20 Best, Worst and WTF Things We Saw at 2015 Emmy Awards - Rolling Stone
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20 Best, Worst and WTF Things We Saw at 2015 Emmy Awards

From Andy Samberg’s musical opening to presenter do’s and don’ts, the cream and crud of last night’s show

Andy Samberg

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The 67th Annual Emmy Awards gave out its statuettes last night, and left us cheering (Veep! Jon Hamm! Andy Samberg's ode to binge-watching!!!) and jeering (Uzo Aduba's name is not that hard to pronounce, Jamie Lee Curtis). There were highs, there were lows, there was history in the making, there was Tracy Morgan's emotional return to the stage — no, really, we must have got some dust in our eyes — and there were the WTF moments that always seem to leave you scratching your head. Here were the 20 best and worst things we saw during last night's broadcast.


Best: The Jubiliant Opening

Andy Samberg kicked off his Emmys hosting debut with an uproarious musical number about the pleasures — and difficulty — of binge-watching in the era of "Peak TV." The bit, which featured cameos from Veep's Timothy Simons, Scandal star Kerry Washington, Jon Hamm, and Castle star Nathan Fillion, began with Samberg locking himself in an underground bunker (which looks suspiciously like the one from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) to catch up on all the shows he’s missed. The bit then somehow morphed into a Les Miserables-inspired sing-off with Samberg's former Saturday Night Live co-star Will Forte, before ending with the host listing every show he could think of, including at least a dozen different ones with "wives" in the name. It was goofy and absurdist in the manner of his Lonely Island/SNL digital shorts yet still totally accessible — and nicely set the tone for the rest of the evening. AP


Lester Cohen/WireImage

Best: Andy Samberg Hosting Like a True TV Fan

He struggled a bit with that opening hoagie joke; ditto his Jackie Robinson diversity crack. But Samberg's banter picked up nicely on relevant water-cooler conversation, from Girls' posterior motor-boating to Jon Snow's fate on Game of Thrones, and even throwaway intros like the one for Viola Davis that referenced Robert Durst ("She’s the star of How to Get Away With Murder and he's the star of how not to") earned a chuckle. The only misfire was his parody of Mad Men's final scene, which started off promisingly enough ("I wonder if anybody noticed I took off for a couple of hours to meditate" is an appropriate send-up of Don Draper's entire concept of a workday), but squandering the premise and turning juvenile. Still, everyone can watch "a buttload of Arliss" for free now, so thanks Khaleesifan3@EmmyHost.com! PR

Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Howard, Emmys

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actors Taraji P. Henson (L) and Terrence Howard speak onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Worst: Bad Presenter Chemistry

Did Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard forgot a punch line somewhere backstage? Were Maggie Gyllenhaal and Live Shrieber sedated, or do they just dislike each other? Does Emma Roberts dislike everyone, and if not, why did she stare icily at the audience while Jamie Lee Curtis grasped for material? Maybe it's preferable to go it alone. John Oliver's contention that the limited-series category was just "an elaborate way to exclude Jeopardy!" left us agreeing that Alex Trebek does have a passive-aggressive tone while Tina Fey’s twist on generic introductions included such fictional characters as, "a baby who made a wish to be an alcoholic president." Who didn't laugh at that? (Emma Roberts, probably.) PR

Jon Hamm, Emmys

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Jon Hamm accepts an award onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Best: Jon Hamm Finally Wins Best Actor in a Drama

After being nominated eight times, Jon Hamm finally won the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama prize for playing iconic tormented ad wizard Don Draper on Mad Men. The win comes after a tough year for the actor, who completed a stint in rehab and split from his longtime partner Jennifer Westfeldt; in his acceptance speech, Hamm said that "there's been a mistake, clearly," and then namechecked his co-stars, his family, and "Cora and Jen" —his dog and Westfeldt herself. His win was long overdue, but if ever there was a season he deserved it for, it was Mad Men's final one. AP

Mad Men


Worst: …But ‘Mad Men’ Was Otherwise Shut Out

The critically acclaimed AMC series ended its seven-season run in May, but it was curiously lacking in both Emmy nominations and wins this time around. Hamm's win was a pleasant surprise, but the drama was completely shut out for its other nominations: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Elisabeth Moss), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Christina Hendricks), and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series (two episodes were nominated, and both lost). Considering that it was Mad Men's final season and that the series went out on a high note, it's surprising that creator Matthew Weiner didn't walk away with more awards (but at least he has four previous Emmys to console him). AP

Viola Davis, Emmys

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actress Viola Davis accepts an award onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Best: Viola Davis’ Passionate, Inspiring Speech

