Each year, for its summertime Music for Screens section, Variety asks me to prepare a chart listing every nominee in all six music categories including a brief description of the music itself, or something relevant to the nomination. It means a lot of TV watching in July and August! And often interviewing the composers, songwriters and music directors about what their jobs were and how they went about the task of writing or supervising the scores of each show. Editors always call it the Emmy “cheat sheet,” although I don’t know if that’s for the voters or the viewers…
The Television Academy announced its nominees for the 70th annual Emmy Awards on July 12. There are now six music categories in the prime-time race. My overview of the music nominees ran that morning in Variety, highlighting the possibility that an Emmy win for songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul could make them EGOTs (having won all four major show-biz awards). For an Aug. 13 story, I interviewed the nominees for Music Composition for a Series (including Game of Thrones, Jessica Jones, Once Upon a Time, SEAL Team, Star Wars Rebels and Westworld). And for an Aug. 14 story, I interviewed the nominees for Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special (including Alias Grace, Black Mirror, Godless, March of the Penguins 2 and two different episodes of Electric Dreams).
It’s only a matter of weeks after Oscar season ends that Emmy season begins. I know, it’s hard to believe, but within the industry — especially the many publicists we deal with on a daily basis — the calendar year has become one long awards season. Still, Emmy season is a great way to catch up on the many fine shows that now grace the small screen, and in this first of a series of stories about Emmy-worthy work in music for television, we look at a handful of potential nominees in the series- and limited-series-scoring categories. In this second story, the role of music in current science-fiction series is examined. A third story looks at the music for four of the season’s top limited series, including Howards End and Patrick Melrose. And a fourth story looks at the odds of documentary scores, including The Vietnam War and Blue Planet II, attaining Emmy glory.
I love putting together Variety‘s annual chart examining all the nominees in Emmy’s various music categories, because it gives me a chance to talk with the composers about the musical and dramatic challenges they face. I assembled some of the best quotes from the six nominees in Emmy’s “music composition for a limited series, movie or special” category into a story for this week’s edition. Interviewed: James Newton Howard (All the Way), Martin Phipps (War & Peace), Victor Reyes (The Night Manager), Jeff Beal (Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise), David Lawrence (Descendants) and Jeff Russo (Fargo) — all super-talented composers who deserve their nominations. And here is a story chronicling all of the Emmy winners (announced Sept. 10).
One of my most enjoyable tasks is the preparation of Variety‘s annual chart looking at all of the nominees in Emmy’s five music categories: original music for series; original music for movies, miniseries or specials; main title themes; music direction (usually for one-shot specials); and original songs for TV. Because it’s a chart, it rarely makes the transition from print to web, so we’ve scanned it and made it available here. The challenge is usually twofold: checking each nominee’s Emmy record (not easy because the Television Academy’s own database is incomplete and sometimes inaccurate) and condensing its musical essence down to a few words.
Thursday night at the Directors Guild of America, four collaborators on the Jesse Stone television movies joined me on stage after a screening of the latest Hallmark Channel movie, Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise. The occasion was composer Jeff Beal’s Emmy nomination for Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie or Special, and it was a treat to hear star Tom Selleck, director Robert Harmon and writer-producer Michael Brandman extol Beal’s music as a key component of the storytelling in all nine Jesse Stone movies. I was delighted to act as moderator and to find out, first-hand, that actor-writer-producer Selleck was as interested in the contribution of music as everyone else on that stage.
Every year it’s my privilege to interview many of the composers nominated for Emmys in the key music categories. The occasion is usually the creation of Variety‘s full-page chart devoted to brief descriptions of the music in all five categories. But this year I’m doing more, beginning with a story utilizing what I heard from all six nominees in the category of Music Composition for a Series (Original Dramatic Score) — music from Bates Motel, Chef’s Table, Limitless, Minority Report, Mr. Robot and Penny Dreadful. It’s always fun to hear what these hugely talented composers have to say about their diverse assignments.
The Television Academy likes to spread the wealth, as seen in this year’s crop of nominations in Emmy’s five musical categories: music for series, music for longform TV (miniseries or movies), music direction, title themes, and original songs. Nearly half of all the nominees are first-timers to the party, and that’s always nice to see. (Fans of the music for ultra-popular shows like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Downton Abbey and others were disappointed when those scores failed to receive a nod, although all have been past nominees or winners.) And the song category has special zing this year: Alan Menken could become an EGOT and Diane Warren has achieved something no previous songwriter has. Here’s a rundown and quick analysis. I’ll be visiting each of these scores later during Emmy season for Variety.
One of my most challenging, but also fascinating, annual Variety assignments is looking at every nominee in all five Emmy music categories and finding something informative to say about each. (For example, Jeff Beal’s Hebraic-flavored theme for The Dovekeepers used a soprano, a duduk and Middle Eastern percussion). We then assemble a chart examining all 30 (including such details as their Emmy record, how many past wins or whether they’re a first-time nominee). And the chart is featured at the Society of Composers & Lyricists’ annual Emmy reception, which is a source of pride for us at Variety. It never looks as good in the online version. Here’s what it looks like in print.