Final-Season Series Have Uphill Emmy Battle

Ray Richmond is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

A couple of longrunning NBC comedies—30 Rock and The Office—will be attempting a rare feat when they celebrate their Emmy swan songs this year. They’ll be trying to win a top series award in their final season. Both have tasted victory in the outstanding comedy series race before, The Office taking the prize in 2006 and Rock in 2007, ’08 and ’09. But winning as a last hurrah is a whole other ballgame, though it’s happened four times before: The Mary Tyler Moore Show snared the comedy series prize in 1977; Barney Miller took it in 1982; Everybody Loves Raymond carted off the comedy trophy in 2005; and The Sopranos earned the top drama series statuette in 2007.
Many other longrunning series have tried to generate Emmy love in their last year. A few, like Seinfeld, have even been favored. (Seinfeld lost in its final season in 1998 to Frasier, which earned its fifth statuette in a row.) But most series fail to cart off the gold amid the perception that their best days are behind them, whether accurate or not. As one Emmy-winning producer says, “By the time a show is in its final season, it’s no longer considered fresh or cool, and voters much prefer to reward the hot new thing. It’s just human nature.”
Given this assessment, 30 Rock executive producer Robert Carlock—himself a three-time Emmy winner—admits to having no expectation of winning this year. 
“But I know what I need to do to make it happen,” he adds. “Every time I won, my son made me carry his C-3PO figurine with me. Every time we lost, I forgot 
to bring it. So I think I’ll take it again this year.”

Big Bang Theory’s Science Guy

Diane Haithman is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

Undergrads from UCLA’s Honors Physics 1B (who take this class because ordinary physics just isn’t difficult enough) were in for a surprise when they took a field trip to Warner Bros. Studios to be part of the live studio audience for CBS’ The Big Bang Theory.
The set always features whiteboards marked up with dizzyingly complex equations. And it took a while for any student to notice that today’s equations were the solutions for the midterm exam they’d taken earlier that day.
As Big Bang physicist Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) might say: Bazinga!
This visual gag was a lot like the continual pranks of Sheldon and his geeky pals on the show. But the man behind this in-joke was their professor, particle astrophysicist David Saltzberg, who also serves as science adviser on Big Bang. He’s the guy who happily fills in the blanks in the scripts marked: [SCIENCE TO COME].
He also comes up with the whiteboard material. When not pranking a group of students, Saltzberg’s whiteboards are usually related to the script. Most recently, per a discussion between Sheldon and Leonard (Johnny Galecki), the whiteboard dealt with unruh radiation.
Uh, you might want to Google that. In fact, Saltzberg is hoping you will. Drop a scientific term into a top-rated sitcom and a significant sample of the audience will grab their mobile devices to learn more about the Higgs Boson, Quantum Brain Dynamic Theory or the Large Hadron Collider. “We might just mention ‘dark matter’—there isn’t a Nova-style lecture, but the word gets out there,” he says.
Saltzberg hopes Big Bang can help a general audience fall in love with science. And, he adds: “People are really wearing the geek moniker now as a badge of honor. I was wearing a T-shirt yesterday at the gym that said ‘Geek Inside.’ And some guy came by who was very fit and said, ‘I want that T-shirt. That’s me.’”
Saltzberg says virtually every science professor in range of Hollywood gets tapped to check a script or two. Usually, this involves a few pages and a phone call. In contrast, Saltzberg reads every script and attends every taping—unless he’s, say, in Antarctica using scientific balloons to study neutrinos as they hit the ice sheet (he still manages to send whiteboard material to Burbank from the South Pole).
Saltzberg notes that much of the science comes from the writers, many of whom fit the geek mode themselves. Show cocreator Bill Prady, for example, is a computer programmer. “They think science is important, and it shows,” Saltzberg says.
Executive producer Steven Molaro says Saltzberg’s advice does more than prevent scientists from sending hate email. Choosing just the right bit of science can elevate the story. Molaro fondly recalls a scene in which Leonard’s nonscientist girlfriend, Penny (Kaley Cuoco), wants to work on their relationship by coming to the lab to observe Leonard at work. Saltzberg suggested that Leonard make science visual with a dancing hologram. “It was a moody and beautiful scene,” Molaro says. “It wasn’t just science, it was the poetry of science. I remember how Kaley started to tear up when she said, ‘Sometimes I forget how smart you are.’”
To each taping, Saltzberg brings a guest fondly known as “the Geek of the Week.” His plus-ones range from undergrads to Nobel Prize winners. “Most recently, we had the science consultant from Breaking Bad, Dr. Donna Nelson from the University of Oklahoma. I was really loving the way they were getting the science right in Breaking Bad, so I invited her out,” Saltzberg says.
Saltzberg’s favorite shows include Breaking Bad, MythBusters and Jersey Shore. Well, maybe “favorite” is too strong for Jersey, but as a Jersey boy himself, Saltzberg jokes that if the producers ever need a science adviser, he’s available. (Seriously, though, he says he plans to retire from advising after the high of being part of Big Bang.)
He’s also come to respect comedy writing, which is a lot like the physics lab. “Comedy is an experimental or empirical enterprise, just like science,” he says. “People laugh or they don’t. You have theories on why things should work in a certain way, but you ultimately can’t disagree with the measurements.”
Cast member Mayim Bialik, who plays Sheldon’s gal pal Amy Farrah Fowler and holds a neuroscience Ph.D. from UCLA, says, “It’s very difficult for someone to exist and coexist as well as he does with a bunch of industry people. We’ve had some really total nerdball conversations about the nature of existence, physics versus neuroscience, just like Sheldon and Amy.”
When asked if he places physics at the top of the intellectual heap among the sciences like Sheldon does, Saltzberg deadpans, “He only speaks the truth. When I teach introductory physics, that’s what I teach them. It’s my class. I get to say what I want.”

Why We Love Emmy Season

This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

Though campaigning and jockeying might be tough on talent, AwardsLine can’t resist the lure of the Emmys. Here are a few reasons we keep coming back for more.

The Americans follows two Soviet spies living in the US during the Cold War.
The Americans follows two Soviet spies living in the US during the Cold War.

Reason No. 1: Because politics isn’t reserved for behind-the-scenes drama.

