Sitting in the back room of the Brickyard Gastropub, watching the 65th Primetime Emmys, I considered the strange decisions made by all. Why allocate so much time to musical performances with the thinnest connection to television? Why serve a “Mad Men” themed drink that is anything other than scotch, straight? Why have I committed myself to such an exhaustive and costly assignment?
I sat alone, a cable-less writer searching for an experience resembling watching television; a previous joy I have since sacrificed in the name of productivity and cheapness. Of all the variations of “bar Emmy NYC” I entered into Google, this Hell’s Kitchen brew house was the only result I found advertising a viewing party. “We’ve attracted a large and loyal fan base from New York City’s television community,” an online post announced. “We’ll be hosting our Fourth Annual Emmy Awards Viewing Party starting @ 7PM.”
I couldn’t make out what “television community” had shown up, but the 30-person back dining room never reached more than two-thirds capacity, with some diners leaving before the show’s final two awards were handed out. The crowd seemed middle-aged and younger, and though pre-show chatter nervous I’d spend my evening reading subtitles, the room quieted down as the show’s host, Neil Patrick-Harris, took the stage. Applause for “Top of the Lake,” a mini-series I knew extremely little about, suggested an informed and engaged audience. I began the evening with a “Breaking Brooklyn,” a reddish mix of Fireball whiskey and Brooklyn lager. The overwhelming cinnamon notes of the former overpowered any trace of the latter; too much for my taste. I like to keep my candy and beverages separate. An overflowing bubbly concoction or something playing off the blue nature of the show’s feature drug would have suited better, I thought.
The room applauded when Merritt Wever won for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her work in “Nurse Jackie,” and aww-ed as Tony Hale thanked his first theater group in Tampa while accepting his award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for his work on “Veep.” These two set the tone for the night, both as unexpected recipients, and victors who played off of the show’s eagerness to keep acceptance speeches brief. Wever found humor in playing to the rules (“Thank you so much, I’ve got to go. Bye”), while Hale resisted. When his “Veep” co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the award for Best Actress in a Comedy, Hale reemerged, as her personal aide, shadowing her as he does on the show, whispering as she spoke. When the wrap-it-up music began playing, I feared they would rush the bit, but instead, they paced it out to the finish, music be damned. The “Game of Citron” that I sipped less amusing. A dark red wine would have made more thematic sense than this translucent pink drink of citrus vodka, muddled cherries, and lemonade. I wanted my blood thirst and actual thirst quenched simultaneously!
This sort of misguided approach plagued both the bar and the Emmy’s. Rather than allot an appropriate amount of time for acceptance speeches, the unscripted star portions that are most fun to watch, the show crammed musical performances and some abstract dance routine into the three-hour time frame. Don Cheadle spoke about the history of television then kicked it to Carrie Underwood, who sang Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.” Television is experiencing such a boom at the moment, and here the Emmy’s are, preoccupied with other mediums.
It was as if the entire deck had been tossed into the air, programming and award decisions making less and less sense. Jeff Daniels beat Brian Cranston, John Hamm, and Damien Lewis for Best Actor in a Drama. (Woman in corner of dining room goes “Whaaa?”) CBS, which aired this year’s ceremony, shameless plugged “Under the Dome,” “Moms,” and “The Millers,” all of which look dreadful. A great show should market itself; that presenters shoveled this garbage on such a premiere stage is tacky and ineffective. At one point, a woman seated next to me knocked over her glass, shattered it on the floor. It was an accident, but an act of protest would have been appropriate.
My final drink of the night, the “Mad Gin,” was also the best—a refreshing mix of gin, muddled cucumber, rosemary, and club soda. Whoever thought such a drink captured the dark, brooding show, though, was mistaken; and whoever thought dance belonged at the Emmy’s was, too. Why neither played to their strengths is beyond me. Brickyard boasts an extensive beer list, yet featured lame cocktails. The Emmy’s had incredible star power on hand, and while they allowed some to inject humor and even a spot of sentimentality, it was overshadowed by everything done wrong. Neither the show nor the restaurant did what they do best, and both left me feeling drunk.