Reactions To This Year’s Emmys
Its as if the Emmys are trying, almost all at once, to rectify the decades of complacency, where every year the same series and actors won again, there was little room for improvement. They still have a long way to go (and I’ll admit, most of the great leaps were taken because Game of Thrones was ineligible), but last nights award were a huge step forward.
Some might argue otherwise, particularly in the Best Comedy category where once again, Veep (for the third straight season) and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (for the sixth) emerged victorious after what was (at least in my mind) a mostly desultory season. But there was so much progress, particularly in the recognition of Atlanta where Donald Glover took two deserved Emmys both in front and behind the camera. And when Master of None became the first series to honor a female African American writer (and she was a lesbian too!), it was proof that diversity is now emerging behind the camera as well as in front. (And real class Aziz, letting your co-writer make the acceptance speech. You just continue to amaze).
Indeed, some could argue that HBO remained dominant, particularly in the Limited Series category, where it won practically every award. But having seen every performance in the acting categories, the Emmys would have been hard-pressed to make better choice. Sure, I would have preferred Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley prevail instead of Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern, but there were literally no loser in either category. And Riz Ahmed’s work in The Night of got buried under so many other award shows that I thought they’d overlook him again. I was glad to be proven wrong. And lest we think the voters have gone soft, remember Best TV Movie and Best Writing went to an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror, a series so dark and dystopian even a year ago, you wouldn’t have thought it could prevail. The times are a-changing.
And NBC had a particularly good night. By my last count, they won fourteen awards. Most of them were for Saturday Night Live, a show that had perhaps one of its most impressive seasons in years. I may quibble about Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon taking up spots that could go to actors from actual comedies (if this trend continues, we may have to create a couple of awards for sketch comedy) but they were so hysterical in all of their foibles that its hard to imagine anyone being more impressive.
I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, but despite my delays I was overjoyed that two of the greatest actresses in TV history, one completely shutout by the Emmys when she was doing her best work (Elisabeth Moss) and one who was basically ignored by them in her greatest role (Alexis Bleidel) ended up picking up trophies. Was a show too late? Maybe. But I didn’t object when Claire Danes starting winning for Homeland and I’m not going to object now.
But my favorite award of the night, by far, was Sterling Brown for his incredible work on This is Us. If his performance wasn’t enough to make me love him, his speech would win over everybody else. He name-checked Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm and Andre Braugher (Homicide shoutout!) considered that he was the luckiest black actor raised by a white family, and tried valiantly to do a Cuba Gooding, Jr.
I’m not certain how well to rank the Emmys as a ceremony, though I though Stephen Colbert did a mostly good job keeping the political spiel away from the awards after the monologue. (He left that to the presenters and the recipients.) But generally, I was happy to see that there was more of a system in place for giving out the awards, particularly as the Emmys are beginning to realizing the limited series category now has nearly as much excitement as the bigger awards. And it was good to see so many acting legends on the screen. The 9 to 5 reunion was wonderful. Seeing Carol Burnett and Norman Lear give out the award for Best Comedy, great. Cicely Tyson presenting Best limited series, powerful. The fact that the Emmys remember their history better than the Oscars do is reassuring.
(On a side note, I want to see Rachel Bloom host an award show next year. Any award show. Everything she does is marvelous. But her great song and dance number to open the Creative Arts Emmys, and her hysterical one celebrating the accountants make me love her even more. If you’re not going to give her an Emmy, let her host.)
Was I thrilled with everything? Of course not. Stranger Things and Fargo were basically shut out, and I don’t know what Better Call Saul has to do to win an Emmy. But the fact that there are so many great series out there to actually deserve to be in the same room make me think that the Emmys is finally giving reparations after years of staleness. Of course, the dragons will be back next year, so I won’t get cocky.