Where once there were nothing but doctors, lawyers and cops, the primetime television landscape seems to have swung open its doors to welcome ruthless politicians, a Secretary of State, a Vice President, spies, CIA operatives, even (gasp) television journalists.
Yes, the politicizing of the dial is in full bloom during an Emmy season that doesn’t even fall during a national election. The contenders this year include the acclaimed Netflix freshman House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright; the FX Cold War spy drama The Americans; the ABC hour set in Washington D.C., Scandal; the USA Network spy hour Covert Affairs; the 2012 USA miniseries Political Animals; the HBO cable news drama from Aaron Sorkin, The Newsroom; and the HBO comedy Veep starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the Vice President of the United States. And that’s not even to mention the canceled Starz drama Boss featuring Kelsey Grammer (still eligible for Emmy consideration this year).
It might be notable that these series are finding audiences by covering issues more complex than how to catch bad guys. But we have certainly seen it before in Sorkin’s The West Wing and any number of David E. Kelley projects. The difference now is that this appears to have evolved into a genuine trend, with pilot season auguring more on the way.
Perhaps the answer is as simple as writers and producers finding political- and issues-oriented backdrops to be captivating canvases on which to paint compelling characters. So believes Joseph Weisberg, a former CIA agent who created and serves as head writer on The Americans. “The political explorations are simply allegorical extensions of the characters,” Weisberg emphasizes. “It’s always about the human dynamics and never really about just making a political point. In the real world, that’s what makes politics engaging and interesting. When policy intersects with real lives, it suddenly becomes very powerful.”
Political Animals exec producer Greg Berlanti agrees that the political setting itself is secondary to how compelling the people are who populate it. But he found in his miniseries that politics is rich with the kind of larger-than-life characters that rivet viewers.
“Our elected officials are kind of like rock stars, and America is fascinated with that world,” Berlanti says. “All of the shows seem somewhat circumspect of our people in office, which tends to match the vibe in the country right now. I think we’re endlessly fascinated by how the private and public lives of politicians contrast.”
Indeed, The Americans executive producer Joel Fields points out how shows like his have adroitly broken down the storytelling barrier between the political and the personal, keeping the action lively and the tone from growing mundane and distant. “When Jeff Daniels rants about the things he rants about on The Newsroom, we don’t feel like he’s raging about politics but about our lives and the things we all care about,” Fields says.
–Ray Richmond

Reason No. 2: Because getting nominated can actually be better than winning. Just ask Bill Maher.

Reason No. 3: Because even a swan song doesn’t mean a show is gone forever. Welcome back, Arrested Development.

Lena Dunham created and stars in HBO's comedy Girls.
Lena Dunham created and stars in HBO’s comedy Girls.

Reason No. 4: Because the writers’ room isn’t a boys’ club anymore.

Is Lucille Ball rolling her eyes that we’re still not quite done marveling at funny women making strides? While no one’s denying that the writers’ room, especially for comedies, has historically been a big ol’ boys’ club or that shows still exist (that shall remain nameless) that don’t claim a single female staff writer, these are—at long last—the minority. Sure, headlines have been informing us that Tina Fey and Lena Dunham are funny and can create and run shows—and Emmy certainly has concurred. Although the latest WGAW briefing acknowledges that, despite strides, female writers are still significantly underrepresented, there are definitely more funny women at the helm than at any other point in TV history.
“It would be nice if it just weren’t an issue,” says Eileen Heisler, cocreator of the ABC comedy The Middle with her former college roommate and longtime collaborator DeAnn Heline. “But it’s typical in our business, and in all business, that fewer women get to the top.” Heisler, whose writers’ room at The Middle is more than 50% women, remembers an incident when she was a staff writer. “All the women were saying, ‘A woman wouldn’t say that!’, and the executive producer turned to a guy and asked him if he agreed.”
Emily Kapnek, creator and showrunner of Suburgatory—whose writing staff is 60% female—bemoans that on every single show she’s worked on she will invariably get mistaken for a hair or makeup person. “I’m always hoping my show will get recognized for more than just me being a woman,” Kapnek says. “It’s not my favorite thing to be singled out for. I’d much rather the attention go to the show and what we’re doing.”
When Mindy Kaling, creator and star of the Fox comedy The Mindy Project, got her start writing on The Office at age 24, it appeared as if she were the token female in an all-male writing room. “On The Office, yes, I was working with a lot of guys,” Kaling stresses, “but these were very sensitive, sweet, feminist guys, and they were very open to hearing what I had to say and were encouraging of it.”
On the flip side, when Michael Patrick King of Sex and the City fame wanted to develop the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, he sought out a female partner in what he calls a “Scarlett O’Hara search.” He eventually teamed up with comedian Whitney Cummings. “I wanted that unique thing that (Cummings) brought, partly because she’s a woman and partly because she’s really funny and has an interesting life perspective,” King says. “It would be a tragedy to hire someone just because of their sex. Listen, comedy is a tough realm for writers, and that doesn’t have anything to do with genitalia.”
But what each showrunner circles back to is having a diverse viewpoint. Kapnek describes the Suburgatory writers’ room as a mix of scribes from reality TV, one-hour drama and stage. She prefers to choose her writing staffs based not on spec scripts, but from other types of writing, including essays.
Still, all things being equal, there’s something to be said for a woman’s touch in running the writers’ room. “We are organized, and we don’t thrive on chaos,” Heisler believes. “On our show, the women go home to their kids’ school functions, and the guys go home to their kids’ school functions.” Now that’s what we call progress.
–Cari Lynn

Reason No. 5: Because after the rigors of Oscar season, everyone on the Emmy campaign trail looks a little more relaxed, relatively speaking.

Reason No. 6: Because DVRs and streaming delivery mean high-quality series don’t just appear in primetime anymore. Timeslot? What timeslot?

Tony Soprano informs many of primetime's current slate of antiheroes.
Tony Soprano informs many of primetime’s current slate of antiheroes.

Reason No. 7: Because TV is still living in a Sopranos state of mind.

Whether it’s Don Draper bedding his neighbor’s wife on AMC’s Mad Men, Emily Thorne on ABC’s Revenge setting a house afire or South Carolina House Majority Whip Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) suffocating an injured dog while speaking to the camera about his intolerance for weakness on Netflix’s House of Cards, viewers can’t resist being an accessory to the crimes of dramatic antiheroes these days—no matter the foible or sin.
In fact, the last decade’s resurgence of flawed protagonists can be blamed on Tony Soprano, who helped usher in a whole new generation of TV antiheroes. After 20-plus years of good guys like Andy Sipowicz (ABC’s NYPD Blue), Bobby Donnell (ABC’s The Practice) and Jessica Fletcher (CBS’ Murder, She Wrote), Tony ultimately broke down a door that J.R. Ewing on Dallas cracked open.
“Prior to The Sopranos, there was a resistance toward painting people in all their colors,” says Terence Winter, creator of the HBO drama Boardwalk Empire and a producer on The Sopranos. “The characters had to be all one good thing, or have a moral compass or if they did something bad, they had to balance out the good. J.R. Ewing might have been bad, but a lot of people around him had to be balanced out in a good way.
“There was a huge resistance (by networks) to having an unlikable protagonist, but that’s changed completely.”
So what is it about our love affair with homegrown meth kingpins and sociopathic Hamptons socialites? Does evil truly lurk in the hearts of the TV-viewing nation? Not really, says House of Cards creator Beau Willimon. Our obsession with the despicability of man has been going on since the days when Oedipus murdered his father and wed his mother.
“What’s attractive about these characters is that they allow us to access part of ourselves, the part we don’t have the liberty or courage to display in our own lives,” says Willimon. “What’s complex about all of these characters is that they show their human side, which is the curveball for the viewer.”
In creating the facets of their lead characters, these critically acclaimed showrunners say the obvious truth is that their bad guys don’t walk around in everyday life thinking, well, that they’re bad. Guys like Nucky Thompson on Boardwalk and Walter White of AMC’s Breaking Bad simply have a to-do list, and they go about crossing them off each day.
“Viewers will take out stuff that’s disturbing and only focus on the stuff they think is cool. It’s interesting to see how audiences interpret these characters,” says Winter. “Tony Soprano changed the game: Part of the fun of writing that character and all these characters is that they can be despicable, and you find yourself liking them and hating them. And that is what’s fun about taking that ride.”
–Anthony D’Alessandro

Reason No. 8: Because L.A. doesn’t know what to do when there’s no awards campaigning going on, anyway.

