Emmys Review: A Watchable Awards Show – in Spite of the Awards

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Neil Patrick Harris makes a strange night fun

Emmy voters did almost everything they could to ruin the 65th Annual Emmy Awards. They handed too many safe prizes and gave some that were just wrong.

But the awards show overcame the awards themselves to be pretty watchable — if only for their weirdness.

The show was slowed down by some ill-conceived “In Memoriam” speeches. Despite some lovely moments, they fell short by not including the work of the artists being honored with a few clips. And highlighting some people for recognition seemed to shortchange others lost in the last year.

See photos: Emmys Red Carpet Arrivals

“This may be the saddest Emmys of all time, but we could not be happier,” said “Modern Family” co-creator Steve Levitan, accepting a very predictable fourth Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Maybe Emmy voters thought they were being daring enough by awarding “Breaking Bad” for Outstanding Drama Series. But don’t pat yourselves on the back too much, voters: You should have recognized it before.

Also read: Emmys: Complete Winners and Nominees List

All in all, the Emmys were OK. A few minutes too long, boring in places, but not awful. Host Neil Patrick Harris was quite good, as usual. I consulted a real-life viewer, my mom, on what she thought, and my mom nailed it: “He doesn’t make the show about him.”

Also read: Emmys: ‘Breaking Bad’ Stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul Suffer Upsets, Bitch!

That was clear from the beginning, when for his opening he shared the stage with Jimmys Fallon and Kimmel, Conan O’Brien and Jane Lynch. Kevin Spacey, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler contributed great jokes from the audience.

But Harris injected himself into the show at just the right time: First with a very funny skit featuring his “How I Met Your Mother” castmates, disguised as a PSA for “The Ryan Seacrest Center for Excessive Hosting Disorder.” And then with an out-of-nowhere mid-show dance number.

Also read: Emmys: ‘Colbert Report’ Breaks ‘Daily Show’s’ 10-Year Winning Streak With Variety Show Award

It was one of three strong musical numbers. One celebrating choreography — with “Boardwalk Empire” flappers clicking their heels and HazMat-suited “Breaking Bad” dancers — offered a welcome jolt of weird. And Elton John performed an understated but stirring tribute to Liberace, “Home Again,” a song from his new album.

Carrie Underwood’s performance of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” was part of  a segment that just didn’t make sense. Don Cheadle hosted the tribute to television’s coverage of 1963, including President Kennedy’s assassination and the start of Beatlemania. The Beatles were presented as a joyful counterpoint to Kennedy’s death. Why then did Underwood perform such a mournful version of “Yesterday,” a song from 1965, not 1963?

Also read: Emmys: ‘The Voice’ Wins Award That Has Eluded ‘American Idol’ 9 Times

Also nonsensical: Many of the Emmy voters’ choices. My mom called it again when Jeff Daniels beat Bryan Cranston and Kevin Spacey for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. “I like the ‘Newsroom,’ and I like him on it. But that was wrong,” she said.

Spacey laughed heartily as Daniels said the last acting prize he won was from the AARP. The laugh was proof that Spacey was the best actor of the night.

If the Daniels choice was too far out, others were too predictable. Emmy voters took the easy route when they gave yet more Emmys to “Modern Family,” Claire Danes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jim Parsons. They’re all wonderful, but voters could have been more adventurous in at least one of their categories.

Also read: Neil Patrick Harris Kicks Off Emmys With Interruptions From Conan O’Brien, Kevin Spacey and More

Voters do deserve credit for shaking up a couple of other races. “The Colbert Report” broke the 10-year Outstanding Variety Series by big brother, “The Daily Show.” And “The Voice” won for Outstanding Reality Competition, defeating perennial winner “The Amazing Race” and claiming a prize “American Idol” never could.

Those were welcome surprises. But many others weren’t.

“This just in – no one in America is winning their office Emmy pool,” Harris said two-and-half-hours into the show.

