CBS presents workable Emmys telecast
Sunday’s Emmys had the look and feel of a Golden Globes show.
The actors, producers, directors and writers were seated at tables (presumably with drinks), as they would be at a Golden Globes. There was a sense of spontaneity and informality, comparable to the Golden Globes.
The winners received their awards in a theater-in-the-round setting. It was a simple stage, nothing fancy, and instead of an orchestra, there was a DJ who spun the music and at one point introduced a KIA commercial.
It was a casual Emmys with a small in-person audience in a tent on L.A. Live’s event deck in Los Angeles. There was potential here to do something different from past Emmys, to experiment.
That didn’t happen.
For the most part, the Emmys telecast worked. It didn’t soar, it didn’t fall. It worked. That’s about as much as you can say about the first in-person Emmys show since 2019.
The evening followed the tone set by the host, Cedric the Entertainer, who kept things light. The show’s opening number, which involved actors throughout the audience singing modified lyrics to the late Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” was a mix of rap and melody. The sudden emergence of LL Cool J surprised Kathryn Hahn, the “WandaVision” nominee sitting in front of him.
And it worked.
It wasn’t a night of suspense or upsets. As expected, “The Crown,” Netflix’s take on Queen Elizabeth II’s long reign, won for best dramatic series and picked up Emmys for lead and supporting actors and actresses. Olivia Colman definitely deserved her Emmy for playing the queen with the right amount of finesse. Emmy winner Gillian Anderson of “X-Files” fame was uncanny in her accuracy of playing Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
“Ted Lasso,” Apple+’s sports-themed series, did well, as expected in the comedy category. It won for best comedy and picked up awards for its cast.
The informal approach worked, for the most part. Conan O’Brien, who completed his last season as a talk show host, was heckling a lot when Frank Scherma, the chairman and CEO of the Television Academy, did his best to introduce Debbie Allen, the well-deserving winner of this year’s Governor Award for her outstanding career in dancing, acting, directing, producing, choreography and mentoring.
At first, Mr. O’Brien was funny, but after a while, Mr. Scherma, who at first took it good-naturedly, seemed to grow frustrated. The moment should have belonged entirely to Ms. Allen, but she did get some great time on stage and a well-deserved tribute. It was great that actors, including Michael Douglas, escorted Ms. Allen to the stage and stood with song-and-dance canes on stage to honor her.
Some funny gimmicks during the broadcast worked well. The pre-taped skit of a support group for people who don’t win Emmys was funny and included Jason Alexander and Alyson Hannigan.
As presenters, the “Schitt’s Creek” cast was brilliant in its spoof of the awkwardness of award shows, in which they pretended there were no words on the teleprompter.
Finally, when words did show, star Catherine O’Hara was ecstatic. And star Annie Murphy seemed relieved as well to have a “script.”
But Eugene Levy pointed out repeatedly he had nothing to say, looking at the teleprompter. His son, Dan Levy, got a lot to say, virtually paragraphs.
Then his dad, Eugene: “No lines.”
The contrast was hilarious.
There were some great moments in some of the acceptance speeches. Jean Smart stood out for her graciousness as she accepted the Emmy in comedy for best actress for “Hacks,” and the audience of her peers loved her. Hannah Waddingham was brilliant, funny and enthusiastic when she accepted the Emmy for best supporting actress for “Ted Lasso.”
Jason Sudeikis kept his acceptance speech simple and to the point when he won as lead actor for “Ted Lasso.”
Kate Winslet, a phenomenal actress, gave a great speech as she accepted the Emmy for lead actress in a limited series for “Mare of Easttown.”
The awards show did raise some consciousness about social issues, reminding viewers about the plight of women around the world, particularly those today in Afghanistan, and the need for inclusiveness and diversity.
The memorial segment, photos set to live music, was handled better than it was during the Oscars, although I wish just a little more time could have been given to Ed Asner.
Seth Rogen gave a somewhat funny monologue at the start of the show. But such moments of energy weren’t sustained.
Will this be a show people are talking about? Not really. And it’s clear why ratings keep falling for awards shows.
In the end, this year’s Emmys show didn’t soar. It didn’t fall. It just worked.