There are dozens of surprises among the more than 400 Emmy nominees, but none quite like the one we can’t name in this story.
It’s in the Original Music and Lyrics category, a holiday-themed music video that aired last December on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” with an off-color title. Performed by Justin Timberlake and “SNL” cast member Andy Samberg, the fake music video describes packaging a certain part of the male anatomy in a gift box and presenting it to a loved one.
We’ll just call it “(Blank) in a Box.”
Given the subject matter, little wonder some of those involved were caught off-guard by the TV academy’s acknowledgment.
“I was not aware until this year that there was (such) a category at the Emmys, and I’m not sure whether it’s in the big Emmys or the little Emmys,” observed longtime “SNL” producer Lorne Michaels, “but we were thrilled.”
Actually, the Original Music and Lyrics category is in the “little Emmys,” a.k.a. Creative Arts Emmys, to be presented Saturday night and airing Sept. 15 on E!, the night before the Primetime Emmy Awards on Fox.
“I was just super-excited that somebody important at some point will have to say (the title) at an otherwise classy broadcast,” said skit co-writer Akiva Schaffer.
“(Blank) in a Box” is up against two songs from “Scrubs,” one from “MADtv” and one from “Family Guy.” If “Box” wins, six co-writers will go home with Emmy gold: Timberlake, Samberg, Schaffer, plus “SNL” mates Katreese Barnes and brothers Jorma and Asa Taccone.
“When Timberlake came to the show,” Samberg recalled, “we decided it would be a great idea to do a song sort of founded in early ’90s R&B, because we all, including Justin, love that era of music and all grew up sort of listening to it. So then we sat around trying to come up with the perfect angle to take with it, and I believe it was Jorma who said, ’What about, ya know, like, it’s a Christmas gift ... And we were all like, ’Yes! Oh my God. We’re doing that. Yes!”’
NBC censors proved a tougher sell.
“We were worried,” confessed Schaffer, “because I think we say it, like, 17 times.”
Within days of the video’s initial airing, “Box” emerged as an online phenomenon, garnering millions of views on YouTube and NBC’s Web site, which posted an un-bleeped version.
Michaels said the Emmy nomination “sort of acknowledges something that millions and millions of people have seen on the Internet that came out of ’SNL,’ and that television has lots of echoes now, in other places.”
It’s not likely Timberlake will perform at the Creative Emmys, since he has a concert scheduled that night in Tacoma, Wash. But his tour does take him to Los Angeles on Primetime Emmys night.
So will “(Blank) in a Box” make the big show?
In a statement, the academy chose a tease: “Show elements are in the process of being worked out.”