History's miniseries The Bible had stellar ratings that surprised everyone in Hollywood.
History’s miniseries The Bible had stellar ratings that surprised everyone in Hollywood.

Reason No. 9: Because there’s still room for surprises.
When the first-night ratings came in for the 10-part History miniseries The Bible March 3, there were eyes bugging out of heads all over Hollywood. It drew a massive 13.1 million viewers, second only to the network record-shattering audience of 14.3 million that flocked to last summer’s Hatfields & McCoys miniseries debut. By the time The Bible concluded on Easter Sunday, it had averaged more than 10 million viewers each week, including 11.7 million for its finale.
No one expected these kinds of numbers. No one, that is, except perhaps executive producer Mark Burnett and his wife and fellow exec producer, Roma Downey. Burnett saw it as a huge wakeup call for a Hollywood community that Burnett believes consistently underestimates the power of projects with spiritual themes.
“You wouldn’t have believed the number of people rolling their eyes when we began this,” Burnett recalls. “What people didn’t take into account was the fact that my wife and I live this. We walk the walk. It was just a matter of having the support of people who felt as we did.”
Burnett and Downey got that support from A&E Networks president and CEO Nancy Dubuc. “It took courage for Nancy to decide, ‘OK, go make The Bible,’” Burnett adds. “They could have taken massive heat had this been made badly. I think they were relieved that it was so beloved by so many people.”
Dirk Hoogstra, History’s executive vp of development and programming, notes that the network was thrilled with both the production and the numbers it generated and is proudly submitting The Bible for longform Emmy consideration. “We knew it could be big, and it was,” he stresses. “This is a sort of go-to subject for us, so we felt pretty good about its chances, given the execution.”
For her part, Downey—the Touched by an Angel star—attributes the fact that nearly 100 million people watched all or part of the mini to “a perfect storm coming together. It happened at the same time as the Pope stepping down and waiting on a new one. It was nearing Easter. All of the stars aligned. But in general, people are hungry for God, and this series allowed them an entry point.”
“The thing is, I’m not surprised by any of this; I prayed for it to happen, and it has,” Burnett emphasizes. “We gave permission for millions of people to say they love God, and they showed us just how much they do.”
–Ray Richmond

Reason No. 10: Because avant-garde comedic voices have a place at the Emmy table. Thanks, Louis C.K!

American Horror Story rocked last year's race by entering as a miniseries.
American Horror Story rocked last year’s race by entering as a miniseries.

Reason No. 11: Because who can resist a little controversy?

No Oscar race goes by without scandal, but the Emmys, for whatever reason, seem to power through season after season relatively unscathed. Most hiccups never make their way to full-blown scandal, which gives the Emmys a much breezier feel than their film-industry counterpart.
Reasons for this could include the fact that there are 99 categories to deal with, and the Emmys just don’t carry the cachet or pressures of the Oscars. Another reason is that when potentially controversial problems do arise in the labyrinthine process of awarding Emmys, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences finds a way to make them go away.
For instance, last year some thought Ashley Judd’s entry into the movie/mini lead actress category was completely ridiculous because her nomination came for an ABC procedural series called Missing that was canceled after just a few episodes. If it belonged anywhere, it was in the more competitive drama series category, but the TV Academy let it slide with an obscure rule that made Missing eligible. End of scandal. (By the way, they simply go in and change the rules for the next year whenever problems like this come up.)
Also last year, creator Ryan Murphy came to the TV Academy with a proposal to classify his latest series, FX’s weekly anthology American Horror Story, in the movie and mini category even though it had a pilot and was billed as a regular series. Murphy reasoned that because the cast would be playing completely different characters each season, it doesn’t fall in line with competing drama series contenders. Though the vote was divided right down the line, the decision was forwarded to the board, and Murphy got his wish. He now gets to compete every year with the show classified as a miniseries. In its first season, it tied drama juggernaut Mad Men to lead all Emmy nominees with 17, a number it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near had it been forced to compete in the drama series contest.
Before this year’s Emmy race even began, controversy reared its head again when the board decided to abolish the supporting acting categories for movies and miniseries, unfairly making them compete against the leading actors in those projects. The board cited diminishing entries in movies and minis as a reason for the downsizing, but this became a thorny issue for some performer members of the TV Academy. Suddenly, media reports surfaced about a resurgence in the genre, and in April the Board of Governors completely reversed themselves.
—Pete Hammond

And Reason No. 12: Because the TV Academy isn’t afraid to change its mind about rules.

Bill Maher’s Long (and Losing) Emmy Track Record

Carl Lynn is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

Ah, to be victorious—at losing. Susan Lucci was famous for it. So was Angela Lansbury. But the dubious crown of distinction now graces Bill Maher, host and executive producer of HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher, the reigning champ with 29 Primetime Emmy nominations and 0 wins. Both Real Time (15 total Emmy noms, 0 wins) and its predecessor, ABC’s Politically Incorrect (8 variety series noms, 0 wins), have garnered noms every single year they’ve been on the air, going back to 1995.
But they’re in good losing company. In what’s become an odd phenomenon in the variety series category, Real Time annually goes neck and neck with Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and the newer fake newsguy, The Colbert Report (which also has received consecutive nominations since 2006)—only to see The Daily Show sweep the Emmys for a solid decade.
“Perhaps the hidden agenda of the TV Academy is to make sure that no one challenges Bill for this record,” jokes Scott Carter, executive producer of Real Time. “We (at Real Time) love Jon Stewart too. But eventually Susan Lucci won.”
But John Leverence, senior vp of awards for the TV Academy, says the Emmy voting process does not allow for hidden agendas. He explains that the first round, which produces nominations from the entrants, is voted on by the approximately 15,000 active members, and the second round—which declares a winner—is voted on by members who volunteer to serve on panels. “These volunteers are rigorously vetted for any conflict of interest before the panels are established,” Leverence says. “Panelists cannot serve more than two consecutive years on any given panel. So if there’s a question about, ‘Do you essentially have the same people voting year after year, and hence you get the same results year after year?’, the answer is no. There’s a very significant churning of people who are volunteering for and allowed to serve on those panels, especially over the course of 10 years of Daily Show wins. It is, simply, a democratic process in which the nomination that receives the most votes will be the winner.”
But could there be some other factor at play? Demographics, for example? Again, Leverence disputes this, citing that, in the general program categories such as variety series, panel volunteers/voters come from all 15,000 Academy members (unlike individual achievement categories, which are voted on by peer groups). Leverence acknowledges that the majority of the TV Academy members are on the West Coast, with one out of every seven or eight voters residing in the New York area. This blows the theory that perhaps the New York-based Daily Show would have a special resonance. (Of course, if that were the case, the quintessential New Yorker David Letterman would be sweeping it.)
Could age be a factor? Would the volunteer voters naturally skew older because they have the time to volunteer—unlike, say, staffers? Leverence contends that were that the case, you’d likely see The Tonight Show sweeping it, based on its demographics.
“The Board of Governors has mulled over putting caps on the number of wins that any given program can get,” Leverence explains. “But they come to the same conclusion every time it gets brought up, that it would diminish the field in such a way that you would almost have to put an asterisk next to the name of the winner, noting they weren’t up against (the reigning champs) this year. It would diminish the intent and significance of the awards. You’ve got to allow all of the players to come out and play on any given day.”

