The Emmy’s is sort of like that dweeby cousin you hated spending time with as a kid. You couldn’t talk to them about anything because they immediately run home and tell your aunt everything. You couldn’t play too hard because they were afraid of the sun and too much fun led to an anxiety attack. But worst of all, they made bad jokes. Jokes so bad you couldn’t help but use your whole body to roll your eyes as soon as they walked away. Since they’re blood related (and your aunt was terrifying) you’d laugh, and a piece of your soul would die. Just as you continue to associate with that cousin after all these years, so too do we tune in to the Emmy’s, only to be reminded that most of the awards are predictable, and the host will inevitably blow it.
Andy Samberg started the night off with one of his signature videos, singing and dancing his way into the evening with a star studded, subpar satire commentating on the way we’ve come to watch most television these days. Immediately following he performed the most cringe-worthy 6-10 minutes of comedic mush to ever fart its way onto a television screen. At first it felt like his writers didn’t find that sweet spot with the nudge and nod jokes normally served to the rich and famous during awards shows. As the night went on, it became apparent that it was largely due to Samberg’s timing and failure to deliver these jokes. Writing was likely a deciding factor here, but writers can be fired, the “talent” cannot be reshaped. There’s a whole article here about Samberg’s inability to deliver on live television, but that’s for another day.
Very quickly it became apparent that the night was to be taken by Veep, Olive Kitteridge, Transparent and later Game of Thrones. The first award of the evening went to Allison Janney for her role in the CBS sitcom, Mom. The win was unsurprising considering the acclaim she’s garnished in the last few years. Janney is talented, and the world is finally catching up to her. She was nominated for another supporting award, but Best Supporting in a Comedy was hands down hers for the taking. Immediately following were two Veep awards in a row with Best Writing and Best Supporting Actor Tony Hale. There was that vague hope that Hale would dust off a few Buster jokes (or perhaps the hook) but he delivered a straight acceptance speech. Later on a skit played out by Hale and Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black) brought out Hale’s playful side when the two Emmy nominees were shown using a metal detector on the red carpet and fighting over a can of beans.
There was a strange transition happening throughout the night using winners to give away awards very quickly. Did they announce the winners previously? Did I miss that? Or were the show runners so intent on keeping things constantly going that they didn’t bother to give these actors the acclaim they deserve? Either way, it was awkwardly done. Transparent did really well this evening, sending writer/director Jill Soloway and Jeffery Tambor both home with Emmys. The show is topical, important, and will be remembered as paving the way for sexually diverse television. However (and this in no way should take from away from the momentous win), it’s hard not to wonder if the trans-community will get more of a diverse show than Transparent moving forward. Tambor’s character Moira is no doubt brave for following her path, but she is also an affluent white woman with an accepting family. What about those in the trans-community that have been shunned to the outskirts of humanity due to their transition and acceptance of self?
Keeping on the path of diversity, one of the only valid points Samberg made throughout the night was the fact that the Emmy’s are more diverse than they have ever been. There was a rainbow of gender and race throughout the award ceremony, with nominations for shows dealing with heterogeneous, significant material. During the evening there was a lot of mention of the race and gender gap in Hollywood, which just like the awards given, were moments predicted early on. That’s fine though, these shows are considered a platform for casual activism. Why not? Stars have three minutes where everything is literally about them, why not tell the world how you really feel?
In addition to Samberg’s abject failure as a host was Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard’s joke of an appearance. Were they drunk? Was that the problem? Howard was dead eyed and sweaty, and Henson kept making selfie faces to the audience. The way their (hopefully) unscripted “kiss” went down makes you wonder if they’re having problems on set. He’s her co-worker, and someone she undoubtedly spends a lot of time with. Sure, it was unwelcomed, but did she have to make that awful face and wipe it off on camera? And did Howard really have to sexualize a woman who is undoubtedly more talented than himself, and doesn’t need a fake publicity stunt to make all the Empire fans cream their pants in anticipation of the new season?
Olive Kitteridge took home an obscene amount of awards for the evening. Overall HBO was a big winner tonight, again coming out on top with several series/mini-series up for an award. It seems the cable giant is generally untouched by the ever popular streaming transition due in massive part to HBO Go, HBO Now, and their consistently highly viewed programming. They’re definitely doing something right over there. On the other hand, it was a little disappointing to see the lack of love for up and comers AMC. The network has been churning out the hits lately, including Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul. The series was rampantly nominated, but didn’t see a single award. Here’s looking at next year. Mad Men got a final nod to send it on its way in the form of Jon Hamm’s Lead Actor in a Drama win. He wasn’t the favorite to win, but it was good to see him onstage.
Viola Davis’ win was both surprising and welcomed. She made history as the first African American woman to win Best Lead Actress in a Drama. This is great and all, but, it’s 2015. Why did that take so long? Get your life together Hollywood, Jesus. Davis gave a memorable speech celebrating the occasion, quoting Harriet Tubman, “In my dreams and visions, I seemed to see a line, and on the other side of that line were green fields, and lovely flowers, and beautiful white ladies, who stretched out their arms to me over the line, but I couldn’t reach them no-how.” It was perfect given the circumstances television producers have painted women of color into all of these years. Both Davis and Tambor’s wins tonight mark the revolutionary change taking a hold of Hollywood, giving marginalized groups a chance to come forth from the shadows and into a world where they can see themselves in the faces of their idols.
It was interesting that Game of Thrones got as many awards as it did. Years ago a fantasy based show could kiss anything but technical awards goodbye, and now a show about dragons, ice zombies, and boobs is winning Best Drama. Way to go America, we did it. Speaking of America, American icons John Stewart and Steven Colbert went head to head tonight during the ceremony. It’s a shame that they both chose this year to move on to other projects because there was seemingly a split vote. Stewart was the big winner overall, but if either late night series had ended just one year before or one year after, each would have had its moment in the Emmy limelight. Throughout the “diverse” evening there was still a glaring divide in gender and race when it came to the writing staff, particularly within the late night sector. I’m not saying white men shouldn’t be writing these sorts of shows, but I’m not opposed to the idea of say, a Mexican woman, with a vast resume filled with writing about television and pop culture, acting as a contributor. Perhaps from afar? What I’m saying is call me Kimmel. Or Fallon, or really any Jimmy. I’m available 24/7 for witty comebacks and unsolicited commentary on current events. Here’s my headshot and Twitter handle, k?
Though Samberg did everything he could to bring the show down, it was brought back up in the form of Tracy Morgan’s triumphant return to the stage. He was startlingly serious at first, but he assured the crowd he was feeling more like himself, and thus promised, “A whole lotta women are gonna get pregnant at the after party.” Welcome Back Tracy. All in all the night was fairly unmoving, but it’s the memorable things like Tracy’s return that we’ll hold on to. So like that cousin you continue to see year after year, you may not look forward to the interaction, but you’ll sure cherish the time you got hammered and made him step out of his comfort zone for just a moment of fun.