The Emmys: Nostalgia, And The Hook

I have a bizarre hangover from watching TV Monday night.

It was an unusually busy time, with two football games, the results from the Iowa caucuses coming in, and the Emmy Awards broadcast on Fox.

So much winning, even more losing.

Switching around, it felt like I was watching a midwinter version of that famous scene in “The Godfather” cutting between his baby’s baptism in the church (“Michael Corleone, do you renounce Satan?”) and a particularly bloody murder-spree that he masterminded.

But l settled on the Emmys, which are normally held in September, but were postponed to Jan. 15 due to the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.

Coming on the heels of the Golden Globes, at which the host Jo Koy famously bombed, and the Critics Choice Awards (which I missed, but heard Chelsea Handler’s, Koy’s ex, was great), this show was emceed by “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson, a confident, warm presence on stage who seemed to charm the audience with his mother/son act.



Yes, his mom, Doris Bowman, who also has the comedian gene, was hired to be the official timer from her seat in the audience. In place of an orchestra playing off the winners whose acceptance speeches went on too long, she held a crude paper clock with arrows (a funny prop) to her chest, pointed at it and yelled them off.  

This was amusing in the beginning, but started to feel invasive and rude, especially during poor Jennifer Coolidge’s acceptance for her much-deserved Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series win for “The White Lotus.” (Which is coming back!)

Coolidge was not as befuddled as she was last year at the Golden Globes, and asserted she was “still dead” according to creator Mike White and thanked “all the evil gays” who were responsible for her murder. I could have watched her for a few more jokes before she got the Mama Doris hook. 

The punishment seemed to have a chilling effect on later speeches, however.

And it turns out the mother/son bit was a not-so-subtle promo for their new Fox guessing game show, “We Are Family,” featuring relatives of celebrities performing.

However, this production did bring an innovation to the acceptance speech space that had nothing to do with interrupting and yelling.  In very clear graphics (and a logo that seemed to borrow from “Superman”),  a tidy little box at the bottom of the screen appeared, filled with the names of people stars would like to thank. It didn’t seem to sync with anyone’s speech, however.

As they did on the other two award shows, “Beef,” “The Bear,” and “Succession” won big.  Those wins were deserved, and tell us something about our dark-ish times, but once again, “Better Call Saul” was robbed.

Since this production marked the 75th anniversary of the Emmys, the meat of production (little “Beef” joke there) was devoted to great TV nostalgia. 

To pay tribute, production designers meticulously recreated the sets of some of the most seminal shows in TV history, which was great, but the pace was so hectic that I would have appreciated taking a minute to point out some of the most iconic items on the sets.

Dr. Melfi’s therapy office in “The Sopranos” was among them, which was unexpected, and with Tony (James Gandolfini) dead, the scene did evoke tears.

The show also brought back some of the actual stars to stand on the sets and introduce award categories.  Little-seen “Ally McBeal” actress Calista Flockhart  looked better than ever, and mention of “the dancing baby”  one of the first memes ever from digital Jurassic days, came as a shock.

Presenter Joan Collins looked her fresh-as-a-daisy “Dynasty” self, a miracle at 90.

But for others who appeared, it felt sad but very human to see the passage of time and faded glory -- as if these stars were turning into wax works in a diorama.

My grumble was with the “I Love Lucy” bit.  Designers recreated the iconic conveyor belt scene with Lucy (played by Tracee Ellis Ross) and Ethel (Natasha Lyonne) in the chocolate factory.

I love them both as performers, but only Ross was in the appropriate two-tone factory-dress costume -- all the better for stuffing chocolates down her chest.  Lyonne stayed in her futuristic metallic gown, but donned Ethel’s hat.  The performers had no papers to wrap the sped-up chocolates in, but they rolled with it, eating and hiding the candies. Even so, the sketch seemed half-hearted.

Still there were many moving moments. The first presenter of the evening was Christina Applegate, who, previously diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, was tenderly helped on stage by Anderson.

She seemed overwhelmed by the standing ovation and continued clapping she received. “Thank you so much. Oh, my God. You’re totally shaming me, with disability, by standing up,” she quipped. “It’s fine! Body not by Ozempic.”

It seemed an effortlessly diverse show, but true representation is never effortless -- and in this case springs from celebrating the very diverse producers, writers and casts of the latest TV content.

Trevor Noah won in his category, which was a nice send-off.  Niecy Nash won for her role in “Dahmer” and brought me to tears with her line, “on behalf of every Black and brown woman who has gone underheard and over-policed...” 

The Board of Governors award went to GLAAD.

“Beef” creator Lee Sun Jin gave a moving acceptance speech, talking about suicidal ideation, and the need for compassion and grace in the world. He later added, “Everything I do is for my three dogs.”

Presenter Peter Dinklage wished Dr. Martin Luther King a happy birthday, and the evening ending with MLK footage. It was very welcome, but I wished it hadn’t been rushed and somewhat abruptly cut off.

Obviously, awards shows can’t be all things to all people, but this one does get points for trying. 

Plus, no one had to renounce Satan, always a relief.

Are you listening, Oscars?

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