With names like Michael Bay ’86 and Joss Whedon ’87 frequenting notable alumni lists, it’s not surprising that some of the University’s most visible and illustrious graduates are found in the entertainment industry. At the recent Emmy Awards on Aug. 29, University alumni and parents took away nominations and awards for some of this year’s most critically lauded and publicly adored sitcoms, mini-series, and even reality shows.
While more prominent alumni have made names for themselves through explosions, vampire hunters, and giant fighting automotive robots on the silver screen, several recent graduates are gluing audiences nationwide to their television screens.
Sasha Alpert ’82, producer of the design-savvy reality series “Project Runway,” received a nomination for outstanding reality-competition program, while the hilarious writing duo behind the smash sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother”—Carter Bays and Craig Thomas—both ’97, were up for outstanding music and lyrics; the show itself received three more nominations.
Several University parents also took several nominations in various categories. Marc Levin ’73, P’05, was nominated for his role as producer of the documentary series “Brick City,” Paul Spillenger, P’13 earned a nomination as producer and writer for the Discovery Channel nature opus, “Life” and Seinfeld-alum and comedy goddess, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, P’14, received a nomination for outstanding lead actress in a comedy series for her titular role in the sitcom, “The New Adventures of Old Christine.”
While these achievements are commendable, the night truly belonged to the alumni winners, a group of four who created two wildly successful TV shows, an animated program and World War II epic. Matt Senreich ’96—co-creator, executive producer, and writer for the delirious stop-motion romp, “Robot Chicken”—won for outstanding short-format animated program. Emmy newcomer, “Modern Family,” helmed by co-executive producer, Bill Wrubel ’85, received honors for outstanding comedy series as well as five other awards for its brutally hilarious take on a contemporary extended family.
Picked as the year’s most outstanding mini-series, the wildly successful World War II epic, “The Pacific,” produced and written by Bruce McKenna ’84, received 24 nominations and led the night with eight wins, more than any other show. Rounding out the night’s alumni winners was Matthew Weiner ’87, avid MoCon defender, College of Letters major, and the creative force behind the legendary television series, “The Sopranos” and “Mad Men,”—Weiner took three Emmys for the series, including outstanding drama series and outstanding writing.
They have achieved great success in the entertainment industry, yet many of the winners see their time at the University as an essential part of their success.
“My career is a product of my Wesleyan education,” McKenna said in a recent “Voices of Wesleyan” interview. “We are afforded an opportunity to take risks intellectually and creatively and that’s what Wesleyan does for its students…to me, I’m profoundly grateful for that propulsion from Wesleyan.”