I think people complain about award shows because they are not very entertaining. That is because the actual presentation and acceptance of awards is pretty dull for everyone except for the awardee’s friends and family, unless some catastrophe occurs. Traditionally, the Tony Award show is the best, because Broadway actors know how to perform live and because they recognize that no one outside of New York has seen the shows so they show us performances and tell us something about the plays that are nominated. And the Golden Globes is the most fun to watch because everyone knows how silly it is. And the Emmy Awards are the worst because there are so many categories and we’re all used to seeing all these people on television anyway so it does not feel special.
So let’s start by setting the bar low. I did not have any expectations for a lot of fun from the Emmys, though I was looking forward to the host-with-the-most, Neil Patrick Harris, who is the perfect host for the Tonys — witty, urbane, and enormously talented. Like the Twitterverse, I was disappointed by the opening skit because (1) it was not funny (the concept was weak and the execution was weaker) and (2) there was no musical number, which is what we tuned in to see. By the time the middle of the show musical number (which was about the middle of the show, not about, you know, the nominees or anything other than a reminder of how even they knew the show was a slog) came along, it was not worth waiting for. But there were some BTE (better than expected) moments, and of course some WTE as well. Here’s my list:
It was a genuine thrill to see Neil Patrick Harris surprise the choreographers at what they thought was a separate ceremony for their category. The “Creative Arts” (non-performers or writers or producers) awards have their own ceremonies off camera and are usually not even mentioned in the three-hour broadcast, even though for many fans, it is the behind-the scenes and below-the-lines artists we are really curious to see. It was more revealing than the Academy realized to show the absence of any festive atmosphere at what was supposed to be the choreography award ceremony. It looked like the company lunchroom at a warehouse. No red carpet anywhere in sight. When Harris came in to tell them they’d be staging a number for the show and would receive the awards at the broadcast, it was the evening’s most genuinely touching moment. And the number they put together, which did pay tribute to the nominated shows, was sensational.
Bob Newhart. Enough said. And yes, he is an accountant. If you have not seen the episode of “The Big Bang Theory” in which he guest stars as a former “Mr. Wizard”-style host of a science show for children, set your DVR now.
Will Ferrell pretending he got called at the last minute and had to bring his kids. Nice.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale — it was lovely that they both won for “Veep” and it was simply magnificent that they took on their “Veep” roles for her acceptance speech as he stood behind her, holding her purse, and reminding her what to say, which of course included not mentioning him.
I know this is a perennial problem, but we need to do something about the endless list of names in acceptance speeches. How about if all the nominees turn in their lists ahead of time so they can be posted online and then we limit them to two sentences about the actual project.
I love Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, but I did not love their from-the-audience bit asking Harris to take his pants off, wearing 3D glasses so they could see his “business.” I wouldn’t like it from a man to a woman and I don’t like it from women to a man. But I still want them to host the Golden Globes again.
The memorial and historical material was poorly handled. I liked seeing Rob Reiner’s tribute to Jean Stapleton and Edie Falco’s to James Gandolfini. But then the montage of photos was uncomfortable, with some getting applause and some not. And the 50 years ago tribute was pointless.
Elton John and Carrie Underwood — nothing to do with television or the Emmys and far from their best work.
No disrespect to the winners, but Bryan Cranston and Kerry Washington should have won and it is time to recognize the rest of the cast of “Big Bang Theory.”