Sound Editors and Mixers Create Feature Quality on TV Budgets

Thomas J. McLean is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

For sound editors and mixers, the broadening of TV’s audio palette into feature-film territory requires a lot of work and more than a handful of tricks to get shows to sound as good as they look on tight budgets and even tighter schedules.

“I spend quite a bit of time trying to find the right people who can do feature-quality work but not take feature time,” says Tim Kimmel, supervising sound editor on HBO’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones.
With 10 hour-long episodes to complete in about five months and a tight schedule on the production pipeline, work often continues until the last minute. “By the time we finish mixing the show, we’re still waiting on final visual effects, so we will end up going back into episodes that were basically completed,” Kimmel explains.
AMC’s The Walking Dead is the first TV series that supervising sound editor Jerry Ross has worked on in a three-decade feature-film career. He came up with a library of high-quality sound effects that the picture editors could cut into scenes as they work.
Ross says it helps to have sounds in a show early because everyone grows accustomed to them. “The sounds that everyone gets used to tend to be the ones people like to keep in the show,” explains Ross. “The alternative would be to start from scratch and build all of these new sounds in there, and then everyone would go, ‘What happened to the thing I was used to?’”
Detailed environment sounds have come to the forefront. On History’s Vikings, sound designer Jane Tattersall is tasked with using sound to help make the footage shot on location in Ireland appear authentically Scandinavian.
“There is nothing in Ireland other than the actual dialogue they’re recording that is all that useful for us, because they have a different landscape, fatter hills, and it’s more rural and softer,” says Tattersall. “We did get some location sound from Norway—it’s much wetter and harsher, and the birds are different.”
The Walking Dead has similar issues for a completely different reason: No cars, planes or other technological background noises exist in the post-zombie apocalypse. “We have to clean them out and exorcise any kind of civilized sounds,” Ross says.
Of course, there also are zombie sounds to create—all of which are done in post. Ross says they incorporate zombie sounds from a handful of “zombie specialists” who come in and record vocals customized for particular zombies. To that, Ross and his crew add effects to enhance the groaning and flesh-ripping sounds.

The sounds of zombies eating flesh on The Walking Dead are partly thanks so this handsome fellow, Dave.
The sounds of zombies eating flesh on The Walking Dead are partly thanks so this handsome fellow, Dave.

The latter effect has a special ingredient in the form of Ross’ business partner Skip Lievsay’s dog, Dave. “When zombies are feeding, we’ll sometimes include recordings of Dave the dog, who, when you wrestle with him, makes some wonderful, gnarly kind of gross sounds,” says Ross. “We’ll take them and slow them down and add Bengal tigers eating and other kinds of animal sounds on top of the zombie sounds we create with our zombie talent.”
Creatures and fictional languages provide stimulating challenges for Kimmel. He uses a similar technique in using actors to evolve established effects and inject emotion into the sounds created for dragons and other creatures seen in Game of Thrones. “With a human element, you can try to direct and find some different emotions for these creatures,” says Kimmel.
Battles also are a challenge to put together quickly. “You need peaks and valleys, as we call it, to make specific sounds stick out and to try to find that fine detail,” Kimmel adds.
Additional dialogue recording is an unavoidable fact of life for shows shooting on location, but it’s kept to a minimum and done as efficiently as possible.
On Vikings, dialogue editor David McCallum says accents and dialects create logistical challenges. He works closely with ADR supervisor Dale Sheldrake, who travels to the international cast members and records lines for up to four episodes at a time. “We need to cross-reference pronunciations and make sure we are on top of how the actors are speaking,” McCallum says.
The final hurdles are some of the most difficult. Each viewer has a different audio setup, from surround sound to small built-in TV speakers. Moreover, the audio specs used by each network and cable or satellite system are different.
“Meeting those numbers and still trying to have the dynamics of feature-film sound, there are little corners that have to be cut,” says Kimmel. “We lose a little bit of the dynamics, so we try to cheat it as much as we can.”

Emmy’s 2013 Rule Changes

Ray Richmond is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

It was last spring that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences voted to consolidate the four Emmy longform (made-for-TV movie and miniseries) acting categories into two, obliging leads to compete against supporting players. The reason, explained the TV Academy’s longtime senior vp of awards John Leverence, was that there had been such a notable decrease in the longform submissions that it no longer justified having their performers remain on even footing with those contending in drama and comedy series.
But then, just as the consolidation was poised to take effect April 17, the TV Academy suddenly reversed and abruptly reinstated all four categories for longform players. It seemed that the intervening 13 months had found a movie/mini revival, just when it looked like the genre had fallen out of favor. “The patient was on the operating table and about to be euthanized,” Leverence explains, “and then he suddenly rallied.” The unexpected surge in longform production and quality had generated such projects as Lifetime’s Steel Magnolias, FX’s American Horror Story, Showtime’s The Big C (repackaged as a miniseries in its final season), USA Network’s Political Animals, Sundance Channel’s Top of the Lake, and films including the HBO movie Behind the Candelabra that premiered May 26.
And so what was expected to be the biggest change to Emmy rules this year turned out to be no change at all. Instead, the most significant modification involves interactive programming, which ramps up from two awards in 2012 to five this year—including the addition of an outstanding interactive program honoring a show that inspires audience participation. The TV Academy is also merging the two children’s programming categories (entertainment and nonfiction) into one and adds an area award in nonfiction honoring informational series or special.

The Reality-Competition Race Handicap

Andy Patrick is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

Considering that upstart docureality series like Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are dominating ratings and pop culture, reality-competition series have largely been overshadowed. NBC’s buzzy singing contest The Voice last year injected some fresh blood into the Emmy reality-competition field, which had mostly been filled by the same shows for the past decade. In fact, CBS’ The Amazing Race has snagged the Emmy every year but one since the category’s inception in 2003. However, The Voice is coming in strong in ratings and challenging Amazing Race’s hold on the title.
So while you contemplate whether the reality-competition category is primed for a shakeup this year, here’s our assessment of the competitors.

CBS' The Amazing Race is the reigning reality-competition Emmy champ.
CBS’ The Amazing Race is the reigning reality-competition Emmy champ.

The show has taken home the statuette nine out 
of 10 years, so there’s no question whatsoever about whether it will be nominated again. (If anything, the question is, where will producers put their 10th Emmy?) And although The Voice is generating ever more buzz, CBS’ globetrotting thrill ride still earned its fair share 
of attention in its 22nd cycle, thanks to a controversial trip to Vietnam. Maybe this will even be the year that four-time also-ran Phil Keoghan gets the (golden) girl.

