It’s fitting that the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 29 showed a clip of this year’s Oscar ceremony—the one where Steve Martin decreed that in “Inglourious Basterds,” Christophe Waltz played a Nazi “obsessed with finding Jews. “Well, Christophe,“ Martin added, gesturing to the audience – “the Mother lode.” The same could be said of tonight’s Emmys, where “Modern Family” – inspired by the mishpoches of co-creators Steven Levitan (an MOT) and Christopher Lloyd (married to an MOT)—cleaned up with six awards for best comedy. Triumphing in the best drama category (again) was Matthew Weiner’s “Mad Men,” which has explored anti-Semitism and other sins in its dark take on the 1960s advertising biz. Here is Arts & Entertainment Editor Naomi Pfefferman’s version of the Top 10 Jewish moments of the evening:
1) Presenter Ricky Gervais—lamenting the lack of booze backstage—pointed out that no one was going to go “mental” since loose-cannon stars such as Russell Crowe and Mel Gibson weren’t around to drink. When the audience groaned (given Mel’s predilection for anti-Semitic and other racist remarks), Gervais deadpanned that he wasn’t going to dis Mel: “He’s been through a lot,” Gervais said. A pregnant pause. “Not as much as the Jews, to be fair.”
2) The dashing Steven Levitan, accepting “Modern Family’s” award for best writing on a comedy series: “Thanks to our wives, without whom we’d probably be dating around a lot,” he quipped. “I mean we just won an Emmy. That’s a pretty good opening line, I think.” The camera then revealed his wife, Krista (nee Schmuck – “So I had to marry her,” Levitan told me in an interview). “What I meant to say, honey is….Thanks for all the inspiration you’ve given us. ‘Modern Family’ is and will always be our love letter to you.” And when the series won the Emmy for best comedy: “I want to thank this amazing cast, who makes us forget how much we hate writing every day,” Levitan said. He also thanked his writers, who crank out work for which he and co-creator Lloyd often get credit: “I just wanna say, ‘That’s Hollywood, dudes.’”
3) “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner gave a self-effacing kind of salute to his colleagues as he accepted the best writing award for a dramatic series. His entire cast and crew reads every single one of his scripts and gives him notes: “I’m so insecure that I actually seem open-minded,” he said. When asked about the best note he’d ever received from a network, he recalled: “They asked me to rewrite some lines from Shakespeare in order to make it a little clearer.” And when Weiner won the best drama award: “I can’t believe we’re here…I didn’t think we’d get through half of one [season].”
4) Jewish performer and Broadway star Lea Michele did not win as best actress in a comedy for “Glee,” although she did winningly prance around with Fallon, Tiny Fey and host Jimmy Fallon in the ceremony’s opening number, a “Glee-Bruce Springsteen” parody. Also on hand for that number was Michele’s co-star, Jane Lynch, who – after winning for best supporting actress in a comedy—was jokingly feted for “creating over 62,000 new jobs in the polyester track suit industry” for her ubiquitous attire as the show’s terrifying cheerleading coach.
5) As Kyra Sedgwick approached the stage to accept her Emmy for best actress in a dramatic series, an announcer declared that she is descended on her father’s side from William Ellery, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. What was not mentioned is that Sedgwick identifies as Jewish, courtesy of her mother, Patricia (nee Rosenwald). Elated by her first Emmy win, she was, however, slightly surprised by the height (or lack thereof) of the microphone onstage, stating, “This is low, this is really low.” She thanked her kids, who are almost grown, and her husband, Kevin Bacon, “my one and only love, Kev.”
6) Host Jimmy Fallon strummed his guitar and sang to Tom Hanks, who with Steven Spielberg produced HBO’s World War II mini-series, “The Pacific,” a kind of sequel to their previous WWII epic, “Band of Brothers.” “The Pacific’s nominated for two dozen awards,” Fallon crooned to Hanks. “Better break the news to Spielberg, you’re running out of wars.” “The Pacific” won the Emmy for best mini-series later in the show.
7) The ceremony turned serious during the “in memorium” segment, which honored TV’s recently departed. Musician Jewel performed her song, “Shape of You,” written for a friend who died of cancer, as a slow-motion montage of late actors graced the stage – including former child star Corey Haim, who died after a battle with drug abuse this past year.
8) When Adam Mazer accepted the best writing award for HBO ‘s “You Don’t Know Jack”—about right-to-death Dr. Jack Kevorkian—he indicated that he did indeed know Jack. Addressing the elderly Kevorkian, who waved from the audience, Mazer said “Jack, “I’m grateful you’re my friend, but even more grateful you’re not my physician.” When Al Pacino accepted his own Emmy for portraying Kevorkian, he thanked Mazer, “who wrote a great script.”
9) “Curb Your Enthusiasm” did NOT win for best comedy, but a clip from the show demonstrated why we love the prickly series – which this season featured creator Larry David attempting a “Seinfeld” reunion. In an argument with Jerry Seinfeld, the 1990s star pointed to the misanthropic David and declared, “icon!” – then pointed at Larry: “no-con!”
10) Yes, “The Daily Show” won its eighth consecutive Emmy for best variety show, but MOT creator Jon Stewart didn’t bother to show up to collect his award. Instead, his colleagues quipped that he was home sleeping on the bed he had made by melting down his previous statuettes.