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Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

Gimme Emmy

Sometime over the weekend, it came to my attention that the Emmy awards show was being broadcast. I got it into my head that I would like to see it.

Normally, I don’t have a lot of time for awards shows. I don’t mean that in the sense that I don’t like to watch them. I mean that in the literal sense that I simply don’t have a lot of time for watching them. And there are a lot of them. Since they can run on from two to three or even, in extreme cases, four hours, you could expend an awful lot of time if you made a point of watching every awards show in its entirety. As longtime readers will know, I make a point not to miss the Academy Awards and almost always do watch the telecast in its entirety and in, more or less, real time. But as for other awards shows, I tend to watch only if I have time and/or skip through them employing the magic of time-shifted viewing made possible by my DVR.

But it happened this time that I had an interest in seeing the Emmy telecast. A number of shows I watch regularly (Modern Family, The Big Bang Theory) looked likely to pick up statuettes as well as several more that I have at least a passing acquaintance with. There was, moreover, the promise of some entertainment in the hosting performance by the very funny Jane Lynch and an appearance by the always fascinating Charlie Sheen.

So I went checking into my TV listings to see if any of the scores (or maybe hundreds; I’ve never actually counted the exact number) of channels available in my satellite package was carrying the live broadcast, which would have been in the early morning hours of Monday here. It turned out that no channel was. That wasn’t too surprising. I don’t know if any American awards show is ever broadcast live in the British Isles, with the notable exception of the Academy Awards. But I seemed to recall that RTÉ, the Irish national broadcaster, had shown an abridged “highlights” version on a subsequent evening in the past. I looked through the listings to see if any such thing was scheduled for Monday or Tuesday evening. I could find no such thing.

By this time, the whole exercise had become A Challenge. I resorted to Google to see what I could find out. I quickly found out that there was indeed a highlights version of the broadcast to be aired on Monday night. But it would be seen only on a channel called 5USA. I went through all the channels available in my satellite package, but I did not find that one. But I did not give up. Even if the owners of 5USA had opted not to pony up the money to pay Rupert Murdoch (well BSkyB, the company he partly owns) to be listed in my digibox’s planner grid, I knew it was possible to tune in the frequency of any channel being broadcast by satellite manually. During an afternoon drive into Galway, I was further encouraged by a radio DJ, who was talking about the very specific issue of trying to watch the Emmys in Ireland and he said that he would tweet the relevant frequency details on Twitter.

When I returned home in the evening, I went looking for the frequency information on the internet and quickly found it. Worryingly, however, the info for 5USA was highlighted with boldface. A footnote explained that this meant that the channel was encrypted and could not be viewed without the appropriate digital permission granted to a paying subscriber. My attempts at entering the frequency info into my satellite receiver confirmed this. I looked for the Twitter feed of the Dublin DJ I had heard earlier to see if he had run into this problem and if he had a way around it. I could not find his Twitter feed or any feed that discussed how to view the Emmys from the Republic of Ireland. At this point, I had to accept that I would not be seeing the Emmy telecast, not even an abridged version.

So I went to Plan C. On Tuesday I pointed my browser to YouTube and went looking for video clips of the broadcast that had been uploaded. Not surprisingly, there were quite a few. I identified the clips that appeared to have the bits of most interest to me, I captured them and strung them together in what I guessed would be roughly chronological order. That evening, after watching our usual evening news broadcast, I hooked up the ol’ iPad to the television and the Missus and I started watching. Here is what we saw.

First, we got the entire segment in which host Jane Lynch calls into the “President of Television,” played by a game Leonard Nimoy. The segment was originally filmed with Alec Baldwin (playing on his 30 Rock role) portraying the president, but Baldwin asked to have his bit cut when Fox decided to cut a playful jab at Rupert Murdoch, relating to the UK phone hacking scandal. That’s too bad because, after my disappointment in trying to watch the Emmys on my Sky satellite receiver, I could have used a good Murdoch joke. Anyway, it was a funny segment featuring singing and dancing and Lynch traipsing magically through various TV shows, including Grey’s Anatomy, The Big Bang Theory and Mad Men. But the quality wasn’t great, probably because it looked like the uploader had recorded it using a smart phone pointed at the screen of his or her television set. Then we got a (better quality) snippet of a report from the E! network showing Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon having a wrestling match on the stage. Then we got Jon Stewart’s acceptance speech for whatever award he got. Then we saw Modern Family’s Ty Burrell receive the award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, followed by Julie Bowen receiving the corresponding female award.

Then we got a very strange series of still outtakes of Mike & Molly’s Melissa McCarthy receiving an award with a text ticker running along the bottom of the screen that read “YouTube don’t allow full exclusive video due to copyright issue!!” Then we got Charlie Sheen presenting an award and making some comments, I think, about his recently ended tenure with Two and a Half Men. I say “I think” because I couldn’t hear him too well and I don’t understand Portuguese. This upload had apparently been recorded off a TV screen in either Portugal or Brazil and an interpreter was speaking loudly over Sheen and Jim Parsons (of The Big Bang Theory) who was the recipient of the award. The rest of our own personal Emmy broadcast consisted of five clips strung together of each of the five awards that Modern Family won, including the two previously mentioned as well as Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series (Michael Alan Spiller), Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman) and Outstanding Comedy Series.

So that was it. And, you know, that wasn’t bad. The whole thing lasted about 40 minutes and had no commercials. On the downside, there was a lot of stuff we missed and I have the nagging feeling that watching it this way may not be entirely legal. (Talking about it openly on a web site may not help my situation either.) But it was better than missing the whole thing entirely.

So, is this the future of television? Is this the brave new world of video on demand that visionaries were talking about a decade or more ago? Heck, who knows? All I know is that any time I get a chance to see Leonard Nimoy it is worth the hassle.

-S.L., 22 September 2011

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