Is it time to change the Fox sing-off’s title to Fallen Idol? After nine consecutive noms, the reality juggernaut got locked out of the category in 2012 by rival The Voice. And with a big ratings slide and the unappealing Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj feud casting a shadow over the competition, this year Emmy voters might smell blood in the water and snub Idol again.

Though NBC’s original Apprentice won nominations in 2004 and 2005, its parade-of-has-beens spinoff has never received a nom. Given the right-leaning politics of boss man Donald Trump—not to mention the show’s continued exploitation of addled Gary Busey—there’s not so much as a combed-over hair of a chance of that changing.

ABC's Dancing With the  Stars has never won a reality-competition Emmy.
ABC’s Dancing With the Stars has never won a reality-competition Emmy.

Nominated every year since 2006, ABC’s ballroom smackdown has yet to quickstep away with the Emmy. And its last season was the uninspired 16th edition, meaning its cha-cha-chances of emerging victorious this time around are slim to none, though an eighth consecutive nomination is within reach. (A better bet: a second win for affable host Tom Bergeron, who last year became the first host to win over Survivor’s Jeff Probst. Probst, who has four previous trophies, wasn’t even nominated.)

Unlike so many reality-competition series that don’t really launch the next top anything, the sophomore season of Oxygen’s televised talent search produced a viable star for the Glee mothership in the form of winner Blake Jenner. The triple-threat teenage dream beat a diverse, talented crop of competitors—the suspenseful finale found him taking on a Muslim beauty and a spunky gal in a wheelchair—to eventually land the role of football star and glee-clubber Ryder Lynn. So who knows? If The Glee Project’s root-for-the-underdog spirit (and successful track record) catch voters’ attention, maybe a surprise Emmy nom could materialize.

Lifetime’s haute couture face-off has been racking up noms since its days on Bravo. And yet its 11th cycle felt so last season, thanks to a twist in which individual challenges were replaced by team competitions. The twist was a misfire, so now the question is whether the show’s streak of eight straight nominations might finally come unstitched.

How fun would it be to see Logo’s campfest in the running? No T, no shade, but its best chance of being recognized is a nod for its wiggy host(ess). Unfortunately, that chance is as slim as RuPaul is.

While it’s a far more legitimate talent contest than Dancing With the Stars, Fox’s sublime dance-off gets a fraction of its ABC counterpart’s viewership (and even less of its buzz). So it’ll be lucky if enough voters board Mary Murphy’s hot tamale train to win it a third nomination.

Once considered a real contender to bring The Amazing Race’s winning streak to an end, CBS’ long-running adventure series hasn’t been nominated since—yikes—2006. In 2012, even Jeff Probst—the victorious host the four previous years—failed to score a nom. After an unremarkable fans-vs.-favorites season, a nomination for the show seems highly unlikely.

Bravo's Top Chef is the only series ever to beat The Amazing Race in the category. It only happened once.
Bravo’s Top Chef is the only series ever to beat The Amazing Race in the category. It only happened once.

Aside from The Amazing Race, only Bravo’s cook-off has ever tasted victory in this category—and that was three years ago. Unfortunately, there was more excitement in its 10th season in its web offshoot, Last Chance Kitchen, than on air, so a seventh nomination is probably all that it’s going to be served by Emmy.

Arguably the contender with the best chance of stealing away the reality-competition Emmy from The Amazing Race, NBC’s singing contest has going for it strong numbers, enough buzz to drown 
out a hive, a nomination last year, and do we really need to mention the swivel chairs? Also to its credit, the show once derided as an American Idol knockoff managed to swap out judges Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green for Shakira and Usher without missing a beat.

Considering the Great Britney Spears Experiment was a total failure, Simon Cowell’s post-American Idol endeavor doesn’t stand a chance of breaking into the top category. Maybe the third season will be the charm.

Pete Hammond’s Longform Race Handicap

Pete Hammond is Deadline’s awards columnist. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.
There is probably no group of Emmy categories that has been more battered and bruised over the years than those of movies and miniseries.
In addition to being combined into a single category in 2011, movies and miniseries almost lost their separate supporting categories earlier this year, but the TV Academy jettisoned the rule change before it ever went into effect. And some anti-movie/mini TV Academy execs have even proposed eliminating movie/minis from the Primetime Emmy telecast, creating a separate show that could be sold to HBO or another cable channel with a vested interest in the format.
Nevertheless, the movie/mini category has seen both ratings and production increase in the last two years, which is fortunate for one simple reason: Movies and minis give the Emmy show true star power. Past winners include prestigious performers like Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Jessica Lange and, last year, Kevin Costner and Julianne Moore. Plus, the contenders change every year, as opposed to regular programming categories like comedy and drama, which often honor the same shows and performers year after year. So now that movies and minis are back in full force, who are the likely frontrunners to triumph this year?

Toby Jones stars as Alfred Hitchcock in HBO's The Girl
Toby Jones stars as Alfred Hitchcock in HBO’s The Girl

Leading the parade again will likely be HBO, particularly with its Cannes Film Festival competition player, Behind the Candelabra, the story of superstar entertainer Liberace and his efforts to hide a relationship with his young lover Scott Thorson. Oscar winners Michael Douglas, sensational as Liberace, and Matt Damon, as Thorson, deliver brave and daring performances. Throw in Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter Richard LaGravenese and producer Jerry Weintraub, and you have the recipe for awards success. With the supporting categories restored, there also could be a place for Dan Aykroyd, Rob Lowe or Debbie Reynolds, who has a strong two-scene cameo as the great entertainer’s Polish mother. The prestige of the Cannes element might help HBO pull off a sweep.
Other HBO movies competing in the category don’t quite have the same cachet, despite equal star power. Phil Spector, which stars Al Pacino as the beleaguered music legend accused of murder, just didn’t draw strong reviews or ratings and is wildly uneven. Pacino will likely nail a nomination because he’s Pacino. Helen Mirren, who plays his defense attorney, also looks likely, with Jeffrey Tambor (who steals the film) a possibility in supporting. The Girl—which presents Alfred Hitchcock as a bit of a pervert in his pursuit of Tippi Hedren (played by Sienna Miller) during the filming of the 1963 classic The Birds and 1964’s Marnie—might have a shot thanks to some fine acting, particularly from Toby Jones as Hitch. However, fans of the legendary director might have a hard time accepting the movie as anything other than a hit job on a man unable to defend himself. Further down on HBO’s list is the heartwarming Hilary Swank-Brenda Blethyn drama, Mary and Martha, which could score noms for one or both of them.

Elisabeth Moss, right, stars in Sundance Channel's Top of the Lake
Elisabeth Moss, right, stars in Sundance Channel’s Top of the Lake.

