The Emmys Were Last Night, And I Actually Had Fun
It’s Nice When (Most) Of The Right Shows and People Win
After nearly fifteen years of trying to predict the winners for the Emmys — ten of them professionally, five of them at this site — I had actually forgotten something. How genuinely good you feel when a series you really like — really enjoy — wins. Not only wins, but does well.
Maybe it’s part of the detachment that comes from being a critic all this time, but after all these years I had forgotten the last time I really had fun watching the Emmys. Thought they’d made the right choices and was genuinely happy for the winners. I’ve spent over four years advocating for the brilliance of The Crown and I’ve spent much of that time wanting them to win. But I didn’t think I’d actually feel so good when they ended up doing what no drama series in my lifetime — perhaps in Emmy history — has ever done: run all seven categories they were competing in last night. Even in my heart of hearts, I really didn’t think the series could do it. (Whether or not it deserved to is another matter, which I’ll get to below.) But I was so happy when Josh O’Connor and Gillian Anderson prevailed last night, and overjoyed when Olivia Colman ended up winning. (Part of it, I will admit, is because over the years I’ve looked forward to Colman giving speeches: she was so self-effacing she really admitting that she wanted MJ Rodriguez to win.) And when Peter Morgan finally took the prizes he deserved for years, I was happier than I’ve been for an Emmy winning Best Drama — well, probably since Breaking Bad way back in 2014.
I had a similar reaction to all of the Best Comedy winners. I’d expected Ted Lasso, Jason Sudeikis and Hannah Waddingham to win last night, and I was grateful to see it happen. I was also overjoyed that Brett Goldstein did win Best Supporting Actor, and his speech was almost entertaining as it was at the HCA last month. (Seriously, go to youtube and look it up. Goldstein is wonderful.) I don’t think it would’ve been as possible for me to be as happy that Jean Smart won for Best Actress as everybody else in the room was, but seriously, she really deserved it and I loved her speech. And I was actually glad that Hacks ended up taking the Best Writing and Directing awards. Would I have liked to see Zach Braff or Bill Lawrence get a trophy for themselves? Obviously. (Would I have been thrilled in Maya Erskine had won for Pen15? Sure, but there’s time.) But after much thought, Hacks was one of the best series of 2021 and it more than deserved for the creative staff to get recognized. And honestly, the speeches they gave were so wonderful.
I will admit a certain mixed feeling to the awards for Best Limited Series. I really wanted Anya Taylor-Joy to end up winning for The Queen’s Gambit, but I understood the momentum that Kate Winslet had gotten, and in all candor her speech was just wonderful. I was fine with Evan Peters winning, and I jumped for joy when Julianne Nicholson won. Sure I wanted Kathryn Hahn to win, but if I’m being honest, I’ve worshipped Nicholson’s talent as an actress far longer than I have Hahn’s. I’m certain Hahn will get another chance. And I was thrilled to see Michaela Coel get the Emmy she’s had in her back pocket since I May Destroy You premiered last June. Judging that the audience was even louder in their approval than they were for Smart’s win, I’m not alone. This is the start of a great career for Coel. We all know it.
Indeed, the only wins last night that I was upset about were Tobias Menzies triumph for The Crown and Ewan McGregor’s win for Halston. I’ve explained my problems with Menzies’ performance so I won’t go into it, but I really wanted Williams to win even before his untimely passing. Kerry Washington gave a noble tribute to him, as did Courtney B. Vance when he won Best Guest Actor for Lovecraft Country, but it would’ve been better for the world for him to get it, even posthumously. There’s no real logic behind McGregor’s win at all. I grant you it was a mediocre category, but Paul Bettany and Hugh Grant were light years beyond his work. Was this some kind of restitution for his being robbed for Fargo four years ago? Who can say? But honestly, the Emmys rarely gets so many awards right that at this point, I’m willing to let this be the exception rather than the rule.
If this year’s Emmy had only given the awards they did, then it would’ve been enough. But the awards show itself was surprisingly entertaining — arguably the most fun its been since Seth Meyers last hosted in 2014. Cedric the Entertainer was onpoint without being too blue. His sketches were a mixed bag, though. I didn’t really like the ‘historic moments of 2021’ he inserted himself. But the sketch he did with performers who hadn’t won an Emmy? One of the greatest pieces of work I’ve seen since The Office parody. I’m still debating which I found funnier: Fred Savage inserted himself into the sketch before going back to direct, or Dr. Phil’s showing up, and all of these actors scoffing at the fact he won two ‘Daytime Emmys’.
And the presenters were all exceptionally good this year. Mindy Kaling and Amy Poehler were hysterical as always. (Particularly liked Kaling’s remark to Rege-Jean Page that his ‘abs were CGI’) Glad to see last year’s winners from Schitt’s Creek get to basically perform a sketch where the premise was that Eugene Levy had insulted the writers. And was delighted when Anthony Anderson and Tracie Ellis Ross presented an award and Ross took the occasion to serve Anderson with divorce papers. (Anderson: “We’re not really married.” Ross: “Eight years, five children. That’s a Hollywood marriage. Please next year let them win.)
Now to all you naysayers who will no doubt say the show was too long. Well, you’re right: just as many of the winners ignored the music that should’ve played them off that stuck to it. (And full credit to the band for basic letting many of them finish). To those of you, I say: ‘who cares?” First of all, I think we’ve reached the point in our award shows where I think everybody should thank whoever they want, at least here. And second of all, after everything the world has gone through the last year, television more than anything got the world through it. Shouldn’t the people who brought us those moments be entitled to be celebrate and thank whoever they want?
This is the first true post-pandemic awards show we have gotten. I hope that next year manages to live up to it. I hope that the series they nominate live up to it as well. Starting today, the work begins again.