BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Don’t expect a Neil Patrick Harris-style, song-and-dance opening to “The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards” (8 p.m. Monday, WPXI).
“There’s no way by Aug. 25 I’ll learn to sing and dance,” host Seth Meyers said in July during a party at the TV critics press tour.
Instead, prepare for jokes — and lots of them.
“The monologue is the best place to tell jokes,” Mr. Meyers said during an Emmys press conference last month. “Because, having been a nominee and a guest of the Emmys in the audience, that first 10 minutes is the best time to get the audience to laugh, because as the night progresses, more and more people are disappointed [that they haven’t won]. So you want to be out there when it's hopeful and optimistic, telling jokes, as opposed to coming out sort of in the last hour and saying, ‘Hey, I want to try some new material now that you guys are bummed out and want to be drinking.’ ”
Mr. Meyers, former head writer and “Weekend Update” anchor for “Saturday Night Live” who has hosted NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers” since February, said he wants the Emmy telecast to be upbeat and fun, in memoriam segment with a Robin Williams tribute notwithstanding.
“No matter how much TV changes, which I do think it’s changing, our job is still just to be entertaining for the three hours,” he said. “And in a very old school way.”
And he has some guidance for insult humor from his “SNL” mentor, Lorne Michaels.
“He always stresses, try not to tell a joke about somebody that you then would want to leave the cocktail party if they showed up,” Mr. Meyers said. “Try to be fair enough about it that even if it’s maybe a little negative, as long as it seems fair, you can get away with it.”
For TV fans, this year’s Emmy nominations represent what some would call egregious examples of networks getting away with submitting shows in categories that are inappropriate.
HBO managed to get “True Detective” into the drama series category even though it’s clearly a miniseries because the cast, setting and story will change every season. In the reverse, HBO’s “Treme” went category shopping and managed a best miniseries nomination even though it was just a shortened, five-episode fourth and final season of an ongoing drama series.
Bruce Rosenblum, chairman/CEO of the Television Academy, said there are rules that might need to be reconsidered.
“There are some subtle rules that as an organization we probably should take a look at, that has enabled some of these shows to move into the categories that they are,” he said. “But this isn’t a new problem. I remember ‘Desperate Housewives’ entering in the comedy category? … But as an organization, should we look and try to maybe define the rules a bit more carefully? It's something we should definitely take a look at.”
The Golden Globes already have. Earlier this month the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced it will rename the “miniseries” category as “limited series” for programs with two or more episodes and a total running time of at least 150 minutes that tells a complete, non-recurring story. It seems unlikely “True Detective” will be able to compete as a drama series at the Golden Globes because the HFPA has defined drama series as programs with season-to-season continuity of main characters, storyline or theme.
Mr. Rosenblum defended the Emmys, saying the rules have not become more fluid but the industry has evolved.
“We need to be reflective of the kinds of shows that are being produced,” he said. “I do think it’s incumbent upon us to step back and take a look at the rules. Again, not to respond to criticism but respond to the evolution that’s taking place in our business.”
Just don’t expect new categories to be added “because the show will run five hours long and that’s not anything anybody wants,” Mr. Rosenblum said.
One apparent change to the Emmys this year is an August air date. The telecast usually airs in September. But because the Emmys move from network to network every year, when the show lands on NBC, which has Sunday night football, concessions must be made, including moving the show to a Monday night in late August before the mid-September start of the new TV season.
In addition to NBC’s coverage, which begins with red carpet coverage at 7:30 p.m. Monday, E! will air “Countdown to the Red Carpet” at 4:30 p.m. followed by “Live from the Red Carpet” at 6 p.m. “E! After Party: The 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards” airs at 11 p.m. Monday with a “Fashion Police” episode devoted to the Emmys at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
Mr. Meyers said his “Late Night” experience with a nightly monologue has helped prepare him to host the Emmys, but not as much as some past jobs.
“I’m happy I hosted the ESPYs a couple of times,” he said. “I'm happy I did the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. Because I think the way we approach this, my skill set is always going to be in the monologue and telling the jokes.”
Mr. Meyers, who frequently visited Pittsburgh as a child (his father grew up in East Liberty), still tries to get back. He was in town earlier this summer for a “Late Night” promotional visit to WPXI.
“We went to the Pirates game, and it was a big win against the Brewers and we went to The Original [in Oakland],” said Mr. Meyers, who was traveling with publicists and “Late Night” producer Mike Shoemaker, who were all making their first trip to Pittsburgh. “I’m more of an O fan than Primanti’s. I know that’s sacrilegious.
“Also, on the way into town our driver didn’t want to go through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and I told him we had to. You can’t go into Pittsburgh the first time some weird other way.”
His first-time-in-Pittsburgh traveling companions got the beauty shot entrance he wanted them to have.
“Everyone was in awe,” he said. And the station visit, a required part of the job that some network stars dislike, was fun, too. “Anywhere you go that people are happy you showed up are not bad.”
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.