While positivity signaling shows “Ted Lasso” and “Hacks” traded comedy awards at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards on Sunday night, it was indicative of a past year that has put our souls to the test and put us in the mood for a shared national stripe belly. The mainstream television industry, rocked by the pandemic and steadily losing ground to streaming video, took it as badly as anyone, and the theme of the show – mundane, more or less effective but still too long – seemed to be, “Hey, we all have a job!”
It led to a certain level of spirit in the play – you feel like people are having fun. No president of an academy of the arts, for example, has ever received such a warm welcome as Frank Scherma of the Television Academy when he announced that Debbie Allen was the recipient of the Governor’s Award. But it was an island joy, one that didn’t quite come across the screen. Whether it was the actual vibe or the location and nature of the production, it felt like a very private party. (The unusual prevalence of beeps during acceptances contributed to this effect.)
The ceremony opened not with a skit or production number or monologue from host, Cedric the Entertainer, but with a promotional reel of clips from nominated shows. That self-celebratory vibe continued in an opening number with the commercial chorus “TV, you have what I need,” riffing Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend”, starring what sounded like be every rapper with a regular role on a TV or cable series, plus Rita Wilson.
The show’s producers had said that a live audience of 500 would have plenty of leeway in a tent room at the LA Live complex in Los Angeles. The featureless space – it looked like instead of a B-list fashion show – looked pretty crowded onscreen, and presenter Seth Rogen agreed, crying: “There are way too many of us in. that little room! “
Echoing Jennifer Aniston’s comments earlier in the week, he said he wouldn’t have come if he had known what the social distancing situation would be. It emerged, as the show progressed, that this would be the only contentious moment of the evening, unless you counted the visible irritation of Scott Frank as the producers tried three times to play him. during his marathon of accepting a writing award for “The Queen’s Gambit”. “
There was little in the scripted parts of the ceremony to draw us in. The good times were more improvised. “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” was responsible for a couple, with a reference to Oliver’s false crush on actor Adam Driver being one of the few really funny moments of the evening, and a touching tribute from Oliver to comedian Norm Macdonald, who died five days before the awards show. (Lorne Michaels of “Saturday Night Live” also celebrated Macdonald.)
Kerry Washington, presenting the Supporting Actor in a Drama Series award, paid tribute to ‘Lovecraft Country’ nominee actor Michael K. Williams who passed away on September 6, a happy move given that Tobias Menzies went on to win the award for “The Crown.” Less fortunate was the decision to place the camera on musicians Leon Bridges and Jon Batiste during the memorial segment, which put the footage of several of the winners, including Macdonald and Williams, far in the background.
Some presenters have scored by playing their on-screen characters, such as Jennifer Coolidge of “The White Lotus” and the stars of last year’s winner, “Schitt’s Creek”. But the track “Schitt’s Creek”, involving a fake teleprompter malfunction and Eugene Levy’s fake annoyance of having no lines, went on for too long, which was a common problem. A sketch recorded on a support group for actors who had never won Emmys managed to stay funny until the finish line.
Other skits, like Ken Jeong giving an award outside of the event for forgetting his vaccination card or almost all of the self-promotion skits involving Cedric the Entertainer and his CBS sitcom “The Neighborhood “, just seemed endless.
Time could have been taken from the skits and devoted to the acceptance speeches, which were frequently interrupted by the music of the play-offs, which was just as consistently ignored. It wasn’t clear if the producers were more impatient than usual or if the speeches were longer than usual, but they seemed longer, perhaps because there was a lot more rambling self-righteousness than usual. eloquence or emotion; Jean Smart, Michaela Coel and well-deserved surprise winner Ewan McGregor were notable exceptions.
The sleek awards ceremonies of the past two years have been an understandable response to the pandemic. But it’ll be good when we’re done celebrating survival and come back to doing shows.