I hadn’t seen that bit of tape in 44 years, but there it was on YouTube: Patty Duke acting really weird when she won on the Emmy Awards in 1970 for her performance in a TV movie called “My Sweet Charlie.”
You can watch it here.
At the time, I and everyone else in my generation assumed that she was stoned. Older folk thought she must be drunk. Decades later, after she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Duke said that her then 23-year-old self had been going through a manic episode during that Emmy telecast. (FYI, that’s 17-year-old Desi Arnaz Jr. sitting next to her. Duke was having an affair with him at the time, much to the consternation of his mother, Lucille Ball.)
The next day at school — I was in eighth grade then — everyone was talking about the former sitcom star’s appearance. It was the first time most of us had seen a familiar public figure make a spectacle of themselves. “Did you see Patty Duke on the Emmys last night? Was she out of it or what?”
After the 66th Primetime Emmy Awards air this Monday (Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on NBC) with Seth Meyers serving as host, I’m sure eighth-graders across the country will be having similar intense conversations about some nominee or winner’s appearance or acceptance speech.
Just don’t expect me to join in.
The older one gets, the less awards shows matter. You no longer watch as many TV shows, nor do you care as deeply about the shows that you do watch.
Yes, I’m a huge fan of “Orange Is the New Black,” which landed a dozen Emmy nominations for its first season (including Outstanding Comedy Series and handful of acting nods), but whether the Netflix comedic drama about women in prison wins or loses a clutch of shiny golden statues won’t affect my life one way or the other.
I know that now. I don’t think I knew it when I was 13 years old and really cared — it mattered so much — about who won an Emmy (or Oscar or Grammy). Nowadays, I’m happy if a show or a performer that I like gets nominated or wins, but I’m equally happy to find out about it later that night or the next morning on one of the many news feeds that I check on my phone and laptop.
Part of this is just the fact that I’m older — a lot older. Part of it is that the TV landscape has changed so much and is now so diffuse.
When I was in eighth grade, there were just three networks and NET (National Educational Television, the forerunner to PBS). You had a passing familiarity with pretty much every show on TV and certainly with those nominated.
Now, forget about it. There are four major networks plus PBS, a handful of minor networks, pay cable channels like HBO and Showtime, and offerings from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus and more. You couldn’t watch all the quality TV that’s on these days even if you parked yourself in front of the tube (or your laptop or tablet) 24/7.
This year’s nominations are dominated by shows like AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards,” HBO’s “Games of Thrones” and “True Detective,” Showtime’s “Masters of Sex,” PBS’s “Downton Abbey” and other series from specialty network and cable channels.
Prime time network shows up for honors are few and far between, with the exception of performers from CBS’s “The Good Wife” and ABC’s “Scandal” and a few others.
Should you choose to tune in on Monday night, here’s what you can expect:
– “Late Night” host Seth Meyers, making his debut as Emmy host, will be charming and, borrowing from his long years on the anchor desk for the “Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update, is sure to get in a few pointed zingers both about the world in general and the current state of TV.
– “Breaking Bad” will take the hotly contested Best Drama Emmy for its hugely popular final season, nosing out the other faves, newcomer “True Detective” and four-time winner “Mad Men.”
– Winners in all categories, but particularly writers and producers, will talk about the welcome creative opportunities now available to them thanks to the many new outlets available.
– Even more stories in the press afterward about the death of network TV.