And So It is Written: Writers Award the Best On Screen

These truly are the glory days of ABC’s smash hit comedy, “Modern Family,” which by the conclusion of the 2012 Writers Guild of America Awards Sunday night had added two more trophies to its already awards-laden mantle. 

 

It was the third year in a row that ““MF” walked away with the guild’s top comedy series award, cementing its position as the one to beat against other laughers in the category that included “30 Rock,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Louie” and “Parks & Recreation.”

 

“We are very scared that people are sick of us,” showrunner Steve Levitan admitted to the audience, referring to the freshness of its recent wins at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards. Not to mention those five Emmy Awards from last fall.

 

When his show also took the statuette for episodic comedy, which recognizes specific episodes, all of the credited writers came up on stage and spit out a one-liner indicative of their talent, including Elaine Ko, who spoofed Asian-American stereotypes by saying, “I’m bad at math, I don’t play an instrument, and I’m not Jeremy Lin.”

 

The WGA West ceremony at the Hollywood Palladium—a simultaneous one was held by WGA, East at the B.B. King Blues Club in New York, was filled with such laughs — due in no small part to its hosts, “Community’s” Joel McHale and this season’s TV comedy “it” girl, Zooey Deschanel. The star of “New Girl” started off the festivities by saying “Welcome to the nerd prom” and proceeding to make fun of male writers’ penchant for wardrobes filled with plaid shirts, admonishing them to shield themselves from the harsh lights of the outside world.

 

The list of  West Coast presenters ranged from Tom Selleck to Amy Poehler, Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, Bryan Cranston and Vince Gilligan, Patton Oswalt and Lisa Kudrow as the Guild awarded a series of honors in other television categories, new media, video games, documentary and feature films.

 

AMC’s “Breaking Bad” gained proof that it is stronger than ever, taking home two trophies, one for drama series and one for episodic drama, tying with up-and- comer “Homeland,” which is already stacking up a cache of awards from its freshman season on Showtime.

 

With Poehler, who had appeared on “SNL” the night before, pushing for her former show in the tough competition for the comedy/variety (including talk) prize, it was Colbert that was in the cards. Stephen’s writing staff bested the scribes at “Conan,” “Jon Benjamin Has a Van, “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “Saturday Night Live” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Since no one from “The Colbert Report” was in the audience, Poehler temporarily claimed the winged statue.

 

In the animation category, “The Simpsons” scored four of the six nominations (episodes from “Futurama” and “Ben 10: Ultimate Alien were the others) and funny enough, Bart and company scored the prize in an episode entitled “Homer the Father” by Joel H. Cohen.

 

In the long form original category, only two contenders duked it out, “Five” on Lifetime, and “Cinema Verite” on HBO, which took home theWGA. In long form adapted, again only two candidates and both aired on HBO: “Mildred Pierce” and “Too Big to Fail,” a dramatization of the financial crisis starring William Hurt that bested its rival in the eyes of WGA voters.

 

As usual during this untelevised kudofest, some of the best material came during the presentation and acceptance speeches of the honorary awards. “The Help” co-stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, both sitting pretty for the Academy Awards next weekend in their respective lead and supporting actress categories, presented screenwriter-director Tate Taylor with the Paul Selvin Award, which recognizes work that embodies the spirit of constitutional rights and civil liberties.

 

Taylor, a white man from Mississippi, has been maligned in some quarters for adapting Kathryn Stockwell’s novel about black maids working in Jackson,Mississippi during the 1960s, on the brink of the civil rights movement– as has Stockwell herself, because she is white.

 

In his acceptance speech, Taylor adroitly addressed those issues, after revealing that he was co-raised by a black woman and had been roommates with Spencer for years as they both tried to break into the entertainment industry, noting that they kept loaning each other the same $500 and would fight over the last bowl of chili in their apartment.

 

“I’ve become aware of a troubling irony,” Taylorsaid. “As ‘The Help’ began its rise, there are those that said two white people had no right to tell the story. Two white people in 2010 had no right to tell the story of people in 1963. But we came from a place of love as Southerners with respect and admiration for those women and millions like her the world over–who may be home with your children right now. People should have the right to tell any story they choose. If not, we all lose. We should strive for a place for people to tell the kind of stories they want without judgment.”

 

Judgment was exactly what David Fincher said drew him to Eric Roth, the recipient of the Laurel Award for Screen, which honors lifetime achievement in outstanding writing for motion pictures. Roth’s work ranges from “Forrest Gump,” “The Insider” and “Ali” to this year’s “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which Fincher directed.

 

“I found someone who hated more people in Hollywoodthan I did, and that was something to build on,” said Fincher, in a funny taped piece set on a soundstage.

For his turn, Roth read a lengthy email reply to Brad Pitt’s query about the importance of storytelling in film, starting out with, “Blondie, go back to what you do best—off-road motorcycling.”

