Welcome to Nick Picks, a regular column by Nick Spake. There are countless important questions regarding the current state of cinema and I’m here to answer them.
If you tuned into the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards excepting a ton of jaw dropping surprises, you were likely pretty disappointed. While there were a couple minor upsets here and there, Emmy voters played it safe in one of the duller ceremonies of recent years. The show was generally by the books, repetitive, and severely lacking in excitement, but at least there were some overdue wins. Let’s begin by talking about the most overdue win of them all.
After seven consecutive losses, Jon Hamm FINALLY took home a Best Actor in a Drama Series statue for the last season of Mad Man. This not only marks the first win for Hamm, but the first and only acting victory ever for a Mad Men cast member. Alas, Christina Hendricks never won for playing Joan Harris and Elisabeth Moss never won for playing Peggy Olson. Rather, Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series went to Uzo Aduba for Orange is the New Black and Best Actress in a Drama Series went to Viloa Davis for How to Get Away With Murder.
Both of the latter categories had much stronger candidates. Personally, I would’ve given Best Supporting Actress to Lena Headey for Game of Thrones and Best Actress to either Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black or Taraji P. Henson for Empire. Regardless, Abuba and Davis are solid choices and their wins are both truly historic. Abuba became the first performer since Edward Asner to win an acting Emmy in both the Drama and Comedy categories. #NewEdAsner. Davis became the first African American to ever win the Best Drama Actress award. There were actually a lot of diverse winners this year in terms of race, sexuality, and gender.
As for the rest of the Drama categories, Game of Thrones completely dominated. In addition to winning eight Emmys at the Creative Arts ceremony last week, it took home Best Directing, Best Writing, Best Supporting Actor (Peter Dinklage), and Best Drama Series. At the risk of sounding like a pompous bragger, called it! Aside from becoming the first fantasy/sci-fi series to win the top prize since Lost, Game of Thrones broke the all time record for most Emmys won in a single year. It’s also the second show from HBO to ever win Best Drama, the first being The Sopranos in 2004 and 2007.
Likewise, Sex and the City was the only HBO show that had won Best Comedy Series up until last night when Veep pulled off a victory. The political satire additionally won for Best Comedy Writing, Best Comedy Supporting Actor (Tony Hale), and Best Comedy Actress (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). The only other comedy that came close to giving Veep a run for its money was Amazon’s Transparent, which won Best Comedy Directing and Best Comedy Actor (Jeffrey Tambor). Again, there were vastly superior nominees in the Best Comedy Series lineup like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Silicon Valley, Louie, and Parks and Recreation. Still, Veep and Transparent are relevant shows considering that we may have a woman in the White House soon and transgender people have made huge strides in the past year. Plus, it would’ve been unbearably to see Modern Family win a sixth time.
HBO’s success continued in the Best Limited Series categories where Olive Kitterage won every award, excluding Best Supporting Actress (Regina King for America Crime). Considering how much Olive Kitterage won and how subpar the miniseries was, this is clear evidence that Emmy voters are ballot checking. In what bizarre world is Frances McDormand’s one-note performance better than Maggie Gyllenhaal’s complex portrayal in The Honorable Woman? Who in their right mind honestly thinks that Bill Murray’s five forgettable minutes of screen time compares with Finn Wittrock’s scene-stealing work on American Horror Story: Freak Show? The finest limited series of the year, Over the Garden Wall, wasn’t even in contention. At least that wonderful show won the Best Animated Program, however.
There were a ton of lazy, safe choices overall with Allison Janney winning Best Comedy Supporting Actress again for Mom and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart getting a farewell hug with three more wins. On top of that, did Louis-Dreyfus really need a forth Emmy for her performance on Veep, especially considering that she won yet another Emmy for producing the show? Granted, these aren’t undeserving winners as Janney is hysterical on Mom, Stewart is one of this generation’s greatest comedic forces, and Louis-Dreyfus can do no wrong. Would it kill the Emmy’s to spread the love a little, though? Where’s Amy Poehler’s Emmy already?!
On another note, Amy Schumer took home her first Emmy in the new Variety Sketch Series category. Will she win an Oscar next for Trainwreck? No, but I came dream.
As for host Andy Samberg, he got off to a good start with his opening routine, which poked fun at how there are too many great shows to watch nowadays. He also somehow worked in a bizarrely hilarious Les Misérables reference. It was all downhill from there, though, as his opening monologue bombed big time with one lame joke after another. The only gag that really got a laugh out of me was when Samberg noted that there was a Taxi reunion in the house. He wasn’t talking about the cast of the hit 70’s comedy series, but Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah of that awful 2004 movie. Also, thanks for your HBO Now login info, Andy!
With exception to a couple highlights, none of Samberg’s material on the Emmy stage really worked. That’s largely because Samberg, who can be hilarious, is at his best when doing single-camera material. His SNL Digital Shorts are always fun and he should’ve been nominated for Best Comedy Actor this year for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When Samberg performs in front of a live audience, however, he can have a hard time keeping his audience laughing and an even harder time restraining himself from laughing. He still did infinitely better than Jane Lynch or those five reality show hosts. Samberg was miles behind Neil Patrick Harris, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel, though.
Speaking of Kimmel, he probably had the best bit of the night as he presented the Best Comedy Actor award. Noting that he had the power to give the award to whoever he wanted, Kimmel proceeded to take out of pair of scissors, cut the winner’s name out of the envelope, and ate it. It was some really funny stuff, although Matt LeBlanc didn’t seem too pleased. Aside from Kimmel, the only other standouts were good old Mel Brooks, who presented the Best Comedy Series award, and the recuperated Tracy Morgan, who proved that his funny bone is still functional when he presented the Best Drama Series award.
Ultimately, the Emmys just didn’t take many chances this year. This is evident not only based on the straightforward ceremony, but because of the predicable winners. While there were some deserving and historic victors, it mostly felt like the voters were playing it safe by consistently going with the popular vote. This is likely due to the new Emmy voting system, which doesn’t require voters to watch the submitted episodes. Now they can just check names off based on an honor system. We really need to fix this before next year or else the Emmys are doomed to become as tedious as the Oscars. I have to give the show’s producers props for one thing, though: they actually ended the ceremony on time. (Gasp!)