The 2014 Emmys are now in the rear-view mirror, and we can celebrate our favorite shows winning and lick our wounds over our other go-to programs getting the shaft. But as for the awards show itself, this edition had its usual collection of giddy highs and depressing lows. Breaking Bad won (yay!); so did Modern Family (yawn). Some folks proved that a few well-placed digs at their fellow nominees, co-stars and showbiz mucky-mucks can go a long while; host Seth Meyers' monologue, however, merely proved it can go on for a long while. Here are 20 of the best and worst moments from this year's Emmys — the good, the bad and a bit of the WTFugly.
Okay, maybe worst is a bit harsh ‚ but Meyers' opening monologue wasn't exactly the kind of one-two punch that wows over an audience at the Nokia Theater in L.A. or the viewers perched on their couches. It was more like a series of soft love taps, one more gentle than the next. Making fun of the fact that the venerable show was being held on a Monday night this year because of the VMAs and football, the former SNL head writer made MTV-doesn't-play-videos jokes and toothless gags about actors running away from jocks; later, he goofed that the writers couldn't hear him because their seats were so far away (wah-wah-wahhhhh) and took fizzling potshots at NBC and Justin Bieber. Even when he zeroed in on Jim Parsons getting a pay raise, it ended with "And you're worth every penny." Sigh. The whole thing sounded a lot like one of his old "Weekend Update" sketches, only minus the bite. "Jokes are like nominees, they can't all be winners," he said after one line bombed. So true, Seth. So true.
Bring on the Eichner! The host of the genius guerrilla comedy show Billy on the Street did a special edition of his "For a Dollar" quiz with Meyers for the Emmys, and the result was like a shot of adrenaline to the heart. Screaming at passerbys about their favorite talk-show hosts, hitting up people for donations for the cast of The Big Bang Theory and asking people what kind of award they're holding ("A glob-ah-boo…?"), Eichner made us realize that Meyers may have made a better foil than a host.
It wasn't exactly ordering pizzas for the crowd, but Meyers gag involving famous people like Jon Hamm, Melissa McCarthy and Andre Braugher asking dumb questions ("Is this being televised?" "Will my car get towed?" "Can I go to the bathroom?") left us with a single question: Was this really the best your writers could come up with?
"Is that Matthew McConaughey right there? You got so fat since the Oscars!" With that, Jimmy Kimmel tore into the True Detective star with the sharpest wit we'd see all night, claiming he'd sold his TV to buy weed and that he was hogging all the awards-show glories to himself. "All right, all right, all right already! Should we give you the BET award for Male Hip-Hop Artist too, while we're at it?" He ended his rant by telling McConaughey to "get your brother Rooster, grab your bongos and your patchoulie oil and your bong that's shaped like Willie Nelson's boot and go to Burning Man or something." This is what we expect from an Emmys host. Kimmel for 2015!
We knew that following an In Memorium sequence that paid tribute to Lauren Bacall, James Garner and other TV personalities, technicians and actors we'd lost in the past year, that there would be a special segment devoted to Robin Williams. We also knew that, since his friend Billy Crystal was doing this Emmys eulogy, it would be emotional. What might have been to surprising to many of us, however, was how genuinely tasteful, touching and yet totally attuned to Williams' gonzo spirit it would be. "He made us laugh," Crystal opened with, recounting an anecdote about Robin pretending to be a Russian ballplayer ("We have one team: the Reds"). He then choked back tears and said, "It's very hard to talk about him in the past, because he was so present in our lives." The tribute segued into a few brief clips of Williams doing what he did best, ending with a moment from a stand-up special when walked off into the darkness. You could hear a pin drop as the screen faded to black.
Amy Poehler got off the show's first laugh-out-loud funny line when, after being introduced as Beyoncé, she claimed to be presenting the award for "Best Onscreen Orgasm in a Civil War Re-enactment." When she and Seth Meyers teamed up to introduce the True Detective duo as presenters, however, not even their rapport could save the lame attempts at humor. Their "discarded" intros were shrugworthy at best: "Please welcome two men who also have no idea what happened at the end" of their show, and "two gentleman whose names are also menu items at most marijuana dispensaries." They deserve better, the duo would joke after several of their jokes. So did we.
"All right, all right, all right," Harrelson began, taking a jab at McConaughey, and with that the True Detective bros – who, Twitter users astutely noted, were dressed exactly like the leads in Night at the Roxbury – started off one of the most sneakily pointed introductions of the entire night. McConaughey took flack for "being a little greedy" with his Oscar, his Sexiest Man Alive cover and now an Emmy nod; he retorted that Harrelson had "the best legs in the business." But it was when Harrelson stuck the knife in a little deeper that things got a bit too real: "I'm just glad you got all the plagiarized lines," he said, referring to recent accusations that True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto may have lifted aspects of the show directly from novelist Thomas Ligotti. "Was that too much of an inside joke?" McConaughey demured, but the awkwardness was palpable. Fortunately, unless time really is a flat circle, neither actor really had a chance at being asked back to the show anyway. It was reminder, however, that someone needs to get these two another project together stat.