Among the miniseries contenders, Parade’s End, cowritten by Tom Stoppard, will likely earn a lead actor nom for Benedict Cumberbatch, who is very hot right now. But that one is a bit of a long shot. The most likely mini to gain Emmy traction this year is Sundance Channel’s Top of the Lake, a murder mystery that represents a reunion of star Holly Hunter and writer-director Jane Campion, who both won Oscars for The Piano. Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, way overdue for a win much like other actors in that series, could have a shot in this one, too. Like Candelabra, the miniseries used the prestige of Cannes as a showcase for the project because Campion (like Soderbergh) was a former Palme d’Or winner.
In terms of other minis, History is mounting a giant campaign for The Bible, a 10-hour epic from producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. While critics weren’t exactly doing cartwheels, the numbers don’t lie, which could help this miniseries’ chances. However, this one is a decidedly longer shot than last year’s History behemoth, Hatfields & McCoys, which ended up winning five statuettes including best actor for Kevin Costner and a supporting statuette for Tom Berenger.

Nikki Hahn as Jenny Reynolds and Lily Rabe as Sister Mary Eunice in FX's American Horror Story: Asylum.
Nikki Hahn as Jenny Reynolds and Lily Rabe as Sister Mary Eunice in FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum.

Then, of course, there is FX’s series, American Horror Story, which stirred up controversy last year when it entered as a miniseries, even though it had a pilot and was a regular series on the cable network. Exec producer Ryan Murphy successfully argued that because it was designed as an evolving series, in which the cast plays different roles each season, it really wasn’t fair to include it with the likes of Mad Men or Homeland. There was less competition in the movie/mini area, and American Horror Story picked up 17 nominations in its inaugural season (something it would not have done in drama). It’s a feat the next installment, American Horror Story: Asylum, hopes to repeat this year with last year’s supporting victor Jessica Lange moving up to compete as a lead this time.
Lifetime has a host of potential contenders including the Steel Magnolias remake, whose fine ensemble cast features Queen Latifah and Alfre Woodard; Betty and Coretta, with Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige; Emmy favorite Jean Smart in Call Me Crazy; and the June Carter Cash biopic Ring of Fire, which stars Jewel as Cash. The big question for Ring of Fire is whether Jewel can do at the Emmys what Reese Witherspoon did at the Oscars in playing the Man in Black’s wife.
Kenneth Branagh reprises his much honored Wallander from PBS, while Laura Linney is a contender for the final four-part installment of the canceled Showtime series The Big C: hereafter (she competed in the comedy series category previously).
One movie that’s unlikely to occupy a nomination slot in any movie/mini category (other than makeup and hairstyling) is the dreadful Lifetime biopic Liz & Dick, which was a ratings winner but a critically lambasted Lindsay Lohan comeback vehicle. If Lohan somehow pulls off a miracle and nabs a nomination, Emmy producers might have to send a live camera out to the Betty Ford Center. Of course, that’s just another reason for keeping the consistently interesting movie and miniseries Emmy categories around for a long time to come. After all, anything could happen for these longform contenders, even though the rest of the races are mostly predictable.

Emmys Q&A: Michael Douglas

David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor. This story appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

When word first leaked that square-jawed, macho Michael Douglas would star in a biopic 
of Liberace, the swanning pianist famous for garish costumes and flashy keyboard antics, many feared the worst. But HBO’s Behind the Candelabra—directed by Steven Soderbergh and based on a memoir by Liberace’s lover Scott Thorson (played by Matt Damon)—is anything but an exercise in misguided casting. Instead of camping it up, Douglas, who remains best known for his Oscar-winning turn as Wall Street lizard king Gordon Gekko, embraces his inner queen in an audacious and vulnerable performance.

How were you first approached for the role of Liberace—and what appealed to you about the part?
It’s wild. It goes all the way back to 2000, when I was doing Traffic with Steven. One day he says, “Ever thought about playing Liberace?” I thought he was messing with me. But a couple of times on the set I did an imitation, just for fun. Then seven years later, he called and said, “I’m going to be sending you something.” It was the book Behind the Candelabra by Scott Thorson. Jerry Weintraub had acquired it for Steven, Richard LaGravenese had written the screenplay, and Matt Damon wanted to play Scott. It was a great screenplay with a wonderful character for me to eat up the scenery. My whole career has been me playing contemporary characters, so I welcomed the chance to get behind a figure from a different era. It was like painting on a clown face rather than wiping my face raw for a part. It even required appliances and hairpieces and all that.

Did you actually play piano for the film?
I played, but you wouldn’t want to hear it. I told Steven that for any of the musical pieces I have to play, you’ve got to make sure Liberace filmed them. That way I could copy the actions I saw—you know, get your fingers in the right places. Lee (as Liberace was known to his intimates) had a very distinct style. You spend a lot of hours—a whole lot of hours—rehearsing. That probably took the most hours of anything I did for the picture. And it worked out well. I was really happy with it.

Were you ever worried about descending into caricature?
It was a constant struggle. I was always afraid about being over the top. But Lee was over the top. Sometimes I pulled back, and then it didn’t work. It needed that full commitment. But the tone of the picture allows you that breadth. No one was winking at the camera. We really played it pretty straight, for lack of a better word. But it was an issue we were always conscious of.

You are sometimes made to look ridiculous in the film. Did that ever prick your vanity?
One of the things I was happiest about was that pretty soon we lost Michael Douglas and Matt Damon and saw only Lee and Scott. That’s the beauty of playing a character instead of some extension of yourself.

Your sex scenes with Matt Damon are very intimate. Were they hard to shoot, and how did you prepare for them?
Ha! As Matt and I say, we read the same script, and we knew what we had to do. That’s the thrill of acting, the danger of it. Get your Chap-Stick out, and get ready to rumble. You go for it. We’re actors. That’s what we do. I’m not a boxer or fighter, but sometimes I’ve got those scenes to do. We’ve both had our fair share of love scenes to do, so it’s an extension of that. It was tastefully shot. Steven picked the angles well and didn’t linger.

Debbie Reynolds plays Lee’s mother in the film. What was it like working with her?
It was wonderful because she knew Lee really well. She had great stories to tell about him, and both Matt and I cherished the opportunity to hear them. She knew where all the bodies were buried. It was an enjoyable  history lesson.

What was it like working with Steven Soderbergh?
Well, it’s an honor. First of all, he really likes actors, and you can’t say that about every director. Secondly, he’s exceedingly fast, the fastest director I’ve ever worked with. For those of us who like to work fast, that’s good. And he treats you like an adult. He’s a great listener. I just feel really honored to have worked with him a couple of times, and I know a lot of actors who feel that way. He actually shoots his own pictures, so he’s operating the camera as well as the lighting while directing. And he creates this secure, safe world for letting actors do their thing. You feel you can stretch with Steven, rather than withhold or become tighter.

Was there any talk on the set of this being Soderbergh’s last film?
It was talked about in a joking way from time to time. Whenever Matt and I were in a compromised position in the hot tub, we’d say, “This will be great for the final shot of your film career.” Sometimes we’d joke, “We’ll see how long this retirement lasts.” But I think he finished strong with Magic Mike, Contagion and now this. It’s brave filmmaking.

Emmys Q&A: Kerry Washington

Matt Webb Mitovich editor at large of TVLine and an AwardsLine contributor. This article appeared in the June 5 issue of AwardsLine.

