As awards ceremonies go, you could hardly ask for a better show than last night’s Emmy Awards telecast. It came in on time; Andy Samberg was funny without being self-indulgent; Scott Auckerman and Lonely Island brought some fresh life to writing that was edgy but not alienating; and the ceremony itself was free of toxicity and bitterness. It was far cry from the kind of mean-spirited comedy that Ricky Gervais brings to awards ceremonies, or the overly conservative approaches of Neil Patrick Harris (outside of the Tonys) or even last year’s host affable Seth Meyers.
It was a quick, high-spirited affair, and even the winners cooperated in giving speeches that were either tearful and engaging, or brief and refreshing (thank you Frances McDormand and Peter Dinklage). Uzo Aduba gave a wonderful speech that was grateful and emotional. Regina King also gave a lovely speech, but it was the reaction of those who didn’t win in her category that was perhaps most notable. They were legitimately stoked for her.
Jeffrey Tambor also gave a heartfelt speech paying tribute to the transgender community, and Jon Hamm — after seven consecutive losses in the best actor category — finally took home an Emmy award. He literally crawled up on stage; he thanked his ex-girlfriend and their dog. It was his first win in sixteen nominations. It almost felt as though a weight had been lifted.
It was also an amazing night for diversity. Half the directing awards went to women. Half the actress awards went to African Americans, while Jon Hamm was the sole representative of tall, handsome cornfed middle-American white dudes in the acting categories.
The only real issue that came up during the ceremony came in the selection of winners, and even there, it wasn’t a matter of undeserving winners, it was a matter of levels of deservedness. Peter Dinklage deserved to win an Emmy, because he always deserves to win an Emmy. It may be that he deserved it a little less than Jonathan Banks and Ben Mendelsohn this year. Likewise, Game of Thrones deserves to win an Emmy every year, but this year, maybe Mad Men and Better Call Saul deserved it a little more. They opened the vote up to everyone in the Academy of Arts and Sciences this year, however, and maybe that meant a show with 15 million weekly viewers took the award over shows with two or three million weekly viewers.
Some were also heartbroken that Amy Poehler didn’t take home an Emmy in her last year of eligibility for Parks and Recreation, meaning that she will join a long list of very deserving people whose characters (Michael Scott, Peggy Olsen, Joan Halloway, Omar Little, Nucky Thompsons, etc.) will never be honored with an Emmy. On the other hand, if you have to lose to anyone, it’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the very best in her field.
In fact, the notion that bothered me the most about reaction to the winners last night was the idea that Veep — which won for Best Comedy — is the new Modern Family, meaning that it’s an automatic win, regardless of its merit. Nothing could be further from the truth. Veep has only gotten better with every passing year. It’s a brilliant comedy, it’s a brilliant political satire, and it’s a brilliant platform for some of the best comedic actors working today. Every week, it puts on a clinic in comedic timing, and it’s the only show so dense with jokes that it each episode needs to be watched twice so you can catch the jokes you missed while you were laughing at the other ones the first time around. Parks is amazing; Louie is amazing (even if it’s not that funny); Silicon Valley is amazing; and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is amazing. Veep is slightly more amazing than the rest.
Still, it’s a good morning after an awards telecast when you don’t wake up grousing about injustices, and instead can appreciate how strong the field is in each category and muse at how difficult it must be for an Emmy voter these days to choose between deserving candidates.
Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that Andre Braugher got robbed.