My (Mostly) Joyous Reactions To This Year’s Emmys
Some could (and will) make the argument that this year’s Emmys were less diverse than they have been over the past three years. In the larger, societal sense, they are correct. There were fewer African American and minority winners than there were as recently as last year. (Though that is a matter of which Emmys you watched. In the Creative Arts Emmys, all four guest actor winners were actors of color. Several black men prevailed, such as W. Kamau Bell and RuPaul prevailed in information categories. And of course, John Legend became one of three EGOT winners when Jesus Christ Superstar took Best Live Production.)
In a larger, and perhaps more important sense, last night Emmys were more diverse than they’ve been in a very long time. By using diverse in the sense that the same people didn’t win as they have done so often over the past decade, this year’s Emmys were a roaring success. None of the winners in the acting categories for either Best Drama or Best Comedy had won the previous year. Of course, Peter Dinklage got his third Emmy in seven tries for Game of Thrones, but they’ve been spread out over the course of eight years that it could be argued that their was some variety. This was particularly true for the Comedy awards, where the Emmys have been prone to repetition for much of the past decade. Of course, Veep was ineligible and Modern Family was shut out, but that, too, is a sign the Emmys are beginning to evolve.
I was mostly overjoyed by the winners in the Best Comedy category. Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s wins were among the most deserved the Emmys has had in quite sometime, particularly for that incredible force Amy Sherman-Palladino, who picked up three “Reparation Emmys’ (as Michael Che called them in a particular fun sequence). Rachel Brosnahan’s win was the least surprising of the night, and still the most satisfying. And I was so glad to see Alex Borstein prevail for her fine work as Susie, the deadpan and dour manager, and her speech was totally worth it.
The Best Drama awards were, if anything, more delightful for me then the comedy awards. When The Americans took the Best Writing award for their series finale and Matthew Rhys finally won for Best Actor, I practically jumped five feet in the air, I was so overjoyed. These were among the most deserved honors for a series that was long overdue. I was a little dismayed that Keri Russell was passed over for Best Actress, but considering that Claire Foy was nearly as exceptional as she was, and that, like Russell, this was her last chance for this role, I was pretty satisfied. And I was glad to see Thandie Newton triumph for her complicated work on Westworld. She’s a formidable actress and nearly as fascinating to watch as Maeve is. (And to be honest when Elisabeth Moss and Samara Wiley came out to present, I thought that meant the fix was in for Handmaid’s Tale. )
Even the Limited Series awards offered some genuinely pleasing moments. Though I never gave Godless the attention I should have, I was delighted to see Merritt Wever and Jeff Daniels prevail for their work. They are fine actors. I’ve become one of Regina King’s biggest fans, and the fact that she won for a series that was given no chance shows her real strength as an actress. Gianni Versace’s wins were definitely deserved, particularly Darren Criss’.
Now, some will complain that, given all of the problems that have plagued Hollywood the last year, the Emmys weren’t as socially or politically relevant. Given that so many awards shows over the past couple of years have been assailed for being too political, that’s hardly the worst offense. And frankly, I’d rather have my award shows be entertaining that social. And in that sense, the Emmys were enjoyable to watch in a way they usually weren’t. Of course, the entire world will probably never stop talking about the fricking marriage proposal that took place right in the middle — and they say that award shows can’t be spontaneous anymore! — but the Emmys actually seemed to be more aware than they were in awhile. For the first time that I can remember in the twenty years I’ve been watching the Emmys, the Emmys treated the nominees like they mattered, showing segments of their acting or writing to show us just what so many viewers had watched. The presenters simply came out to give the award. There was still some banter and byplay, but frankly, this is a model I’d rather the Oscars try and follow. Let us see what every voter did. It might help us appreciate it more.
And as for the future of television, well, despite the jokes about it, there are some interesting signs. The HBO/Netflix dogfight ended in a tie when Game of Thrones took its third Best Drama. But in a larger sense, Amazon was a big winner, taking eight Emmys for The Marvelous Mrs Maisel. And FX, though it didn’t have nearly as good a night as I hoped, still had a very strong showing. Even battered down NBC did pretty well with so many wins for Jesus Christ Superstar and Saturday Night Live. (Keenan Thompson did win, by the way, for Best Music and Lyrics for ‘Come Back, Barack.) I still think TV’s in good shape, and the Emmys continues to come closer to making the right choices. The signs that they were reaching new heights after a long period of staleness are turning out to be true. And that’s diversity in a sense as well.