Usually when people use the word "highlights" with regard to an awards show, it's to point out the best and brightest moments from an eventful and memorable evening. But when it comes to the Primetime Emmy Awards, the word "highlights" would really only be appropriate if a stagehand discovered a box of old flashlights in the rafters. Is there a more boring awards show on television? At least the Golden Globes are insane and the Oscars invite fewer Modern Family cast members. At this point I would even willingly watch the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards if someone could guarantee that there'd be no Weird Al performances.
What I'm trying to say is, I did not enjoy watching the 2014 Emmys. Not necessarily because they were terrible (though some of the winners were), but because the whole thing was this weird combination of boring and smug and in general made me hate television for three hours straight. That's quite a feat for something designed to celebrate it!
That being said, there certainly WERE highlights, so let's take a positive tack and focus on the best things this broadcast had to offer.
And just so we're clear, this is definitely a factual list, not a rundown of subjective opinions, so don't even bother trying to argue about it because the facts don't lie.
(Obviously not very many of the winners could be considered highlights. Go here to see the list!)
A Vacation for Our Faces
Probably the best thing I can say about Seth Meyers as host is that he didn't put any unnecessary stress on my laugh lines. You know? Moisturizing can only get you so far when you're getting up there in age, and I'd definitely prefer to stave off the skin-wrinkling process that's hastened by too much laughing or enjoyment of life. Guys, I don't know about you, but I'm a lifetime non-fan of Seth Meyers. I think a lot of people are perhaps sexually attracted to him and in their brains that's the same thing as funny, but he has never made me laugh once, his stint on Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update" was a grim era, and his late-night talk show is unwatchable. Again, these are just facts.
Anyway, he brought his particular brand of smugness to the Emmys where he trafficked in tons of zingers about cable TV vs. network TV (have you guys noticed that cable shows win lots of awards?) and how much TV stars get paid and he repeatedly told jokes that were just sort of bummers, as opposed to the more clever, gleeful mockery we've heard from folks like Jimmy Kimmel or Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. But in Meyers' defense, he does tend to have good instincts for collaboration, so the silver lining of his hosting gig was that it yielded a number of very entertaining segments, like the audience Q&A and the Billy on the Street bit. Those were great. Credit where credit's due: Seth Meyers knows the phone numbers of funny people.
These moments were also very chill when it came to my laugh lines:
Oh no, Weird Al. Don't do this. I am a fan of Weird Al, but this was baaaad. Making up lyrics to TV theme songs maybe had potential for laughs, but did you write them on the back of a napkin during your Uber ride over? Also sorry guys, but I'm also not a fan of Andy Samberg either, so the sudden appearance of his Cheshire Cat grin was very unsettling to me. Oh well.
This objectifying of Sofia Vergara creeped out a lot of other people too, right? Like, I think her modern-day Charo persona is pretty charming when she does it unprovoked, but to have a boring non-performer like this Emmy President dude openly coerce her into being a sex object did not strike me as very funny. I honestly felt bad for her. Sofia Vergara has simply come too far since being the stewardess who f*cks everybody on Soul Plane.
Did you miss him? DIDN'T THINK SO.
Meyers had the wisdom to bring this lady out twice, so thank G for that. She is very funny. I realize that Amy Poehler and Tina Fey have real careers and should do more respectable things with their time, but I honestly would not mind if they hosted more things. There's no shame in a part-time job, right? Okay maybe a little shame when it comes to hosting the Emmys, but that's why we'd appreciate it even more.
Louis C.K. Won
This was just a writing award, but I'm glad it was for "So Did the Fat Lady," which was as divisive as it was brave and important and heartfelt and funny. In his speech he immediately thanked his costar from the episode, Sarah Baker, as well as Pamela Adlon, and that made me happy. Do I wish Louie had also won Best Comedy? Probably. And also Best Drama? Probably. But the more awards this guy gets, the more these awards' existence is justified.
Jimmy Kimmel's Stage Banter
Obviously Kimmel was not invited back to host this thing because his show is on a rival network, but just his few minutes onstage proved how much better he is at hosting the Emmys than Meyers is. Like, he used his time to essentially roast Matthew McConaughey for degrading himself by working in TV and it was as cutting as it was good-spirited. But then it went on for SO LONG, and the less amused McConaughey looked, the funnier it got.
Too bad McConaughey was looking so pale, though. He should consider going outside more.
Do you watch Billy on the Street? If you were even considering answering "No," then stop what you're doing and flip over to Fuse (which is a channel) and watch every episode possible. This thing is very amazing, and again, credit to Meyers for recruiting actual funny people to the cause. Here's the whole clip:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus & Brian Cranston's Pre-Planned Bit
I honestly do sort of object to the idea of all the winners doing comedy bits since it implies a certain amount of confidence that they were going to win. Yes, Julia Louis-Dreyfus was a lock for the Emmy (just as she was last year), but in this case her pre-planned bit involved Brian Cranston and overlapped with her actual presenting duties as well. That being said, I DID laugh. It was funny enough when she pretended not to remember that Brian Cranston had once been on Seinfeld (I loved her wordless eye-roll when he mentioned it again later), but then obviously the pay-off came when she took the stage to accept her award and he ran up and kissed her for a long time and then she confirmed that she finally remembered him. So, you know, yeah. That was very amusing. But I was still kinda feeling bad for the other nominees who not only had their hopes dashed, but had to watch the winner enact a pre-rehearsed bit about winning. I dunno. I'm torn, how are you?
