Neil Patrick Harris Watches TV
When Neil Patrick Harris signs on to host an awards show you expect kick lines and belting and bedazzled tuxedos and a chorus of tap dancers and showgirls and circus acts and razzle and dazzle and, like, fun. Yet the Emmy Awards began on Sunday night with nearly 10 minutes of Neil Patrick Harris sitting and watching TV. Really, he sat in a recliner and watched TV. For roughly eight minutes. It was the peak embodiment of “giving people exactly what they do not want.” He then began his monologue, listing the 17 cameras, 20-something musicians, hundreds of people working backstage, 6,000 people in the audience, and millions of viewers around the world watching the ceremony on TV. If you listened closely, you could hear all those people grunting, “Sing, dammit!” at the same time.
Tina Fey and Poehler Save Him (Duh)
Thankfully, it was Jimmy Kimmel to the rescue. And Jane Lynch to the rescue. And Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien. The four most recent Emmy hosts joined Harris on stage to give him advice on how to improve his act. (Channeling our collective minds, Fallon told him, “You gotta do a song-and-dance thing, like you did at the Tonys. A little tippy tap.”) Just as the bit was getting exhausting, the human personifications of the “giggle,” Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, arrived. “Take your pants off,” heckled Poehler. “And twerk it,” added Fey. “It would be degrading but we would be degrateful,” assured Poehler. Fey confirmed that the duo has been invited back to host this year’s Golden Globes. Will they? Well, I did hold a door open for an elderly woman at Duane Reade a few weekends ago, so I really feel as if karma’s on my side on this one and they’re going to say yes.
Merritt Wever Gives the Best. Speech. Ever.
Right before the show started, an Emmy producer apparently made an announcement asking winners to keep speeches short. He joked there would be consequences for offenders and then showed a clip of Game of Thrones’s Red Wedding. Merritt Wever may have taken the threat too seriously. Scoring a major (major) upset win for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, the Nurse Jackie star stumbled across the stage, gaped at the audience, and uttered—and I don’t want to exaggerate here—the best speech ever given in entertainment awards show history: “Thank you so much. I gotta go, bye.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus Channels Veep’s Brilliance
With so much of the show suffocating in self-congratulation and pretension, the Best Actress in a Comedy category has proved a refreshing delight in recent years, with its nominees seemingly the only ones to remember that, you know, they’re in the business of being entertaining. Two years ago the nominees staged a flash beauty pageant. Last year, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, winning for the first season of Veep, realized after reading the first few lines of her speech that she had “accidentally” swapped” hers with Amy Poehler’s. This year, she won again, bringing Veep co-star (and winner earlier in the night) Tony Hale on stage with her to hold her clutch, just as Hale’s “bag man” Gary would do in the HBO comedy. It was perfect.
Rob Reiner Says Goodbye to Jean Stapleton
Reiner tied having to say goodbye to Jean Stapleton earlier this year to the decision to kill off her character, Edith Bunker, in All in the Family in 1980. “I think all of us who knew Jean felt the way Archie did when he said goodbye to Edith,” he said. “‘You had no right to leave me that way without having one more chance to say ‘I love you.’” Those were the days.
Neil Patrick Harris Gets an Intervention
In a bit that should have opened the show but appeared almost halfway through the ceremony, the How I Met Your Mother cast staged a mock intervention for Neil Patrick’s Harris’s “excessive hosting disorder.” Just as meta as the ho-hum opening, which had nearly as many jabs on Harris’s apparent addiction to hosting awards show, the clip accomplished what the opener could not: landing a laugh. Naming the hosting rehab center the Ryan Seacrest Center for Excessive Hosting was an exceptional stroke of brilliance: “It’s time to take off the bow tie and pick up the phone.”
Anna Gunn Wins a Deserved Emmy (After Some Shrewd Campaigning)
How to win an Emmy. Step 1: Write a New York Times op-ed about how not liking your character is sexist. Step 2: Congrats, you win!
Neil Patrick Harris Finally Sings
Why, oh why, would Neil Patrick Harris wait until the middle of the show to sing? Well, apparently it was because the number was called “The Middle of the Show.” Heh. Thankfully, it was everything we love in a Neil Patrick Harris hosting performance. Cheesy choreography. Lyrics so banal they’re hysterical: “The Emmy Awards are three hours long and now there’s three minutes less to go.” And sheer randomness, in this case in the form of Castle’s Nathan Fillion and comedienne Sarah Silverman joining him for cameos. “We couldn’t wait to be a part of it,” Silverman tells Harris. How’d they get involved? he asks them. “We have great publicists,” she deadpans. Given how popular Harris’s hosting numbers are, she couldn’t be more right.
Diahann Carroll … Rawr.
Diahann Carroll, the first ever African-American Emmy acting nominee, presented with Kerry Washington. “The men are much more beautiful than when I was doing television,” Carroll said. “I don’t know where you came from, but I’m happy to see you.” Get this woman a show. Now.
Jeff Daniels Knows What You’re Thinking
The Ridiculous and Fun Best Choreography Performance
If you’ve ever watched a second of So You Think Can Dance?, the Outstanding Choreography performance was pretty much fan porn. Sure, dancing to the themes of nominated programs was a bit laughable, reminding us of Debbie Allen’s Saving Private Ryan interpretive dance at the Oscars. But it was a trip to see so many alums of the talent search program on the big Emmys stage. After the sad sight barely a half hour earlier of Carrie Underwood bravely singing for a nation getting up to go to the bathroom, the lively performance was a treat.
Edie Falco Pays Tribute to James Gandolfini
All of this year’s extended tributes to dearly departed members of the industry were exceptionally moving—it was beautiful to see Michael J. Fox pay tribute to the incomparable Gary David Goldberg, for example. Edie Falco’s tearful remembrance of Sopranos husband James Gandolfini was particularly gutting: “You all knew James Gandolfini, the actor. I was lucky enough to know Jim, the man. For 10 years as his close colleague and his pretend life partner, and for many more years as his friend, and it is Jim, the man—the very, very dear man—I will miss most of all.”
Michael Douglas Gets Cheeky
Michael Douglas played Liberace in Behind the Candelabra. Matt Damon played Liberace’s longtime lover. Accepting his award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, Douglas told Damon: “You deserve half of this. So … do you want the bottom or the top.” I do not care to explain this joke, if you do not get it.
‘Modern Family’ and ‘Breaking Bad’ Win
Modern Family won, again. Breaking Bad won, finally. The Emmys are over. They were pretty weird. To quote my spirit animal, Merritt Wever, “I gotta go, bye.”