Looking for a female TV character who’s as fierce in her work life as she is in her (messy) love life? It’s been handled. As Olivia Pope on ABC’s Scandal, Kerry Washington—building on a career that has included Oscar-winning films such as Ray and Django Unchained—stands in the eye of a pop-culture storm, fronting a show that drops jaws with astounding frequency, makes Twitter all atwitter and offers, at long last, a chance for a black woman to win a lead drama actress Emmy.

You have said that your decision was not so much to do TV, but to do a Shonda Rhimes show.
Even more so, my decision was to do this show. When I read the script, I was blown away. And knowing that this (was a Rhimes production) reinforced the idea that this could be a really amazing opportunity.

With your first full season behind you, how has the product met the promise?
I will just say that the level of excellence that the people around  me produce on a daily basis continues to astound me. The writing that I’m able to hold in my hands, the level of acting I’m surrounded by, the cinematographers, the costume design—all of it feels like a magical product.

What is Rhimes doing that activates viewers so much?
One of the reasons we (on the cast) like to live-tweet the show is because when we are online with our “gladiators,” the viewers, we get to see from them exactly what we went through at our table reads—the gasps and screams and cries of shock and awe. People are responding to how unpredictable this show is. (Also,) Shonda is not writing the typical archetype of good guy/bad guy. That is part of why you never know whom to trust.

Some choose to view your success through the lens of being among the first African-American actresses to star in a hit TV drama. Do you lament there is still that distinction to be made in 2013? Or do you welcome the opportunity to flag it?
It’s a balance. I feel very proud that we live in a world where this show can be a success, so I think it’s worth noting that progress for all of us to claim and all of us to take responsibility for. We’ve created a place where a black woman can be at the front of the show, but a lot of our success is in how strong of an ensemble it is, and so many people can see themselves in it. We have a lead male who’s Latin. We have two black men. There’s a strong gay character. I look forward to the day when a show like Scandal is a success and it’s not newsworthy. We’re not there yet, but we’ll get there.

Do you think about the significance of possibly earning an Emmy for this role?
I’ve been on the award campaign train several times in my career, with the success of The Last King of Scotland and Ray and Django Unchained. Jamie Foxx and I joke about it, what happens to people when they’re “chasing Oscar.” So I try not to think about my work leaning toward that goal. But it’s interesting that television and the Emmys have been around this long, and (a black woman winning a lead drama actress Emmy) has never happened. I was just beginning to have a career when Halle Berry (won a best actress Oscar)—and not just (as the first) black woman, but a woman of color.

Over the past year, you’ve been seen significantly engaging in the real world’s political conversation.
It’s important for me to be clear that I don’t engage politically because I’m in the public eye. I actually made a promise to myself early on that I would not stop because I was in the public eye, because I feel like it’s my responsibility as an American to be engaged. If my participation encourages other people to participate, no matter what party, I’m glad, because that’s democracy.

Your college major combined theater with anthropology and sociology. How did that inform your skill set?
My mother’s a professor, so the idea of research is something that I grew up around. One of the things I love most about acting are those moments that don’t happen every day, when you truly do something raw and you forget who you are. That’s bliss. The other thing that I really love is the research—pulling articles, learning things, interviewing people, and then you study, study, study, from an anthropological perspective.

Is there an actor you looked up to as you embarked on your career?
The actors that I loved—not even looked up to because I didn’t think I was going to be an actor in any way—were the ones who did comedy and drama, people who worked on the stage and film and television. People like Julie Andrews, Rita Moreno, Diahann Carroll, Barbra Streisand, women who were never limited by just doing movies or just being actors. That’s a part of their longevity.

And if you could give Olivia Pope one piece of advice…
I wonder how things would be different if she had a really great shrink in her life. It’d probably be a lot less interesting!

Designers Are Taking Fashion Directly To The Red Carpet

Monica Corcoran Harel is an AwardsLine contributor. This article appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of AwardsLine.

If all roads once led to Rome, then most fashion runways now merge into the red carpet. For the past decade or so, celebrity stylists have cherry-picked the fashion runways for the very best frocks for their A-list clients on awards nights. In essence, you would first see a gown on Kate Moss and then on Cate Blanchett.

The dress that Claire Danes wore to the 2013 SAG Awards was from Givenchy's pre-fall collection. It debuted on the red carpet, instead of during Fashion Week.
The dress that Claire Danes wore to the 2013 SAG Awards was from Givenchy’s pre-fall collection. It debuted on the red carpet, instead of during Fashion Week.

But more recently, the trend is for actresses to show up to the Golden Globes or Oscars in ready-to-wear or one-of-a-kind couture gowns that haven’t yet debuted at fashion week or the European shows. In many instances, the red carpet is the new runway. Case in point: The one-shoulder black-and-white column gown that Claire Danes’ wore to the SAG Awards came from Givenchy’s pre-fall 2013 collection.

“In an effort to trump other celebs, it’s become about wearing something that hasn’t even been seen on the runway yet”, says Cameron Silver, a fashion expert known for his serrated wit and the author of the new style encyclopedia, Decades: A Century Of Fashion. “The system is so out of control”.

By system, Silver means the big, greasy machine in which actresses and designers make exclusivity deals. Though no star or stylist will speak on the record about such dalliances, it’s been suggested that anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 can come sewn into the hem of a red-carpet gown worn by a nominated actress. On a less cynical note, however, stylists can’t be blamed for calling first dibs on spectacular gowns that they preview. “The advantage to using dresses that haven’t been shown yet is that no one else has seen them”, says the powerful Hollywood stylist Elizabeth Stewart, whose clients include fashion risk-takers Blanchett and Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain. “There’s a better chance of a good dress not having been snapped up”.

Hailee Steinfeld wore a Prada dress to the 2011 SAG Awards and was quickly tapped by the fashion house to be the new face of its younger brand, Miu Miu.
Hailee Steinfeld wore a Prada dress to the 2011 SAG Awards and was quickly tapped by the fashion house to be the new face of its younger brand, Miu Miu.

Wearing the right dress can be the first business flirtation between an actress and designer, too. A bit like a wink across the room. In 2011, 14-year-old Hailee Steinfeld was nominated for an Oscar for True Grit. Seizing a style moment, she wore a striking fuchsia-, tangerine-, and black-striped Prada dress with a flounced hem from the spring collection to the SAG Awards that year. The chic choice paid off. Within two months, Steinfeld became the new face of Miu Miu, Prada’s edgier little-sister label. Steinfeld was just spotted front row at the Chanel couture show in Paris, so stay tuned.

Jewelers, of course, must deliver never-before-seen sparklers too. Many stylists plunder the archives of a house like Cartier or Van Cleef & Arpels for statement pieces with heritage and vintage caché. “Finding the new unseen look and style in a piece of jewelry is also in top demand”, says Beverly Hills jeweler Martin Katz, who outfitted Jodie Foster, Sally Field, and Helen Hunt with lush diamond bracelets and bold earrings at this year’s Globes. “When I come up with unusual rings or bracelets that have not been seen on the red carpet before, stylists grab them immediately”.

