Jane Lynch knocked her Emmy hosting duties out of the ballpark, IMHO. Wisely limiting the screen time of her crabby alter ego, Sue Sylvester, to one brief outburst during the opening number, Lynch instead consistently kept the evening’s energy up, and was gamely as willing to look the fool herself as she was prepared to skewer others.
I’m trying to think of anyone else who better represents the current state of TV. There really isn’t. A matter-of-factly openly gay actress, Lynch can be bitingly sardonic about show business, but clearly loves it, and was born to entertain. She’s perfect, really, to host a night of shameless Hollywood self-congratulation such as this one. Dare I say, she could easily tackle the Oscars and come out on top.
Let’s run down some of her biggest moments.
In the requisite opening musical number—a surreal concept that put every TV show in one tenement apartment building, Rear Window-style—Lynch proudly announced at the top, “I’m lip-synching!” It was a line that smartly set the tone of things to come—imperfect and proud of it. Was the song good? Not really, but there were some great lines and gags in it that took some gentle finger-jabs at the ribs of the shows they’d soon be celebrating. I liked the part when Jane walked onto The Big Bang Theory set and got drunk on laugh-track love. But my favorite moment of all was when she came to the Mad Men set as a Ghost of TV Future. Seeing Roger Sterling hold up a phone receiver to his eyes like a pair of goggles to “watch TV on his phone” was laugh-out-loud funny.
Then, just when it started to feel long, Jane sang a lyric that acknowledged that fact... and that she didn’t care. The aforementioned Sue Sylvester appearance happened (“TV’s a vast wasteland where good ideas go to die, and mediocre ones make zillions of dollars.” Ouch!), but then Jane came out to get the party started again. (Note to Ringer: You know your special effects are bad when an Emmys bit put them to shame.)
When Jane finally did take the stage, in a metallic-silver dress that was meant to play to the farthest row of the vast Nokia Theatre, she seemed relaxed and “on,” as they say. Her head-nodding/finger-guns bit, which skewered the way celebrities all somehow know each other, worked nicely. She then took an easy jab at Tom Cruise, which established that her performance had teeth. But she did so smartly, as she never made mention of Scientology. She just said she was scared of him—and everyone knew what that meant.
Jane’s sexuality produced a few off-hand one-liners that played nicely. She skewered the idea of a "gay agenda," a favorite term of the paranoid Far Right, by saying it meant that she had to "call Rachel Maddow and find out what time spinning is...[and] take the pick-up in for an oil change." Later in the show, she said: "A lot of people are very curious why I am a lesbian. Ladies and gentlemen, the cast of Entourage!" Hilarious.
Her second pre-taped set piece involved Jane playing den mother to the Jersey Shore gang. As Donatella, her New Jersey alter-ego, she explained how she single-handedly got her home state on the Hollywood map. Hugging Snooki (who really is a disgusting shade of naugahyde these days), she whispered: "You're one of my chosen ones." Nothing great, but it certainly didn’t flop.
Lynch had one great line, after Ricky Gervais’s funny pre-taped bit, in which the gag was that it had been heavily edited by network censors. Right before she announced the winner for Outstanding Direction of a Comedy Series, Lynch said, “Poor little Ricky Gervais. Somebody didn’t get enough hugs from mommy and somehow it’s Hollywood’s fault.” Was she being serious? Or was she just giving Ricky some of his own medicine? I wasn’t sure, as Gervais seems to legitimately piss people off and delight them in equal measures. But the fact that I wasn’t sure is a perfect example of what made Lynch so great as a host. Like the rest of her performance, the line was funny, smart, completely unexpected, and had bite. The fact that she walked away from it all completely unscathed means that what we’re dealing with here is a real pro.