TV Review: The Emmy Awards

Emmy Awards TV Review on NBC
Lester Cohen/Wire Image

After an inordinately glum, memorial-filled 2013 awards that “Modern Family” exec producer Steve Levitan only half-jokingly dubbed the “saddest Emmys” ever, the 66th annual Emmy Awards wisely erred on the side of comedy, with Seth Meyers bringing a breezy charm to his hosting role and the planned bits – like audience Q&A, with stars asking the questions – mostly working. Where the evening broke down, alas, was in the awards themselves, which so frequently dredged up familiar faces as to suck much of the vitality out of the festivities, giving this year’s Tuesday-morning quarterbacks plenty about which to gripe.

To be fair, the Emmys have always offered a mix of old and new, and some of the repeat winners have exhibited such consistent excellence (Jim Parsons, Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as to make a case for their continued laurels.

Nevertheless, the parade of repeat winners – and overlooking of projects that injected new blood and excitement into this year’s races – simply flummoxed whatever plans the producers might have had. There was probably no bigger example of that, frankly, than the momentum-busting Emmy haul for the latest season of PBS’ “Sherlock,” which felt slightly deflating, no matter how red-hot Benedict Cumberbatch (an upset winner, and not in attendance) is right now.

For all the talk about TV getting over its inferiority complex vis-à-vis movies, it was also noteworthy how Matthew McConaughey – fresh off his Oscar win – became such a focal point of the evening. At first, all the jokes about his “True Detective” nomination classing up the joint (including a funny bit from Jimmy Kimmel) felt funny, but like most of what transpired on Monday, they came to yield diminishing returns as the night wore on. And when Weird Al Yankovic delivered an Emmy theme medley at the show’s midway point, well, there was a strong sense that no amount of electricity thereafter could reanimate the body.

Not only was the number painful, but it conveyed an impression that those responsible for the show somehow thought (perhaps because of Andy Samberg’s involvement) that this would be perceived as hip or cool.

That’s too bad, since the show did become somewhat livelier at that point, including Ryan Murphy’s poignant acceptance speech for “The Normal Heart,” “Fargo’s” well-deserved best miniseries win, Ricky Gervais’ playful grousing about losing (again) to Jim Parsons, and Stephen Colbert’s acceptance speech – by way of Jimmy Fallon – for the soon-to-be-defunct “The Colbert Report.” (Even illustrating Television Academy Chairman Bruce Rosenblum’s boilerplate with Sofia Vergara on a slow-moving pedestal was clever, if too drawn out before the punchline.)

Given the second-guessing last year’s show endured for its heavy emphasis on necrology, the producers understandably limited those remembrances, despite the heavyweights who were lost. Billy Crystal’s tribute to Robin Williams was heartfelt and moving, and corrected the 2013 gaffe of not including clips to show how brilliant he was.

That segment interrupted the drama categories, which were obviously the night’s centerpiece, if not its salvation in terms of breaks, pardon the expression, over which the producers had no control.

Part of that had to do with the outpouring of adulation directed at “Breaking Bad” – a worthy winner, certainly, but also unleashed a year after a finale that roughly coincided with last year’s Emmy telecast, which made its 2013 victory feel like a valediction at the time.

Then again, those reading the Emmy tea leaves will doubtless see some blowback in all of this, inasmuch as most of the shows that could be accused of category shopping were overlooked for more traditional choices. So while “Modern Family” might be the old black and “Breaking Bad” old news, there’s also no questioning the former’s comedy credentials or the latter’s drama series bona fides.

More practically speaking, NBC’s latest use of the Emmys to showcase a latenight (or really, later-night) host worked out reasonably well. Meyers adopted a minimalist approach to open the show, delivering a straight stand-up routine aimed at the TV-literate crowd – both in the room and at home – that resembled some of the better Oscar intros of years past. Going with a monologue not only played to the host’s strengths but reflected a sense TV has indeed grown up, without requiring inordinate bells and whistles to set the ball rolling.

Meyers’ insider-ish barbs hit just the right targets, from the late-August timing of the awards this year (generally a dead period in the TV calendar) to controversy surrounding the actual voting – joking about comedies that make you laugh, and those that “made you cry, because they were dramas submitted as comedies.”

That all seemed oddly prescient, though, once the winners started getting announced, leaving plenty of room for a follow-up routine lampooning not just the nominations, but this year’s final results, too.


TV Review: The Emmy Awards

(Special; NBC, Mon. Aug. 25, 8 p.m. ET)


Produced by Don Mischer Prods.


