Pete Hammond

FX is turning up the heat as Emmy voting kicks into high gear with a large campaign war chest designed to show off their prime contenders American Horror Story, which leads all shows with a whopping 17  nominations in the movie/miniseries categories,  and Louie which nabbed 6 nods including Best Comedy Series. Last Friday FX and Fox TV threw a summer barbeque and cast and crew conversation on the Fox lot for American Horror Story Asylum, and last night FX rented out the TV Academy’s Goldenson Theatre for a screening of Louie  and a rollicking on-stage conversation with Louis C.K. and moderator, comedian David Steinberg. The place was packed to the rafters, presumably with Emmy voters though in this phase of voting members sign up for specific panels and at-home viewing, so exactly how many of the 600 or so who crowded into the theatre can actually help the Emmy chances of Louie is questionable.

None of that seems to matter to FX President John Landgraf who told me at the lavish post-reception the hefty outlay of funds for billboards, trade and newspaper ads and events like this is worth it, not only because they might be hitting some of those relatively few mystery voters (he estimates there could be about 1000-plus who vote for Best Comedy Series) but also to make a public and industry statement that FX is indeed a major player now in the Emmys and proud of their shows. Certainly AHS which also nabbed 17 nominations last year too and Louie would seem to confirm that. Incidentally FXX, the brand new spinoff network is the broadcast partner for the Academy’s Creative Arts Primetime Emmy show this year and Landgraf is glad they landed it.

Some have complained that American Horror Story belongs in Drama Series since it is an on-going series, albeit one where the story changes each season and returning cast members play different roles. Last year Creator/Executive Producer Ryan Murphy lobbied with the Academy for placement as a mini and won the battle. Landgraf agreed with that and said he thinks the definition of what a mini is may be changing with all sorts of shows with limited runs or different structures now qualifying. He also told me it may be time for the Academy to consider splitting the Movie and Mini program categories again rather than sticking to the combined Outstanding Miniseries or Movie designation that currently exists. I think he’s right. It seems unfair to have an 8-hour mini like Top Of The Lake vs. a unique but regular series like AHS vs. a two-hour movie like Behind The Candelabra. These are distinctly different disciplines. And with even the broadcast networks now expressing renewed interest in the miniseries form the time has come to re-visit the rules.

But last night was clearly Louie’s  night as far as FX was concerned and C.K. was in great form discussing his show and the creative process. He really had the crowd going though when the subject turned to awards and Emmys. He certainly is no stranger to Emmys having racked up 25 personal nominations to date including a remarkable 9 this year alone for 3 different programs. This has to be some sort of record for one person in one year. For Louie he is up for directing, writing, producing and starring in a comedy series. For his HBO special Louis C.K.: Oh My God there are nods for editing, producing,  directing and writing of a Variety Special. And for Saturday Night Live he even got a nom as Guest Actor in a Comedy Series. Last year he had 7 personal nods and won 2, both as writer of his HBO comedy special and for the Pregnant episode of Louie, the FX series’ one and only Emmy win to date. The series has 6 overall nominations this year, mostly for Louis C.K. who writes, directs, stars in and produces every episode. He’s involved in the editing and music as well. Perhaps that is why he is taking a bit of a break from the show to recharge. The show won’t be back for Season 4 until Spring of 2014 at the earliest. Nevertheless FX is going all out to get the show some major Emmy wins this time around including Best Comedy Series where it has racked up its first nomination in the marquee category.

One of this year’s nominations is also for Guest Actress Melissa Leo (a sure bet to win) in an episode that certainly pushes the boundaries of language for a basic cable show. Landgraf says FX does have broadcast standards and made some cuts to the show, though considering its graphic nature I can’t imagine what they were. In a very unique arrangement Landgraf and the network do not get to see a script or any episode itself until it is completely edited. He says he’s comfortable with that because of the quality his star delivers. He gives him a long leash.

As for C.K. himself, getting awards clearly has not gotten old at all as he explained last night to huge laughs when Steinberg suggested that he is winning a ton of them lately. “I won two Emmys last year. That’s not that many. Oh okay and a Writers Guild Award. And a Grammy…yeah I got a bunch of awards. I would love to be the kind of person who says these awards mean nothing. I’d love to be that. I think that’s really cool. Like Woody Allen doesn’t go to the Oscars but he gets one. That’s what makes it cool. Not going to the Oscars and not getting one is what everybody on the planet does. Not going to the Oscars and getting one is super cool, but I’m not that cool. I like going,” he said but, being the stand up comic he still is at heart, he was just getting warmed up on the process of what it is like to be nominated.

“The moment they are opening the (envelope) the first feeling you always have is ‘slow down, this is going too quickly’. I want them to take a little longer. And they either say your name and there is this kind of rush that doesn’t exist anywhere else, or they don’t and it’s like somebody has replaced your blood with salty oil. But again I like the flip side. That’s a rare feeling. If the bad moment in your life is ‘Don Cheadle just got that Golden Globe instead of me’ you’re doing pretty f***ing good…When I was at the Golden Globes and Don got it, first I needed some Vodka. It’s like you’re having sex with a woman and then he’s coming instead of you. But I love Don and I am glad he won a Golden Globe. He’s an actor. He could have a pile of those and still be f***ed in life.  I can make work for myself. I have many different things I can do to get work. I have been a loser. I don’t mind doing that again. So to me I don’t need a Golden Globe. I am not an actor. I am happy Don won. It’s not fair for me to get one. I mean still give me this one!,”  he said to the approving crowd.

Sure enough Don Cheadle (House Of Lies) is one of this year’s Emmy nominees against Louis C.K. for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Comedy Series. It ought to be very interesting at the Nokia on September 22nd.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.