Can Anything Save TV?

Watching the Primetime Emmy Awards this Sunday night (well, “watching” is a generous word… it was on my TV at least) was kind of like watching John McCain try to convince America that he invented the BlackBerry.

It was laughable and sad.

Coming off of the dangerously-close-to-fatal WGA strike that soured many of us on the television, this year’s Emmy’s really couldn’t expect to get gangbuster ratings. And predictably, the audiences did not turn out. It was the least-viewed Emmy show since 1990 (a paltry 12.2 million people watched the 3 hour show). Chalk it up to the insignificance of the event that I, a scholar of and apologist for television, didn’t know the Emmy’s were even on until I turned on the television Sunday night.

Alas, it was a horrible, horrible three hours of TV. From the painful quintet of reality show hosts (Ryan Seacrest, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, Heidi Klum and Tom Bergeron) to Josh Groban’s kitschy medley of TV show theme songs, it was bad news. You had director Barry Sonnenfeld saying, "love TV and fear the Internet," which was a pathetic cry for help from an aging old media relic. Then there was all the predictable political nonsense, with Martin Sheen rambling about voting practices and various other people putting in their appeals for America to get smart and vote Democrat. Add to it some humdrum Laugh In segment and some inexplicable appearances from Oprah and Lauren Conrad, and we had one highly unfortunate hot mess of an Emmys.

But in spite of the apathy most of America rightfully showed toward television’s “biggest night,” I do have to say that, for the most part, I was happy with who won awards. AMC’s Mad Men is indeed the best drama on television right now, not counting Friday Night Lights (which comes back in NBC in January and DirecTV next week!). And NBC's 30 Rock is indeed the best comedy. I was happy to see it win so many awards… maybe now (please, people!) it will gain some much-needed viewers. Better late than never, I’d say. But—and this goes for all of TV—it appears that “never” is looming ever closer on the horizon for this medium in the twilight of its life.