COUNT­ING DOWN TO THE GOLDEN HOUR

Tele­vi­sion’s glit­terati gather for their an­nual shindig as talk show king Stephen Col­bert as­cends to the podium for the 69th Prime­time Emmy Awards, writes Greg Kennedy

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE - The 69th Prime­time Emmy Awards airs live at 4 am and is re­peated at 8 pm on Monday on OSN Series First HD

De­spite hav­ing won nine Em­mys for his work on The Col­bert

Re­port and The Daily Show, hav­ing a track record means noth­ing here. Stephen Col­bert is ef­fec­tively throw­ing him­self to the lions of pub­lic opinion by tak­ing the podium as host of the 69th Prime­time Emmy Awards this week­end.

Col­bert has al­ways been at his best when he finds his “voice” – a per­sona to in­habit that lets him un­leash his satir­i­cal wit to af­flict the com­fort­able and com­fort the af­flicted in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety. As a gung-ho car­i­ca­ture of con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal pun­ditry on The Col­bert Re­port

(2005-2014), he slew po­lit­i­cal dragons and even in­tro­duced new words like “truthi­ness” and “man­tasy” to the modern lex­i­con.

But when the 53-year-old Wash­ing­ton na­tive took the tiller of

The Late Show from David Let­ter­man about two years ago – his dream job by all ac­counts – he stum­bled cre­atively and tum­bled be­hind the rat­ings of The Tonight Show Star­ring Jimmy Fal­lon.

Ap­par­ently, just be­ing him­self wasn’t enough. But the shock coro­na­tion of the di­vi­sive United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump saw Col­bert re­grow his mojo – in al­most nightly as­saults on “Trumpi­ness” – and he fi­nally edged ahead of Fal­lon in to­tal view­ers last May by a frac­tion of a per­cent­age point, and has grown his lead to 27 per cent since then, with no signs of slow­ing down.

For Emmy view­ers, what this means is Col­bert is red-hot and ready to rum­ble at the Mi­crosoft Theater when the stars of our new golden age of tele­vi­sion gather for their an­nual awards bash – and it’s the per­fect cap to Col­bert’s come­back year. His

Late Night even scored an Emmy nom­i­na­tion where Fal­lon got none.

“This will be the largest au­di­ence to wit­ness an Em­mys, pe­riod. Both in per­son and around the globe,” says Col­bert, slyly echo­ing Trump’s brag­gado­cio about the size of his in­au­gu­ra­tion crowd. Strik­ing the right tone here is ev­ery­thing, how­ever, as past Emmy hosts could at­test, from the grat­ing snark of Ricky Ger­vais to the gen­tler zingers of Jimmy Kim­mel, or the Broad­way piz­zazz of Neil Patrick Har­ris to the like­abil­ity of Ellen De­Generes.

But what can we ex­pect? Which “voice” will Col­bert as­sume? Will he go eas­ier on Trump be­fore a well­heeled crowd? So far, he’s keep­ing his strat­egy close to his vest, de­scrib­ing the Emmy cer­e­mony as “an in­cred­i­bly fun show to go to every year when you win. If you lose, it’s an enor­mous waste of time. But ev­ery­one’s go­ing to win this year. I’ve talked with these guys and we want ev­ery­one to have fun, so ev­ery­one will win the Em­mys this year. Spoiler. Spoiler alert.”

Pack lead­ers

First, a mo­ment of si­lence for HBO’s Game of Thrones; the peren­nial Emmy dar­ling did not qual­ify for any nods this year, due to its hia­tus dur­ing the switchover to win­ter film­ing.

Lead­ing this year’s pack, and fill­ing the Wes­teros void, is HBO’s cy­ber-cow­boy ad­ven­ture West­world, which tied a resurg­ing Saturday Night

Live, with 22 nom­i­na­tions apiece. (In fact, with this year’s tally, SNL has set a new his­tor­i­cal record with 231 nom­i­na­tions over­all.)

The nos­tal­gic, sci-fi series Stranger

Things reeled in 18 nom­i­na­tions for Net­flix, which grew its list to 91 nods over last year’s 54 – an in­crease of al­most 69 per cent. HBO bet­ter be ner­vous, de­spite hav­ing 111 nom­i­na­tions this year.

It’s no easy feat to grab one of the half-dozen slots in a ma­jor cat­e­gory. The Academy of Tele­vi­sion Arts & Sciences re­ceived 180 sub­mis­sions for best drama series, 140 for best ac­tor in a drama and 113 for best ac­tress in a drama.

First-timers

In all, 43 stars re­ceived their first Emmy nod this year. Even au­gust, es­tab­lished tal­ents such as mul­ti­ple Os­car win­ners Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeif­fer are Emmy fresh this year as co-stars of the Wall Street-scan­dal movie The Wizard of Lies.

Other movie stars who took a chance on tele­vi­sion – Reese Wither­spoon, Alexan­der Skars­gård and Shai­lene Wood­ley of Big Lit­tle

Lies – also find them­selves in­vited to the mer­ry­mak­ing for the very first time this year.

The pow­er­ful new fam­ily drama

This Is Us by Dan Fo­gel­man, about in­ter­con­nected lives – per­haps the finest Amer­i­can broad­cast net­work drama in years – also pro­pelled its stars Milo Ven­timiglia and Chrissy Metz into Emmy’s good graces for a ca­reer first, as The Hand­maid’s Tale did for the stars Samira Wiley and Alexis Bledel (of Gil­more Girls fame).

So snub me, Emmy!

Join­ing Jimmy Fal­lon on the no-go list are Michael McKean, who brought a right­eous broth­erly in­ten­sity to

Bet­ter Call Saul, and liv­ing le­gend Rita Moreno who brought her spe­cial zing to the One Day at a Time re­boot on Net­flix.

Even long-time TV cza­rina, bil­lion­aire and icon Oprah Win­frey couldn’t catch a break from Emmy de­spite her crit­i­cally ac­claimed act­ing per­for­mance in The Im­mor­tal Life of Hen­ri­etta Lacks, while the series Girls and its stars also got did­dly. Top-drawer series that were turned away in their cat­e­gories in­clude: The Left­overs, In­se­cure and The Amer­i­cans.

NBC

Milo Ven­timiglia, left, and Mandy Moore in ’This Is Us’, a drama and a strong con­tender to re­ceive a gong. Top, Elis­a­beth Moss in ‘The Hand­maid’s Tale’

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