I really loved this bit where esteemed actors asked very dumb questions about the Emmy ceremony. Like Melissa McCarthy asking if her car would be towed (and then blaming a surprised-looking Edie Falco for intentionally giving her bad parking advice) or Fred Armisen suggesting that the Emmys should be held every year. I think most of all I just really liked the usher lady's hair, but here's the full video and you should decide for yourself:
Kathy Bates Won
Yep, the racist severed head from American Horror Story won! It's no Angela Bassett victory, but I'll take it. (Also, how terrible was the house band's interpretation of the AHS theme song? I meant to say this earlier but the house band was extremely bad all night, sorry.)
My very favorite thing about any awards show is when the presenters have to deal with technical difficulties. It really shines a light on their abilities to wing it, and in this case Kate Walsh and Scott Bakula realized the 'prompter wasn't working and just immediately resorted to "And the nominees are!" Poor Scott Bakula didn't even make a sound. But good save anyway.
Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey could've stayed up there for two hours for all I care. They are such a charming duo. (Did you love Woody's joke about True Detective's alleged plagiarism? So good.) But yeah they are so funny, they should maybe consider making a comedy together! Oh, whoops.
Jessica Lange Won
Jessica Lange is a national treasure and her win was both deserved and surprising. She seemed genuinely surprised herself, and kept her speech short and gracious because oh, right, she's not actually the characters she plays. Seems like a nice lady, in fact! Man, I can't wait for Freak Show.
Ricky Gervais's "TV Face"
This was how Ricky Gervais reacted when Kimmel cited Gervais as having a "TV face" as opposed to McConaughey's "movie face." Like, I get why people are sick of Ricky Gervais, and sometimes I am too, but the guy is so quick and funny that it's hard to resist his charms sometimes. Later he came out to present an award and pretended to rant about the unfairness of JIm Parsons beating him for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy and proceeded to read the speech he would've read had he won. (It was amusingly hateful toward the other nominees.) Man, again, I know his comedy can be brutal sometimes, but it felt dangerous and knowing in a way that Meyers' comedy tried and failed to be all night.
The Normal Heart Won Something
The Normal Heart lost almost every category to Sherlock, but fortunately it won best TV Movie. The Normal Heart was very good! A lot of people really, really hate Ryan Murphy, and if you are one of them that's between you and your heart. But however you feel about him, he's making some of the most audacious and relevant entertainment out there. No safe choices here. Is all of it successful? Of course not. But I'd rather watch a Ryan Murphy project than a Chuck Lorre project any day. Thus concludes this edition of Let's Unnecessarily Defend Ryan Murphy. (Also I sincerely loved when he commanded young viewers to "become Larry Kramers." So good.)
Sarah Silverman Won
I mean, first of all, yes, of course. Sarah Silverman is terrific. But I loved how sincerely frazzled she seemed during her speech and that she ended it with "We're all just made of molecules and we're hurtling through space right now. Thank you."
Key & Peele in General
This Emmys telecast did feature a number of good comedy people. Credit where credit's due. I'm not sure Key & Peele's "let's improv this" bit really worked, but compared to the parade of failed jokes that preceded and followed it, just the presence of Key & Peele constituted a major success.
Haha somebody was still a little hungover from the VMAs, I see.
I liked that Jimmy Fallon used Gwen Stefani's mispronunciation to pretend to claim the Emmy for himself, and that Stephen Colbert was so used to winning that he didn't mind ceding the spotlight for a little while. A fun, impromptu moment in an otherwise unsurprising turn of events.
The In Memoriam Montage
Lotta greats made the giant leap this year. Obviously the prestigious final slot went to Robin Williams, and here's Billy Crystal's lovely tribute to his fallen friend:
Cary Joji Fukunaga's Sweet Ponytail
Those of us who follow the film world closely already knew that True Detective's Cary Fukunaga is one of cinema's most bodacious hunks, but what I was NOT prepared to learn was just how amazing his ponytails would be. Those were some sweet ponies, brah. Congratulations, everybody!
Lizzy Caplan's Camera Reaction
At some point the show dispensed with showing clips of the nominees' work and just sort of started shoving the camera in their faces. Here's Lizzy Caplan reacting perfectly during her big moment. Confession: Masters of Sex is all well and good, but I really like it better when Lizzy Caplan does comedy. Now you know all my secrets.
Julia Roberts Was Perfect
Quick question, was Julia Roberts drunk, or is she just a part-time crazy now? I am going with drunk, but that would be especially impressive considering she must've been drinking during commercial breaks or maybe she snuck in a flask. Anyway, she did a great job of making this all about her, stating that "This is horrible" just before opening the envelope and then saying "I apologize to anybody who doesn't hug me in the next 10 seconds." APOLOGY ACCEPTED.
Brian Cranston Was Perfect
Sure, his win for Breaking Bad was not very shocking, but it WAS deserved, and his speech was as classy as they get. (Watch it below, along with Julia Roberts' possibly drunken presenting):
When It Was Over, Everybody RAN Out of There
Finally, in what was maybe the most telling highlight of the night, the second Seth Meyers bid everyone goodnight (in a rushed-for-time kind of way), basically the entire audience jumped to their feet and started streaming out of there. I've seen fire evacuations with less urgency. Maybe everyone had parties to go to, or maybe everyone up and decided to walk en masse into the ocean. Can't be sure. But one thing was clear: Not even attending the Emmys live in person could make them entertaining. Oh well.
... What was your favorite Emmy moment?
... What was the biggest upset?
... How did Seth Meyers do?
... Is it safe to eat cold pasta out of the sink?
AIRED ON 8/25/2014
Season 66 : Episode 1