The main criteria for winning an Emmy this year seemed to be having one already.
Again and again, Emmy voters Monday re-awarded past winners. “Breaking Bad” repeated as the Outstanding Drama Series. “Modern Family” won Outstanding Comedy for the fifth consecutive time. All the main acting winners — Bryan Cranston, Julianna Margulies, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jim Parsons — have won before. Even Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey couldn’t break in.
Maybe Emmy voters are so confident that this is the Golden Age of Television that they don’t want to do anything to mess it up. And that’s a defensible position. But it didn’t make for a very dynamic show.
Host Seth Meyers didn’t try to artificially amp things up, and that’s okay. He’s a professional, a great writer and teller of jokes, and just generally seems affable. He eschewed shoot-for-the-stars dance numbers and hype.
But watching Billy Crystal‘s lovely tribute to Robin Williams, it was impossible not to miss Williams’ volatility. An electric host coupled with status-quo awards might have made for a perfectly balanced show. This one could have used more surprises.
Also read: Emmys 2014: The Complete Winners List
Sure, it’s August and a Monday. (This was the first August Emmys since 1976.) You can understand why the energy level might have been a little low. And the show was pleasant enough, and cringe-free, with one exception. A bit that revolved around objectifying Sofia Vergara didn’t work, because come on, Emmys: Objectification is the VMAs’ thing.
In the middle of the show, we got a few minutes of comic bliss. During a man-on-the-street segment, Billy Eichner was at his most scary-funny and Meyers at his most deadpan and self-effacingly charming. Someone took the wonderful risk of letting “Weird Al” Yankovic sing the theme songs of the drama nominees, and his performance climaxed in “Game of Thrones” writer George R.R. Martin being delivered a typewriter, as Yankovic implored him to keep writing.
Sarah Silverman raced up the steps after scoring one of the only upsets of the night by beating Meyers, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey, among others, in Outstanding Writing For A Variety Special. Presenters Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele did a great bit of deliberately messy improv. Chris Hardwick delivered lessons in internet trolling.
When “The Colbert Report” won again for Outstanding Variety Series, Jimmy Fallon accepted on Colbert’s behalf, even though Fallon’s “Tonight Show” was one of the shows Colbert’s beat. The two will face off in the 11:35 timeslot next year when Colbert moves to CBS, but anyone looking for a Letterman-Leno feud looks likely to be very disappointed.