The How to Get Away With Murder star made history tonight, as the first black woman to win the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama category. And in her fierce victory speech, she called out the lack of diversity that's endemic to Hollywood. After quoting Harriet Tubman, she said, "The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there." As her fellow nominee Taraji P. Henson stood and clapped, Davis then namechecked other women of color in the business — Kerry Washington, who was crying in the audience, Gabrielle Union, and more — and then thanked HTGAWM creator Shonda Rhimes as one of the "people who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be black." It was a historic speech to accompany a historic win. AP

Emmys, Jeffrey Tambor

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actor Jeffrey Tambor accepts Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for 'Transparent' onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best: ‘Transparent’ Speeches Fight the Good Fight

Amazon’s freshman comedy Transparent won five of the 11 awards it was nominated for, including Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. In their respective speeches, series creator Jill Soloway and actor Jeffrey Tambor both thanked members of the trans community: Tambor namechecked artists Zachary Drucker and Rhys Ernst, who work as consultants on the series, along with trans actress Van Barnes and activist-educator Jennifer Boylan. And Soloway, whose relationship with her trans parent (whom she calls her Moppa) inspired the series, called for more action in the fight for trans equality. "We don't have a trans tipping point yet," she said. "We have a trans civil rights problem." AP

Jimmy Kimmel, Emmys

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Worst: Jimmy Kimmel’s Long, Long Introduction

Kimmel's bit about the power wielded by the announcer who reads the winner's name dredged up those nasty Marisa Tomei rumors of yore. It was fine, if a little arrogant, to peek beforehand — he really committed to chewing that paper and for not literally gagging on his own gag he deserves some respect. But when it came time to actually announce the winner, he started feeling himself. His quip about a woman never being nominated for the award came off like a bungled Transparent joke and by the time he said Jeffrey Tambor's name, the moment had been so belabored that he sounded almost flippant. When the band is already chomping at the bit to play people off the stage, eating up airtime with self-centered delays is downright rude. PR

Veep, Emmys

Writer/producer Armando Iannucci (C) with cast and crew accept Outstanding Comedy Series award for 'Veep' onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best: Writing and Best Series Wins for ‘Veep,’ ‘Game of Thrones’

It's almost impossible to believe that Veep didn't win this writing award sooner — as in right after the first season, when the phrase "standing here like a fucking meerkat" was uttered by one of the characters. Too bad the show's brilliant creator and cowriter, Armando Iannucci, is stepping down after this season because the fast-paced, acid-tongued dialogue is his trademark. Thrones, meanwhile, succeeded while making significant departures from George R.R. Martin's source material, much to the relief of anyone who was ever threatened with spoilers from a braggy reader/the Internet (though points should be subtracted for adding even more sexual violence to this story). PR


Lester Cohen/WireImage

Best: ‘Olive Kitteridge’ Cleans Up

Bill Murray  was a no-show, but the Kitteridge team made the most of their time onstage and star Frances McDormand gave the most brief, but still affecting, acceptance speech of the night: "We're all here for the power of a story well told. Sometimes that's enough." HBO’s adaptation of Elizabeth Strout's quietly devastating book was, well, equally devastating, and it deserved to sweep its category (Limited Series or Movie). From writer Jane Anderson's enthusiastic, nimble dance to the podium to costar Richard Jenkins' respect for the formidable women behind the project (including director Lisa Cholodenko), each successive score for the four-hour miniseries felt even more deserved than the last. PR

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus accepts an award onstage during the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Worst: So Many Predictable Wins

Not that the Emmys are known for wholeheartedly embracing change, but would it kill the voters to award some new people in certain categories? Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a national treasure, but this is also the fourth year in a row she's won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy award. (We wanted better for you, Amy Poehler.) Ditto Alison Janney, who was nominated twice this year and won once (after being nominated — and winning! — twice in 2014), and The Daily Show, which won its 18th Emmy in a crowded field that included the critically acclaimed Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and Key & Peele. At least we can be grateful that Veep broke Modern Family’s way-too-long winning streak for Outstanding Comedy Series. AP

Mad Men, Emmys

Justina Mintz/AMC

Best: In Memorium for Series We Lost This Year

A tribute to the dearly departed is an inevitable part of most awards ceremonies, but this year the Emmys took the unique opportunity to similarly honor the shows that took their final bow. Given how certain series come to inhabit a place in our lives, nothing could have felt more appropriate. There's the ones that see us through the better part of a decade (Mad Men, Parks and Recreation) or several (The Late Show With David Letterman)…not to mention those without which we are lost for something to hate watch until we end up actually watching (The Newsroom). So many iconic people and programs moved on this year, and fans are left wondering how to fill the void — with other TV shows, most likely. One gripe: Peggy Olson — cigarette dangling, sunglasses on — needed to be in this montage. PR

Daily Show, Emmys

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Worst: Emmys Apparently Make You Shorter?

