‘The Emmys’ 2017: ‘This Is Us’ Carries the Flag for Family Drama

Did family viewing score any wins at the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards last night? Not much, and what there was, came from NBC’s megahit “This Is Us.”

In an honor handed out the previous weekend at the Creative Arts Emmys, veteran actor Gerald McRaney (“Simon & Simon,” “Major Dad,” “Deadwood”) scored his first (?!) Emmy win, for outstanding guest actor, playing kindly OB/GYN Dr. Nathan Katowski, a k a Dr. K, on “This Is Us.”

The kind widower Dr. K delivered the two of the “Big Three,” the triplets (one died at birth, and another was adopted into the trio) that form the core of the hit multigenerational family drama, which returns for its second season on Sept. 29.

Here’s what McRaney told the Los Angeles Times:

“Big, tough guys approach me,” McRaney said when he stopped by The Times’ video studio recently for an Emmy Contenders chat with Times television reporter Yvonne Villarreal. “You know, ‘You made me cry,’” they say. Fans, he says, often “go into depth and share some personal thing that relates directly to the show.”

The outpouring, he says, is a reflection of how good the writing is. The writers have captured a true human connection, tapped into a common humanity. They don’t need superheroes or even villains to make their stories compelling.

They’re just writing about decent people who have problems and find ways to solve them. “Good people in extraordinary circumstances,” he says.

When it got to the actual top Primetime Emmy Awards, Hulu’s dystopian fable “The Handmaid’s Tale” — which, despite appearances to the contrary, the producers have said is not an attack on actual Christianity — was the big winner. It took outstanding drama series, outstanding lead actress for Elisabeth Moss, outstanding supporting actress for Ann Dowd, outstanding writing for a drama series, and outstanding directing for a drama series.

The next big winner was HBO’s political comedy “Veep,” including outstanding comedy series, and outstanding lead actress in a comedy for Julia Louis-Dreyfus; and HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” about three upper-class moms in a swanky beachside community whose lives and marriages conceal deceit, betrayal and even murder. Both Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern took home awards, for outstanding lead actress and supporting actress in a limited series, respectively.

Are these shows family-friendly, pro-family, pro-marriage or pro-faith? No. Not at all.

Of all the things it was nominated for, including drama series, the only major honor “This Is Us” took home was a well-earned outstanding lead actor in a drama for Sterling K. Brown, whose acceptance speech was cut short, and his microphone was turned off. He then finished his speech backstage.

That included thanking the writers, producers, directors and series creator Dan Fogelman, or, as Brown called him, “the Hebrew hammer with which our house is built.”

Oh, and Brown also thanked his wife.

″Ryan Michelle Bathe, you’re everything,” Brown said. “You make my life worth living and you gave me two of the most beautiful things that God has ever put on this planet ― my sons Andrew Jason Sterling Brown, Amaré Michael Ryan Christian Brown. Your daddy loves you with the strength of 1,000 suns. I’ll see you Monday after work.”

So, the warmhearted family drama beloved of America — and at least one Emmy voter — lost out to a sci-fi dystopia beloved of TV critics and entertainment-industry types. A chance to change the trajectory of TV was lost or outright avoided. While the audience doesn’t much care about Emmys, they do impact the fate of shows and the future of writers.

It’s a shame.

But, the viewers have made “This Is Us” such a hit that not even Hollywood can ignore the deep desire of ordinary Americans to see such extraordinary, ordinary lives onscreen.

Let’s hope someone is listening.

Oh, BTW, fewer people are listening to the Emmys, since the overnight ratings cratered.

With 11.38 million viewers tuning into the 69th annual Primetime Emmy Awards is even with last year’s show on ABC, which was the all-time low. The 2016 show was down 5% from the 2015 show, which was the previous low. Among adults 18-49, last night’s Emmys snagged a 2.5 rating. That’s down 10% from the Jimmy Kimmel hosted show of last year, the previous demo low.

Image: Courtesy NBC

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