We know that TV is the new movies, the medium that’s undergoing a creative renaissance and getting the loudest buzz. But the Emmys never quite equal the Oscars for excitement and suspense, do they? That’s mostly because there are so many recurring nominees and winners. Emmy Awards telecasts can feel like repeats.
Monday night, that repetition was eminently clear. The three-hour live ceremony was a collection of echoes from past ceremonies. Every single one of the major winners in the series categories was a former winner, with none of the potential upstarts — “Orange Is the New Black,” “True Detective,” Matthew McConaughey, Jon Voight — leaving with statues.
“Breaking Bad” swept the drama categories, with repeat wins for Bryan Cranston (his fourth for the role), Aaron Paul (his third), Anna Gunn (her second), and the show (its second). Considered one of the best dramas in TV history, “Breaking Bad” had a valedictory moment, with expressions of love flying among the cast members. HBO submitted its popular “True Detective” as a series rather than a miniseries, but that category-shopping gambit failed.
Julianna Margulies took home her second statue for “The Good Wife,” but before she left the stage she threw out a shady reminder that her writers were producing 22 episodes per year — not, she seemed to be saying, the easier 10 or 12 of cable writers.
The comedy awards also went back to the well of former winners. Another gambit that didn’t work: Netflix submitted the drama “Orange Is the New Black” as a comedy, hoping to benefit from the weaker competition in those categories. But ABC’s “Modern Family” took a fifth win, regardless of its waning quality. Ty Burrell of “Modern Family” took home his second statue for his supporting role, despite predictions for Andre Braugher of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”
In the lead comedy acting categories, Jim Parsons had his fourth win for “The Big Bang Theory,” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus had her third for “Veep.” Allison Janney won in a supporting role for a new show, “Mom,” although she’s an Emmy favorite who has won five already, including a best guest actress statue last week at the Creative Arts Emmys for her turn on “Masters of Sex.”
When “The Amazing Race” took its 10th prize for reality competition at around 9 p.m., you had to wonder if the Emmys ought to end in the nominations phase, when at least there are usually a few new names and some resulting mystery. The hope that William H. Macy might finally get his deserved statue for “Shameless”? Dashed, as Parsons once again politely took the stage. Alas, there can’t be Emmy term limits; it goes against point of celebrating the year’s best.
The telecast, live from Los Angeles on NBC, was not given much of a prod by first-time host Seth Meyers. He had a mixed bag of jokes in his opening monologue, most at the expense of the broadcast networks, cable channels, and Netflix. Noting how crazy it is that MTV still airs a video award show despite not airing videos, he said, “That’s like network TV holding an awards show and giving all the trophies to cable and Netflix. That would be crazy.”
The problem with his hosting performance had less to do with his material, and more to do with his dry and stiff delivery. He didn’t quite connect with the audience, never owned the room.
Just before presenting the prize to Janney, Jimmy Kimmel showed how to master the crowd, teasing McConaughey in the audience for his recent awards success and his prettiness: “That’s not a television face, that’s a movie star face right there,” he said directly to the object of his joke, mocking McConaughey’s film-award acceptance speeches from earlier this year. For a few minutes, we could see exactly what Meyers was missing.
Billy Crystal held the emotional center of the night with his heartfelt tribute to Robin Williams. His words were awfully nice: “As genius as he was onstage, he was the greatest friend you could ever imagine — supportive, protective, loving.” And his feeling was deep and calm. It was the one part of the night that didn’t feel long enough, as we saw choice clips of Williams. The sequence left the room silent. “Robin Williams: what a concept,” Crystal said.
Another sad moment: When Larry Kramer came onstage to help accept the outstanding movie statue. He did not look well. Ryan Murphy dedicated the award to “artists who died of HIV/AIDS since 1981,” urging young people to find a passionate cause.
The comic highlight of the show may have been the little performance between Cranston and Louis-Dreyfus, who goofed on their shared “Seinfeld” history — Cranston had appeared in several episodes — culminating in a massive kiss. Sarah Silverman also had a kicky moment as she accepted her prize for writing in a comedy special by thanking “my Jews at CAA” and finishing with this space gem: “We’re all just made of molecules, and we’re hurling through space right now.” Weird Al Yankovic tried but failed to inspire many laughs as he put words to TV theme songs.
Ryan Seacrest was too busy to do the Emmy pre-show; he must have a standing Monday night highlighting appointment. So Giuliana Rancic took over the E! hosting duties.
Red carpet hosts tend to gush, but Rancic seemed to be taking it all a step further. She was a fountain of love, telling almost everyone she interviewed, “I love you so much” and “Love you.” As Taylor Schilling walked off, Rancic simply said, “Love. LOVE.”
The gimmick this year was a “Clutch Cam,” a handbag feature that E! appeared to present with absolutely no irony. It was just too stupid until Silverman showed up, toying with her cleavage. As Rancic went through her clutch, she pulled out Silverman’s vape pen. “This is my pot,” she said. “My liquid pot.”