There was minimal fuss at the Emmys this year, from the mostly economical speeches to the subdued staging. But there was one weird element: the bizarro staging, which made many folks appear much smaller than they probably are. When The Daily Show team ascended the stage to accept its Emmy for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, head writer Elliott Kalan suddenly appeared far tinier than the rest of the group (including the 5'7" Jon Stewart). Was there a slope? Were the people in the back standing on a step? We don’t know, and frankly, it was distracting. AP


LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 20: Actress Niecy Nash attends the 67th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)

Steve Granitz/WireImage

Best: The Generous Number of Nominees

Gone are the days when the Television Academy whittled contenders down to a mere deserving five. The supporting actress in a comedy category, for example, featured no fewer than eight women. Even if the winners tend toward the predictable, it's exciting to see talents like Niecy Nash and child-stardom survivor Gaby Hoffmann acknowledged for fresh performances. Also, this surfeit of greatness totally validates the decision to spend even more time watching TV. Is a year in a bunker even enough? PR

Tracy Morgan, Emmys

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Best: Tracy Morgan’s Emotional Return

More than a year after the tragic car accident that left the Saturday Night Live vet with a traumatic brain injury and other physical injuries (and killed his friend, comic James McNair), Tracy Morgan returned to the Emmys stage to present the final award of the night, for Best Drama Series. "Last year, Jimmy Kimmel said on stage, 'I'll see you next year.' Thanks to my doctors and my beautiful wife, I'm here standing on my own two feet," an emotional Morgan explained, as colleagues like Tina Fey and Jane Krakowski cheered (and cried). But he also cracked some jokes: "It's only recently that I've started to feel like myself again, which means a whole lot of y'all women going to get pregnant at the after-party," he quipped. Good to have you back, Tracy. AP

Ricky Gervais, Emmys

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Worst: Ricky Gervais’ Banal Banter

You can always count on Ricky Gervais to show up at an awards show and make slightly uncomfortable jokes at the audience's — and his own — expense. Which is exactly the problem with the former Golden Globes host: The shtick is starting to feel a little old. This time, Gervais referenced his Emmy losses (he's been nominated a whopping 22 times, but only won twice), demanded, and then, hoisted a real statuette, and exhorted viewers to Tweet photos of him holding it. It was funny, sure, but we'd love to see him do something different next time. AP

Amy Schumer, Emmys

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Best: Ol’ ‘Smokey Eye’ Schumer

Thanking both her sister Kim for keeping her alive and the girl who gave her "this, like, smoky eye" is classic Amy Schumer, though she won't be able to believably pull off the flustered-by-her-success shtick for much longer. It's been a banner year for the comedian, what with Trainwreck and befriending Jennifer Lawrence as well as every other cool woman, and just being so ubiquitous that her humor is never out of earshot. This was a strong category full of deserving candidates, but the late-night landscape is still dominated by white dudes playing duck-duck-goose, so good on the Academy for recognizing one of the two programs here that showcase some diversity. PR

Tatiana Maisley


Worst: That Red Carpet Metal-Detector Skit

Honestly, Tatiana Maslany deserves better. She's so good on Orphan Black, playing more than 10 clones with distinctively different personalities and accents, yet she'll probably always be a dark horse for the Emmy. Her ravenous bean-eating during that D.O.A. deserted red carpet was presumably a riff on Helena, the clone with the worst table manners, but then Tony Hale showed up and it wasn't clear what was happening or if anyone in the audience got the joke to begin with. They can't all be winners, these between-award skits, but still. PR

Jon Stewart

Lester Cohen/WireImage

Best: Those ‘Best Variety Series’ Intros

If someone's going to rattle off a long list of names of people that, for the most part, the audience has never heard of, the least they could do is provide a distraction — which is exactly what The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, and Last Week With John Oliver did. Jon Stewart’s repeated crash to the wrestling mat and Schumer’s Photoshopped Donald Trump photos, complete with his irritating adenoidal voice, were the best of the best. PR

Jamie Lee Curtis, Emmys

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Worst: Jamie Lee Curtis Can’t Prounouce Uzo Aduba’s Name?

While presenting the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama, Jamie Lee Curtis mentioned that she had to ask Orange Is the New Black star Uzo Aduba how to pronounce her name. Which, let's be real, shouldn't be that hard — this tweet below really says it all:

Jamie Lee Curtis

On the bright side, Aduba won for her role as Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren on the Netflix prison drama, and her tearful speech — in which she thanked her sister, who was her date for the evening, profusely — was one of the evening's sweetest. AP

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