Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
When it comes to The Emmys, for me it's personal.
I've tuned in every year since I was a little kid, anxiously waiting for the biggest TV stars to gather together for just one night and learn who the best of the best was. It wasn't the Oscars, but that was part of the charm. The Emmys were number two, and they tried harder.
Much later in life when I sold my Jump the Shark website to TV Guide, they invited me out to The Emmys to provide some commentary. I walked the proverbial red carpet, sweat through my tux in the Hollywood sun, and saw firsthand the scale of this event.
A few years ago as I was dozing off at the end of one ceremony, host Jimmy Kimmel threw my name out there with his goodbyes, and as I did a double take, social media confirmed what I thought I just heard. My Emmy love had come full circle.
The Emmys have been pretty good to me over the years, although my own show Fast Food Mania somehow didn't manage to earn any nominations. But lately, my beloved Emmys having been driving me nuts.
On paper, this should be the finest show of the season. An awards show celebrating the best in television from all networks and streamers in the "golden age" of the medium. It should be entertaining and look spectacular.
But year after year, this show has been a disaster. Viewership has plummeted. It tried to be the Oscars, and failed. It tried to be the drunken Golden Globes, and failed. Now it's filled with inconsistent numbers of nominees, confusing categories, and shows that have been off the air for years taking home trophies.
The Emmys feel dated and formulaic with manufactured "moments", and lord knows it's not very interesting to look at.
I'm hard on the Emmys because I care so much. This should be a visual extravaganza showcasing the talent and brilliance great TV shows have to offer.
Enter COVID. It changes everything. The mass theater gathering can't happen. Creators are forced to switch things up and keep our attention, and it's a chance to capitalize on a captive audience.
Jimmy Kimmel loves TV as much as I do. His team recognizes the opportunity here and will have fun with it. I can't wait to see the winners accept their awards from home in evening wear of their own choosing. It will be much easier to play people off during the live broadcast.
This year's Emmys won't be about splash and sizzle – it will be about the content and what keeps us watching all of the time. Good luck, Jimmy!
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
The Third Day (HBO)
Monday, September 14th 9:00 PM ET
It's the end of the world as we know it, and Jude Law and Naomie Harris are not feeling fine.
These two are on different parts of a mysterious island somewhere in the UK surrounded by very choppy seas. Both are hiding something, and the not-so-welcoming islanders have their secrets, too.
The show is split into two halves (think The Affair) and there's plenty of darkness and monologuing.
HBO continues to try to bring back prestige TV. Look for fine acting and lots of symbolism, but keep your overall expectations in check. The scheduling makes me suspicious, as this screams Sunday night HBO drama, but has been relegated to the early Monday night slot.
Dancing With The Stars (ABC)
Monday, September 14th 8:00 PM ET
COVID cannot stop the stars from dancing!
Season 29 is upon us, and the modified ballroom is good to go.
Poor Tom Bergeron. All he did wrong was expertly host this cheesy dancefest for a little too long. He was the perfect host...and now he's gone. Enter Tyra Banks – shine bright, shine far!
The novelty of DWTS is long gone – now it's all about the casting. After a few years with some not-so-stellar celebs, ABC has upped its game. Carole Baskin from Tiger King. Nelly. Tough Knick Charles Oakley. A Backstreet Boy. Anne Heche. Yup, they appear to have nailed it for this season.
Derek Hough will join Carrie Ann and Bruno at the widened-for-COVID judges table as Len is stuck across the pond.
No audience. No big production numbers. It is a season of transition for this world of ballroom dance. I'm not a fan, but I'll check out the first episode to see how it all works out. Watch a preview.
Criminal UK (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, September 16th (2nd season)
If you’ve seen this heavy interrogation room drama from overseas, you know Criminal does not mess around.
The first season took place in a crammed room and the dialogue had to carry each episode. It felt like four one-act plays from four different countries - which doesn't always make for the best TV.
The second season stays in one location - the UK, and the cast includes some familiar faces. Sharon from Catastrophe, Tatiana from Hotel Rwanda, Raj from The Big Bang Theory, and Jon Snow himself round out the suspects. The detectives return from the first season, and once again they have their work cut out for them.
I love the simplicity and directness of this premise. The episodes play out in real time and keep you guessing until the very end. Hopefully Germany, France and Spain follow suit with a second season as well.
The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards (ABC)
Sunday, September 20th 8:00 PM ET (LIVE)
Might as well use this space to make some predictions for TV's brightest night…
Should win: Schitt's Creek
Will win: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Should win: The Crown
Will win: Succession
BEST LIMITED SERIES
Should win: Watchmen
Will win: Watchmen
BEST ACTRESS - COMEDY
Should win: Catherine O'Hara, Schitt's Creek
Will win: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
BEST ACTOR - COMEDY
Should win: Ted Danson, The Good Place
Will win: Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
BEST ACTRESS - DRAMA
Should win: Laura Linney, Ozark
Will win: Olivia Colman, The Crown
BEST ACTOR - DRAMA
Should win: Jeremy Strong, Succession
Will win: Billy Porter, Pose
If there's quality TV that I'm missing, please let me know.
Wear a mask. Stay healthy, cool and safe.