has its turn at Disney FYC Fest on June 12, but already sent invites through the TV Academy to members for May events like their L.A. premiere that happened May 22 at the pricey Samuel Goldwyn Theatre of the Motion Picture Academy. Outside of Disney June is jam packed with shindigs for the likes of Mrs. Davis, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (a virtual event tonight with an Uber Eats code tossed in), Shrinking, The Last Thing He Told Me (also tonight with Jennifer Garner etc), both the latter at the TV Academy’s pricey Wolf theatre, Party Down (also with Garner among others), P-Valley, Pepito’s America (say what?), Shark Tank, and many more including Ru Paul’s Drag Race being held at the L.A. LGBTQ Center June 10 with a note on the invite saying, “It matters more now than ever”, no doubt referencing the reprehensible right wing Republican attack on drag queens currently in vogue by the MAGA crowd. The multiple Emmy winner is gaining extra campaign gravitas due to this.
THE TONYS ARE THE EXCEPTION – AND STILL EXCEPTIONAL
When I was in New York I taped an upcoming episode of my Deadline video series, Behind The Lens (watch it starting June 5) with Jessica Chastain who not only produces but stars in Showtime’s very fine limited series, George And Tammy. She has been appearing in her Tony Award nominated performance in A Doll’s House eight times a week, but following her 3pm Sunday matinee on May 14th she hopped on the 8pm American Airlines flight to L.A. in order to attend an FYC event for the show at the Hollywood Athletic Club on the 15th and then hopped on the next flight out back to NYC for her Tuesday night performance. That is how important doing these FYC events can be.
By the way The Tonys themselves are among those shows from the last season competing for Emmy attention, and it will be interesting to see this year’s show on Sunday June 11 on CBS which had been threatened by possible picketing until the WGA, in solidarity with the writers covered under another theatre-based League contract who had been in solidarity on the lines with WGA, agreed not to picket the ceremony and thus the show will go on but with unspecified changes agreed to by the Tony producers. Among those changes will be a red carpet with photos only, no interviews. Still, however they manage to pull it off, the Tonys remain the class act of tv awards shows. While I was in New York I caught several of the nominated shows including the thrilling Tom Stoppard play, Leopoldstat which should be a cinch to win Best Play. I didn’t manage to catch the revival of Sweeney Todd which is favored to win Best Revival of a Musical , but I did see the extraordinary production of Parade with its brilliant performances by Ben Platt and a remarkable Micaela Diamond, and that is what I am rooting for there. For Best Musical, I would be happy for either Some Like It Hot or the suprisingly sensational Shucked, but I see most of the pre-Tony honors have gone to critics darling, Kimberly Akimbo, a ‘Benjamin Button’ style story that for me is waaaaay overrated with a weak score to boot. I am gonna predict a Shucked upset for the win, but will leave the real predicting to my NY colleague Greg Evans who covers theatre and has seen it all.
CAN A FREE BAGEL SWAY EMMY VOTERS?
Finally, though not exactly on the level of an FYC event, Only Murders In The Building, Hulu’s terrific murder mystery comedy with Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez is going straight for the stomach in order to catch the attention of Emmy voters. Hulu is partnering with Yeastie Boys offering FREE themed Bagel sandwiched and Coffee all rebranded in the names of the three main characters – Charles, Oliver, and Mabel – for any voter who can come by to Melrose Place or Studio City Farmers Market between 8AM and 1PM on June 3 and 10 for the former and June 4 and 11 at the latter. Or if you can’t make that trek, Only Murders will be in the building for Disney FYC Fest on June 10 with a screening, pre-recorded Q&A with all 3 stars and showrunner John Hoffman, and – you guessed it – a reception. You won’t be able to mingle with the stars at that, but maybe they will have bagels there as well.
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