Executive producers, Mischer, Charlie Haykel; co-executive producer, Juliane Hare; co-producer, Danette Herman; supervising producer, Eric Cook; director, Glenn Weiss; writers, Alison Agosti, Alex Baze, Bryan Donaldson, Matt Goldich, Peter Grosz, Carol Kolb, Jack Kukoda, Andrew Law, John Lutz, Jon Macks, Seth Meyers, Jennifer Mischer, Chioke Nasor, Conner O’Malley, Josh Patton, Seth Reiss, Amber Ruffin, Pete Schultz, Michael Shoemaker, Ben Warheit, Michelle Wolf; production designer, Keith Raywood; music director, Steve Jordan. 3 HOURS


Host: Seth Meyers

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  1. Paul lane says:

    Where was Orphan Black?

  2. seth meyers says:

    Seth Meyers was un-watchable

  3. I am just glad that we’re done with Breaking Bad taking all the awards. Best drama series this year should have been Game of Thrones. I don’t see any fan reaction reels on YouTube for Breaking Bad.

  4. Naomi says:

    It was boring and predictable

  5. Bob says:

    Does anybody really think the TV audience looked at the nominated programs? Emmy awards should
    be held in a large room for the nominees to attend with Seth telling insider jokes . Most viewers do not
    subscribe to all the channels where the nominated programs originate. Long time ago when there was nothing, but original networks there was an interest. Now , “who cares” except the nominees.

  6. ulyssesmsu says:

    Don’t we know by now that it’s not necessary to avoid placing a preposition at the end of a sentence? That 350-year-old idea was never a “rule” to begin with. It was only a usage opinion. How it managed to capture and control peoples’ English usage practice like it has for so long is one of the world’s enduring mysteries. We don’t have to say ” . . . giving this year’s Tuesday-morning quarterbacks plenty ABOUT WHICH TO GRIPE.” It’s perfectly good English to say ” . . . giving this year’s Tuesday-morning quarterbacks plenty TO GRIPE ABOUT,” which sounds much better and is a perfectly good English sentence. When will someone look at the English we write and realize that it’s perfectly acceptable to put a preposition at the end of a sentence? How long will we continue to be controlled by this unacceptable, dumb-sounding non-rule? How long will we continue to avoid putting prepositions at the ends of sentences? HOW LONG?

  7. BMCC says:

    That was unwatchable. Gave it until Weird Al and then shut off the TV and read a book.

  8. TV101 says:

    Brian Lowry always gives spot on reviews. The show was – fine. I think we need to get over this expectation that it’s going to be AWESOME, over the top so much fun to watch these shows. They just aren’t anymore. I really do not know why they don’t break the three hours up – put 2 on network and the lesser categories start an hour earlier on PBS or something. Didn’t or don’t the Tony’s do that? This award show needs to be 2 hours – stat. And NBC – Monday? Really? There was no other Sunday you could find?

  9. Yolanda says:

    How can I treat seriously awards body that snubs the best performance of the year? That is Tatiana Maslany for “Orphan Black”, her snub still stings. And I agree every year it’s SOSO.

  10. Stephanie Leigh P. says:

    Has “clever” adopted a new meaning? Does it now mean sexist, embarrassing and unbelievably inappropriate in 2014?

  11. Kevin Koziol says:

    is it just me, or was that the most clumsy live tv broadcast ever? The intros and transitions were awkward, the live band could barely be heard in the background and the audio on all the highlight clips was inaudible. Put all this together with the odd and uncomfortable quirkiness of Seth Meyers and it was a show that seemed to limp to the finish line…….

  12. Bill Asher says:

    The show was amateurish farce.

  13. Jimmy Kimmel put Seth Meyers to shame. I didn’t find Meyers’ opening entertaining, merely time killing. Billy Crystal delivered the kind of tribute to Robin Williams just as a friend would, what a mensch in a mensch free world. Sara Bareilles had the thankless job of singing during the tribute and did a lovely job, glad the oversight in introducing her was corrected later with a mention. But it’s a long and boring show after we get our red carpet fix. Thank God for social media or I would never have gotten through it.

  14. Kelly says:

    There is one thing that is 100% predictable at any award show where Julia Roberts is presenting an award: she will always, always, ALWAYS inappropriately make the announcement of the nominees’ names NOT ABOUT THE NOMINEES but about HERSELF. Never fails, absolutely 100% of the time. She never respects the nominees – she always makes it about herself.

    • Viewer says:

      Oh nonsense. Julia’s a Hollywood pro who just likes to have a little fun performing a predictable task. She livens things up…and she ain’t too shabby to look at, either.

      • Chris says:

        That Sofia Vergara bit looked like something Jayne Mansfield would have done at the 1958 Golden Globes. We constantly see articles in Variety about how many talented women are struggling to make inroads in the industry and then this kind of old-fashioned, sexist crap is thrown in their faces. It doesn’t matter that Vergara was in on the joke–she likes her ego stroked–but the fact that it was suggested in the first place is just plain sad.

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