Monday, September 22, 2008

"Remembrances of Emmys Past"

Here’s what this is about.

A entertainment writer in Canada asked me if I’d be interesting in writing about the Emmys for his paper. I said yes, and wrote something. The entertainment writer said he liked what I wrote, but he needed something more personal. So I wrote something more personal and posted the first thing I wrote on my blog. (“Emmy’s – The Oddest Award of All” – September 19)

Today, I’m posting the piece that was published in the newspaper. I’m doing this for your convenience. I wasn’t sure how many of you had easy access to The Toronto Daily Star. I’m also posting it because I like it.

Pretend the Emmys are tomorrow, and enjoy.

This is Earl, the grownup talking:

The Emmys are a fundraising effort on behalf of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, structured in the form of a competition.

The Academy members are not stupid. They know that “competition” is where the money is. The juice, the excitement, the heat. And also, the actual money.

Competition energizes both the audience and the competitors. The nominees are electrified by the possibility. You can literally see sparks flying off of them. Unless you’re a Buddhist, competitive craziness is deeply embedded in your DNA. We can’t help ourselves. You offer a prize for what I do – I want it!

Why all the intensity? It’s simple. There’s winning and there’s losing. Winning is better.

And so succumbs Earl, the grownup. (And pretty much everyone else who gets nominated.)

The first time I was nominated – as a writer for a Lily Tomlin “special” – we lost to some colored pieces of felt, otherwise known as The Muppets. Having been less than enthralled by losing to fabric, the next time I was nominated, for another Lily Tomlin special, I decided not to go to the ceremony. Who wants to rent a tuxedo to lose?

I went to a yoga class that night instead. When I got home, the phone was ringing. It was my mother.

“How do you feel?” she asked.

“Very relaxed,” I replied. I was talking about the yoga. My voice was uncharacteristically serene.

“Don’t you know what happened?”

“What happened?”

“You won!”


That’s all I said. “Oh.” Taking a yoga class is like gobbling a handful of tranquilizers. Even if you’re more excited than you’ve ever been in your life – like when you’ve just won your first Emmy Award – it still comes out “Oh.”

“Oh” or “Om.”

Let me be fully candid here. Not going to the Emmys when you’re nominated doesn’t mean, “I don’t care.” It actually means, “I care too much.” The following story exemplifies how much.

I nearly died going to the Emmys.

During my early years in Los Angeles, I never drove on the freeway. Too fast. Too scary. There are alternative side streets – Olympic, Sepulveda – cowardly drivers know the names. We avail ourselves of those streets, leaving the freeways to the Indianapolis 500 wannabes.

Okay, so it’s Emmy night. I’m nominated for writing an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show (“Ted’s Change of Heart.”) I actually have a date. It’s a first date, and I’m taking her to the Emmys. I win, and who knows what could happen.

We’re on our way. I’m hyper crazed, but I’m trying to stay cool, tootling along, making what I’m certain is devastating small talk. I’m turn down this “connector” road. It’s a wonderful little road. You stay to the right, you get to Olympic, you go left, it’s the on-ramp to the Santa Monica Freeway.

“This road is great,” I explain. “You can get to the freeway from it, or it can take you to Olympic. I’m going to Olympic.”

Thirty seconds later. The chitchat continues.

“It’s funny. I didn’t expect this much traffic on Olympic at this time of the day.”

To which, my date replies,

“You’re driving on the freeway.”

And so I was.

I didn’t know what to do. Brain-frozen by the possibility of winning an Emmy, I had unconsciously veered left on the “connector” road, and driven directly onto the I-10, which, if you stay on it, can take you all the way to New York. I started to panic. I had never driven on a freeway before. Cars were whizzing around me. I had no idea what to do.

I gripped the wheel tightly and, inexplicably, crouched down low, terrified by the unfamiliarity and the speed. I careened in and out of lanes, trying to reach an exit and safety, but unable to muster the requisite boldness to make the move. I never looked at my date. If I had, I’d have seen somebody fearing for her life.

I finally escaped the freeway, seven exits past where I supposed to get off. We arrived at to the Emmy ceremony just as they were closing the doors.

You know what happened then?

I lost.

How did the date go? Well, let’s see, now. I got shut out at the Emmys, and I nearly got the girl killed.

How do you think it went?


RMS said...

Being in Toronto, I read the Toronto Star every morning. I was delighted to see one of my favorite blog writers making an appearance! Great stuff, Earl!

wcdixon said...


jessica said...

Congratulations, great article!

Racicot said...

Ha, ha, ha!

You should talk to someone at Jim Henson Productions, see if they can't produce an 'Earl' Muppet!

Anonymous said...

So happy to read Earl's article in the Toronto Star. It made me laugh out loud. Great to hear your voice again Earl.