 

Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television. They received it after kudos from a writer they mentored, Jason Katims, and a lengthy clip from the pilot of their first breakout hit, “thirtysomething” that brought back a lot of memories of that groundbreaking 1980s show.

 

“Midnight in Paris” got the WGA’s top honor for original screenplay for its writer (and director) Woody Allen, a win to which McHale reacted by saying, “I can’t believe he’s not here.” He wasn’t at the New York ceremony either, but recently made his West Coast presence known through a taped piece for the DGA Awards.

 

For the best adapted screenplay, Alexander Payne won the prize for “The Descendants,” which he also directed, with co-writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon. Payne thanked novelist Kaui Hart Hemmings for her Hawaii-set book, saying they had a very good time in her world.

 

Meanwhile, McHale noted that his friend Rash wrote all the dialog for George Clooney’s wife, who….um, hello, was in a coma.

 

It was that kind of night.

 

(A complete list of winners can be found here: http://wga.org/awards/awardssub.aspx?id=1517 )

 

 

Emmy Wrap-Up: The Surprises, The Show, The Parties, The Perks

Who would’ve predicted that Emmy favorite Alec Baldwin would remove himself from the proceedings, or that Charlie Sheen would use the occasion of the 63rd Primetime Emmy awards to try to redeem himself in front of his former bosses– and the industry at large? Or that the lead actor from the canceled drama “Friday Night Lights” would score a touchdown by stealing the statuette from front-runners Jon Hamm and Steve Buscemi?

 

Emmy night was by turns, unpredictable yet rock steady. Jane Lynch’s hosting abilities were just beginning to settle in when one of the most buzzworthy parts of the show took place. All of the lead comedy actress contestants got up on stage as if it were a beauty pageant– apparently, Amy Poehler’s idea. It was a big “gotcha” moment as she ran up when her name was announced as a nominee, quickly followed by all the other funny ladies– and as surprising when it was Melissa McCarthy who took the tiara, the roses and the Emmy award from her comedy sisters.

 

Between “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Amazing Race” predictably adding to their already sagging trophy shelves, the only question is what other show stands a chance in their respective categories.

Another given on Emmy night: after the show, it’s off to the parties, often beginning at the Governors Ball where a hall of theLos Angelesconvention center is transformed into a magnificent wonderland. Patina Group’s acclaimed chef Joachim Splichal designed the menu and for the sixth year, Beaulieu Vineyard returned as the Official Wine Sponsor and Grey Goose Vodka, the Official Spirits Sponsor, and designer of the evening’s signature cocktail called, what else, “The Emmy.” 

 

Boozing and schmoozing where the name of the game at parties all over the city, small and large, with another magnificent fete at the transformed Pacific Design Center for HBO and its many nominees and winners, who included Kate Winslet, Peter Dinklage and director Martin Scorsese.

All of the recently concluded “Entourage” cast were in attendance, buzzing about the planned upcoming theatrical film. “Too Big to Fail” stars William Hurt and James Woods worked the crowd, as did Alfre Woodard, Edgar Ramirez, Kathy Griffin, Juliana Margulies and William H. Macy. The entire cast of the five-time Emmy winning comedy “Modern Family” took over a section of the party for a huge celebration going late into the night.

A few days earlier, the Television Academy honored all of its performer nominees with a reception at the PDC catered by Wolfgang Puck, that feted talent including Elizabeth Moss and John Slattery from “Mad Men,” Eric Stonestreet, Ty Burrell, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Sofia Vergara from “Modern Family,” Melissa Leo, Martha Plimpton, Josh Charles, Johnny Galecki, Brenda Strong, Beau Bridges and Alan Cumming.

 

Networks and talent agencies, including Showtime and NBC also held pre-Emmy bashes, where all of their respective nominees were still winners in the mood was festive.

 

But on Emmy night, even for those without the golden accessory named Emmy, it was time to celebrate the best of television.

 

 

 

Sublime Primetime: Emmy-Nominated Writers Dish About Their Scripts

In film, writers don’t get much glory, but in television, they’re all that—and even more so if they are up for a golden statuette named Emmy.

 

And so it was that a group of writers, most of them also showrunners of some of the top comedy and drama series on the tube–along with an acclaimed made for television movie– took the stage at the Writers Guild Theater to discuss their work before a full house.

 

Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman (Modern Family), Veena Sud (The Killing), Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights), Greg Daniels (The Office) and Peter Gould (Too Big to Fail) with moderator Mike Scully made the WGA West’s annual “Sublime Primetime” a bit of a laughfest from the get-go.

Scully asked Gould if he got pressure from HBO to add a vampire or have Turtle from “Entourage” stop by the drama about the financial meltdown of 2007-8, centering on William Hurt playing Hank Paulson.

Daniels discussed the challenges of writing Steve Carell’s exit from “The Office” and the impact of his departure on the staff. “I was stressed out about Steve leaving, and wondered how he would say goodbye,” Daniels admitted, noting that they got an extra six minutes for the finale.