The “In Memorial” montage was lovely — it always is. But the mini-eulogies for stars including Jonathan Winters, Cory Monteith and James Gandolfini by their colleagues (Robin Williams, Lynch and Edie Falco, respectively) seemed to create a hierarchy of importance between them and people like Larry Hagman and Roger Ebert, who only appeared in the regular “In Memoriam” segment. Ick.

Credit where credit is due to Williams, however, for helping viewers understand the underrated Winters. He recalled how the comedian once drew a picture of hundreds of sardines being devoured by a whale. He captioned it: “This is what happens to conformists.”

Give the Emmys credit for one thing: They didn’t conform to anyone’s expectations.

  • FTCS

    Apparently, Mr. Malloy, you set the bar for lowering the ‘watchable’ standards. From the incredibly lame open to Jimmy Kimmel and the ‘walk of hosts’ through the Cory Montieth WTF was he getting this for tribute…to most everything else…this was a horrible show…while blatantly selling all things CBS. Moonves probably paid himself a mil just for his cameo.

    To be fair, the choreographers number was great. The good news is that television in general is much better than in the past, and that is what really counts. The only thing the Emmy’s can be thankful for is that the NFL Sunday Night Game was far from a marquee match up.

    • stampece

      “The good news is that television in general is much better than in the past” Most of those saying so are TV producers. The only proof anyone offers of the so-called “New Golden Age of TV” is a handful of series among many hundreds of mediocre and awful programs, most of which are so-called reality shows. Measuring quality by superior programs as a percentage of the medium as a whole, calling this a golden age seems absurd.

      • FTCS

        Justified, Newsroom, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Suits, Shameless, Louis Ck, Breaking Bad, Mad Men and lots more.

        How can you say that the quality of television (especially the really good shows) is not light years better? Most of the better television shows, today, outshine their much more expensive feature film relatives in quality and production of the storytelling…minus, of course, the commercials.

        I grew up on Leave it to Beaver and Bonanza, trust me, the great stuff today is quite good in every part of the storytelling process.

        How many films can actually keep you interested to see the 11th sequel, or maybe, the 22nd sequel? Well, for me, some of the best television today keeps me waiting for the next show, and that my friend, is the best compliment of all.

        And, I never called this the “New Golden Age of TV”. With so many choices out there, only a blind person cannot find quality storytelling of all kinds to keep them entertained on a high level…the Emmy’s, of course, do not even come close to being a qualified good show…it is sadly more of a bottom feeder program because it sacrifices the art for the Hollywood bullshit.

    • carolann

      Thank you. I couldn’t agree more. The show was cheesy, heavy handed, and misguided. Who decided that awards shows need to be about everything OTHER than the awards? These people earned their moment in the sun. Besides, Carrie’s version of ‘Yesterday’ was a high school talent show rendition. The big music numbers were vapid. The eulogies were maudlin. And the minute any award recipient got about 4 words out of their mouth the orchestra started playing to shut them up. ‘HURRY! WE have another overly long lame music number to get through! Who cares! So you won an award – big woop. Move along.’ So disappointing.

      • Sferd

        I agree that the winners were treated poorly. Let the people speak!

  • hupto

    Would someone please explain to me what Aaron Sorkin did to everyone that they should hate him and his programs so much? NEWSROOM is brilliant and Daniels handles an extremely difficult character with grace, grit, passion and humor. The one damn award the show wins and everybody’s griping about it. Sheesh…

  • stampece
  • dannyjude63

    You should report that you disagree with some choices, rather than calling the choices “wrong”. The choices are made by individual voting – it’s not a committee discussing who should win, then making a group decision.

    • tim.molloy

      It’s a review, and in my opinion they made the wrong choices. Of course it’s subjective. The voters (and the winners) think they made great choices.

  • Sferd

    I don’t understand your mother’s comment that NPH “doesn’t make the show about him.” The show was ALL about him. The ‘intervention’ with his fellow HIMYM castmates had some funny moments, but went on far too long.

    And, I agree that the lack of clips featuring the nominated shows/performances/dearly departed was puzzling.

    I did think the two funniest bits were due to the ladies: Amy and Tina at the start of the show; and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (with Tony Hale’s assistance) when she won.