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The Emmys Remember Williams, Broadcast Television.......

It's over for the networks if they stay with broadcasting

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 27, 2014.

I hate all televised awards shows. Although the Emmys are normally on Sundays, I happened upon their new time Monday and despite the deep chemical animosity I watched for a bit.

A lovely young woman was singing "Smile", and on the screen were television stars and players who'd died since the last go round. At the song's completion, Billy Crystal did about a four and a half minute eulogy on his friend Robin Williams. It was short, to the point, understated, and incredibly moving. Within were some videos, one of Williams on Johnny Carson's show where Carson was in stitches as Williams went manic. What I think was the previous guest, though, wasn't laughing and was staring rather incredulously as Williams teased the cameramen and director talking a mile a minute. The guest was smiling before the end, but I thought that well represented the range of response Williams could invoke and evoke both, in the same person and simultaneously. Funny and sorta scary.

That said, it was the best send off ever, and in a business and production where restraint, taste, dignity, and decorum often are missed, it is something to be remembered and emulated at need. It made it more difficult to recall that Williams, alone and depressed, hanged himself two weeks ago.

The Emmys were different this year not just because of the elevation of taste but because it indirectly announced the swan song of television as we know it. Not just because of the huge swings of ownership of the broadcast networks but because it had to face the fact that the shows subjected to the censorship of broadcast in content, language, nudity, and politics were nowhere near as good as those on the cable channels or debuting on Netflix streaming videos. What made that awkward was that Robin Williams debuted a weekly comedy this year called The Crazy Ones, that was cancelled just before he hung himself. Don't know if it had a laugh track, but the very fact there are shows still with one speaks to the point. They all suck by definition. Audiences of adults resent being told to laugh, even the elderly to whom such dreck is aimed. In the 70's, even MASH had a laugh track until the cast made them stop using it in the operating room scenes. Big deal back then.

Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, The Newsroom, True Detective, and John Oliver are on HBO, which every year garners more nominations for its productions than the broadcast networks combined. HBO is being pushed by Netflix and Showtime with their comparable programming. I was never a huge fan of True Blood on HBO, which just ended, or many of their comedies except for VEEP and Entourage and Silicone Valley, but I admired the effort. People are getting the fact that broadcast shows are composed of nine minute or less playlets between the commercials, and that break in the action ruins the point of a sustained feeling of fear or drama that literature and great movies can provide. CGI means there is less and less difference between Game of Thrones and Peter Jackson's level of special effects every year. Home screens are getting huge and durable, with excellent resolution and can do 3D. Going to the movies isn't the height of entertainment anymore.

It's nice to not have commercials. It maintains the quality vibe. But today, the movies have them for television shows, which is irritating.

It's long been known that movies have to appeal to the lowest common denominator around the world capable of earning enough for tickets because of their huge cost, much of which I suspect is to various organized crime outfits that handle 'distribution.' 'Around the world' means it has to appeal to ill educated and hormonal young men, hence lots of fights, noise, implausible sex, and resolutions. There is no statistical female market for movies in Muslim nations. That's one reason Pakistani movies in general are awful and Indian movies are, well, not so bad in general because they have a huge female audience.

Good actors like good scripts and characters, and will take chances with both, and cable provides both for discerning performers and audiences both. Competition with cable has upped the quality of broadcast shows and emphasized PBS's best, like Sherlock, but in general Cable's productions contain the best actors from Australia and England and Bollywood and Hollywood for which they get peer approval and better paydays.

The Emmys, originally founded to celebrate the small screen excellence of broadcast networks, instead celebrated their rapidly approaching demise. They are as dated as Robin Williams' more labored routines, and they know it as he knew it.