“That seems like cheating for the Emmys,” Levitan interjected, and then went on with Richman to break down the story of their nominated script. One thread features kids walking in on their parents having sex—a subject of endless horror, and humor. Another focused on a guest spilling something on an expensive rug and trying to cover it up, which Richman admitted he did in real life.

Sudd talked about her instincts for “The Killing” coming from a dark place, honoring that, and knowing her show was cable-only. She also got some good-natured guff about being the only woman in a group of white guys.

Looking over the entire list of Primetime Emmy Award nominees, she doesn’t have much female company, only Heidi Thomas for “Upstairs Downstairs” on PBS as an individual nominee, Maria Jacquemetton for co-writing the “Blowing Smoke” episode of “Mad Men” and a few women in nominated staffs of shows including “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “Saturday Night Live.”

Now that’s kind of sad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laughter is the Ticket at a New Awards Show

It's no joke, 30 Rock leads the nominations for The Comedy Awards

Just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be another awards show, Comedy Central comes up with one that looks like a gas.

It’s the first annual Comedy Awards, taping March 26 at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom and airing on April 10 on Comedy Central, VH1, Spike TV, CMT, TV Land, Logo and Nick At Nite.

The nominees were just announced, and “30 Rock” leads the pack with seven nominations, followed by “Modern Family” and “The Office,” each scoring four nods.  The categories cover television, film, stand-up and digital content, with the nominees selected by The Comedy Awards Board of Directors, which includes legendary names in the field like James Burrows, Stephen Colbert, Billy Crystal, James Dixon, Whoopi Goldberg, Brad Grey, Don Rickles, Joan Rivers, Jay Roach, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien, Lily Tomlin and Seth MacFarlane.

The winners of each category will be selected by an invitation-only voting body made up of nearly 1,000 people in the comedy world, including writers, directors, performers and producers.

The show will also feature a “Best Viral Original” category, giving the power of voting to anyone and everyone at www.thecomedyawards.com, with the nominees being announced in late February. Fans can then vote on the winners when the field is narrowed down.

Here are the nominees:

COMEDY SERIES

“30 Rock”

“Eastbound & Down”

“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

“Modern Family”

“The Office”

COMEDY ACTOR — TV

Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”

Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”

Steve Carell, “The Office”

Tracy Morgan, “30 Rock”

Danny McBride, “Eastbound & Down”

COMEDY ACTRESS — TV

Tina Fey, “30 Rock”

Jane Krakowski, “30 Rock”

Jane Lynch, “Glee”

Betty White, “Hot in Cleveland”

Kristen Wiig, “Saturday Night Live”

COMEDY ACTOR — FILM

Russell Brand, “Get Him to the Greek”

Will Ferrell, “The Other Guys”

Zach Galifianakis, “Dinner for Schmucks”

Paul Giamatti, “Barney’s Version”

Jonah Hill, “Cyrus”

COMEDY ACTRESS — FILM

Tina Fey, “Date Night”

Anne Hathaway, “Love & Other Drugs”

Helen Mirren, “Red”

Chloë Moretz, “Kick-Ass”

Emma Stone, “Easy A”

 

LATE NIGHT COMEDY SERIES

“The Colbert Report”

“The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”

“Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”

“Late Show with David Letterman”

SKETCH COMEDY/ALTERNATIVE COMEDY SERIES

“Childrens Hospital”

“Funny or Die Presents”

“Saturday Night Live”

“Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!”

“Tosh.0”

STAND-UP SPECIAL

“Aziz Ansari: Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening”

“Bill Maher…But I’m Not Wrong”

“Louis C.K.: Hilarious”

“Ricky Gervais: Out of England 2”

“Whitney Cummings: Money Shot”

COMEDY FILM

“Cyrus”

“Easy A”

“Get Him to the Greek”

“Kick-Ass”

“The Other Guys”

ANIMATED COMEDY FILM

“Despicable Me”

“Megamind”

“Shrek Forever After”

“Toy Story 3”

 

ANIMATED COMEDY SERIES

“American Dad!”

“Archer”

“Family Guy”

“The Simpsons”

“South Park”

COMEDY WRITING — TV

“30 Rock”

“Louie”

“Modern Family”

“The Office”

“The Simpsons”

COMEDY SCREENPLAY

“Cyrus”

“Easy A”

“Hot Tub Time Machine”

“Kick-Ass”

“Tiny Furniture”

 

COMEDY DIRECTING — TV

“30 Rock”

“Community”

“Modern Family”

“The Office”

“Saturday Night Live”

COMEDY DIRECTOR — FILM

Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, “Cyrus”

Will Gluck, “Easy A”

Adam McKay, “The Other Guys”

Matthew Vaughn, “Kick-Ass”

Edgar Wright, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”