If anyone can be held semi-responsible for all this pushing and shoving, it’s Nicole Kidman. Back at the Academy Awards in 1997, she hit the red carpet in an exotic chartreuse haute couture gown by John Galliano for Dior. (A facsimile of the dress had been spotted just a month earlier at the Paris show and the designer worked to customize it for Kidman.) No doubt, every other actress on the carpet that night later learned to pronounce “haute couture” with just the right French flourish.

And just as wearing never-before-seen runway dresses has become de rigueur, über stylist-turned-designer Rachel Zoe has upended the buffet once again. She put longtime client Anne Hathaway in a snow-white Chanel couture gown from 2009 at this year’s Globes. What? A 3-year-old dress? “Just because a dress was seen on the runway a couple of years ago but didn’t have its moment doesn’t mean that it’s out of fashion”, says Silver. In fact, if anything, it shows that a resourceful stylist can gild a forgotten gown like anyone else would lacquer an old credenza. Zoe also put Hathaway in a black spring 2013 Giambattista Valli couture gown for the SAG Awards this year.

Love it or hate it, Lucy Liu made a statement at this year's Golden Globe Awards.
Love it or hate it, Lucy Liu made a statement at this year’s Golden Globe Awards.

Catherine Kallon, who founded the popular website Red Carpet Fashion Awards in 2007, has been visually comparing runway looks and their red-carpet translations for over five years.  She sniffs at any criticism about petite Hollywood actresses being swallowed by dresses designed for statuesque woman with tiny ribcages. “For the most part, I think runway dresses translate better on the red carpet”, she says. “Just look at Lucy Liu in her Carolina Herrera gown at the Golden Globes for further proof.  She owned the floral ball gown”.

Actually, she borrowed that gown and it was pre-fall 2013.

The Governors Ball: The Most Exclusive After-Party In Town

Cari Lynn is an AwardsLine contributor. This article appeared in the Feb. 13 issue of AwardsLine.

After the elation (or heartbreak) of Hollywood’s most coveted awards ceremony, 1,500 guests will flock to the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the top level of the Hollywood & Highland complex to let it all hang out at the storied Governors Ball, the Academy’s official Oscar after-party.

More than 5,000 mini chocolate Oscars and 50 life-sized chocolate Oscars will decorate the room.
More than 5,000 mini chocolate Oscars and 50 life-sized chocolate Oscars will decorate the room.

No real Oscar to flaunt? Grab a Patron and Ultimate Vodka cocktail, rimmed with 10-karat gold while you nibble on Wolfgang Puck’s signature smoked-salmon Oscars, coated in dill creme fraiche and topped with caviar. Still craving gold? Pluck one of 5,000 mini chocolate Oscars, wrapped in shimmering gold foil—or snag one of 50 statuette-sized chocolate Oscars (they’re made from Cacao Barry’s 64% semisweet). Pastry chef Sherry Yard will also have 30 pounds of edible gold dust on hand to sprinkle on truffles, bon bons, and macaroons.

Academy governor Jeffrey Kurland, an Oscar-nominated costume designer whose lengthy list of feature credits includes numerous Woody Allen films, Erin Brokovich, Inception, and Ocean’s Eleven, will return for his fourth year as chair of the Governors Ball, overseeing decor, menu, and entertainment, as well as designing the staff attire.

Returning for her 24th consecutive year, event producer Cheryl Cecchetto of Sequoia Productions will handle all the details, including what she calls “the piazza,” which is an Oscar embedded into the floor, and the installation of a 120-foot chandelier—surpassing the largest chandelier listed in the Guinness Book of World Records—that will sparkle with 18,000 LEDs of alternating jewel-toned hues, reflecting the evening’s chosen colors of aubergine, chartreuse, and champagne.

“Jeffrey said he wanted a chandelier,” explains Cecchetto, “and I came back and said, ‘Here’s the biggest chandelier in the world.’ ” The chandelier theme will also be reflected in the signature dessert of the night: The Vacheron Chandelier, a bejeweled and tiered meringue filled with cream and berries.

“This year’s look goes across traditional and nontraditional lines,” Cecchetto says. “It’s more about practicality and flow. We do not have assigned seating this year, instead we are using lounge furniture and cocktail tables.” The more than 400 pieces of furnishings will be provided by Lux Lounge EFR and will be covered in velvets and silk in the theme colors; also included are a new collection of Twist cocktail tables.

The food for the ball will be a mix of "comfort and innovations," according to chef Matt Bencivenga.
The food for the ball will be a mix of “comfort and innovations,” according to chef Matt Bencivenga.

Mark Held, co-owner of Mark’s Garden, who’s returning for his 20th consecutive year, has added an ingenious floral design to the cocktail tables, fashioning a centerpiece of orchids, green anthurium, and purple kale under the tables and wrapping around the pedestals—leaving the tabletop free for Wolfgang Puck’s delicacies.

Puck, who’s created the menu for 19 consecutive years, is almost as signature to the ball as Oscar himself. Along with chef Matt Bencivenga, Puck will feature what he calls “a mix of comfort and innovations,” with returning favorites, such as mini Kobe burgers with aged cheddar, assorted pizzas, and chicken pot pie with shaved black truffles, along with a sushi and shellfish station, hot and cold small plates, and, new this year, an expanded vegan menu, including kale salad with grilled artichoke, beluga lentils with baby vegetables, vegan pizza, and farro with apple, beet, and spiced walnut. “This is the greatest party in Hollywood,” Puck says, “and people know they can get great food.” Attention will also be paid to sourcing local organic and sustainable cuisine, including wild-caught fish; hormone and antibiotic-free dairy, poultry, and meat; cage-free eggs; and California-grown produce.

Sterling Vineyards of Napa Valley will be returning for their seventh year with a 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2009 Reserve Chardonnay, both chosen at a tasting by the Academy’s board of governors.

Instead of assigned seating, guests will relax with a mix of lounge furniture and cocktail tables.
Instead of assigned seating, guests will relax with a mix of lounge furniture and cocktail tables.

New this year is Champagne Thiénot, a small, young brand with a production of only 300,000 bottles a year that is run by the brother and sister team of Garance and Stanislas Thiénot. Not only is this the first time the Academy has chosen a rare and little-known Champagne, but it is the first time Champagne Thiénot will be served in the U.S.—not bad to have your launch party at the Oscars. The Thiénot Rosé and a 2005 vintage will be served, with price points ranging from $40 to $150 a bottle.

Returning this year is Marc Friedland of Marc Friedland Couture Communications, reprising his role in designing one of the biggest focal points of the evening: The gold Oscar envelope, with the easy-open red ribbon primed for “And the Oscar goes to….” But in a new take, Friedland has also designed a digital collection of Academy-sanctioned invites for home Oscar parties. Free to download via Evite Postmark, the Oscar Collection by Mark Friedland will comprise 10 designs and will be available only for a limited time.

As Oscar night comes to an end, additional environmentally responsible initiatives will kick in, including a push to recycle and repurpose everything from plastics, metals, glass, and even the plywood used. Floral arrangements will either be donated to homes for the aging or composted leftover food will be donated to L.A. Specialty Chefs to End Hunger. “I’m Canadian, so green is a way of life,” says Cecchetto, who also smiles when asked about her record 24 years producing the ball. “It’s like my child,” she says, “although sooner or later I will have to retire.”