We were already card-carrying members of Team Silverman when, during her red carpet chat with an E! Channel correspondent, the comedian repeatedly felt up her own breasts for comic effect and claimed her handbag was filled with "liquid pot." But when she won the award for Best Variety Special (for her HBO stand-up special We Are Miracles), her opening line had us on the floor: "Thank you to my Jews at CAA, Larry, Moe, Curly…"
Claiming that "the President of Television" had personally asked him to present the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, Colbert said he accepted the honor despite the fact that, for nine years, a true talent had gone unrecognized by the Academy — his imaginary friend, Roscoe. What followed was a painful bit in which The Colbert Show host pretended to talk to someone standing beside him. Was this a riff on Eastwood's chair? Some sort of meta-comment on his blowhard persona? A dessert topping? A floor wax? Regardless, it did not go over well. Thankfully, Colbert would redeem himself later in the show.
Ah, the kiss that launched a thousand erotic Seinfeld fan-fic blogs. While Bryan Cranston and Julia Louis-Dreyfus presented the award for Best Actor in a Comedy, they did a cute bit where Dreyfus pretended not to remember Cranston's recurring role on Seinfeld. "You look so much like the actor who played the dentist that I dated as Elaine," she explained. "That was me," said Cranston, at which Dreyfus laughed and began announcing the nominees. Fortunately he was able to jog her memory when, on the way to accept her award for Best Actress in a Comedy, Dreyfus was intercepted by Cranston and they shared a passionate, handsy and surprisingly prolonged make-out session until presenter Jimmy Fallon brought her up to the stage. "Uh, yeah, yeah. He was on Seinfeld," she admitted when she got to the mic.
Given the stellar year that "Weird Al" has had, it was a no-brainer to have him do something on the awards show. But his medley of TV show themes with new lyrics offered both a giddy comedic highlight and the sort of glitzy musical-number special that awards shows do best (and worst). Mad Men, Scandal, Homeland ("Indigo Montoya grew a beard!" You may start slow-clapping now, Princess Bride fans) — nobody was safe from the Weird One. It was Game of Thrones, however, that got his best lines, as he razzed the show for its high mortality rate and handed George R.R. Martin, sitting in the audience, a typewriter. "Type, George, type as fast as you can! We need more scripts! Write them faster! Write them faster!"
The gorgeous and talented Sofia Vergara introduced chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Bruce Rosenblum at the awards, and things went downhill in a hurry. Rosenblum ushered the actress – herself a four-time Emmy nominee – onto a 360-degree rotating pedestal where she stood very still as Rosenblum explained that it was television's job to "give viewers something compelling to watch." It was painful to behold and blatantly sexist. Vergara herself could only humor the bit so long, finally jumping off and exclaiming, "This is why I stopped doing the car shows!"
No one expected Aaron Paul to go onstage and yell "Emmy, bitches" in his best Pinkmanesque voice when he won the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama series yet again. But the way the actor shouted out his fellow nominees, lamented the fact that he didn't see Bryan Cranston every day and then said, in regards to his character Jesse, "I miss him, I love him," reminded you of just how fucking great Paul was in that role. Then he mentioned not only his wife but implored the audience to check out Kind Campaign (the anti-bullying charity that she co-founded), and it reminded you that he's also a class act. It was great to see him win an Emmy one last time for this character. We just hope he gets that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia cameo he's dying for.
Look, the people who produce and direct awards shows deserve recognition for their ability to endure the chaos, unpredictability and painfully long run-times with professionalism and excellence. Glenn Weiss accepted his award for Best Director of a Variety Show for his work on this year's Tonys from the control room of the Emmys – which he was directing! – in what had to be the most meta moment of the entire night. It was tres awkward, it stopped the show (practically literally), and it was also kind of cool. If only he'd broken into song, maybe he’d be up for the Best Musical Number During an Acceptance Speech for the Tonys During the Emmys' Tony Award next year.
"It took the super powers of Erin Brockovich and the Hulk to get [this movie made]," Ryan Murphy joked, referring to producer/stars Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo finally getting Larry Kramer's landmark play about the early days of the AIDS crisis to the screen. But the Outstanding TV Movie award didn't belong to Murphy, or the actors, or anyone else he mentioned onstage. It was really Kramer's, a frail figure onstage who still commanded a remarkable sense of presence, silent or not. "Become Larry Kramers," he told the people watching. "Find a cause that you will fight for, that you will die for." So many times, you hear people on awards-show stages say these kinds of things. But this was not a pose, the verbal equivalent of a yellow ribbon pinned to a lapel. This time, you believed every word of it.
"Twenty-one times I've been nominated; I've lost 19," the British comedian said, kicking off his presentation of the Outstanding Variety Special award with a small dose of his characteristic digs at showbiz folks. (Our favorite: Claiming Jim Parsons beat him because Gervais had "come a long way, and he's local, so…") He read what would have been his acceptance speech — "Ha ha, I won" — and called Matt Le Blanc "Joey from Friends." The key words here are "small dose" — while his mock-prick act can wear thin over the course of hosting an entire awards show, it was the perfect little nasty amuse bouche in a ceremony that too often seemed flavorless comedy-wise.
It was his fifth (and last) Best Actor in a Drama Series win for his role as Walter White, but versatile guy he is, Cranston's acceptance speech hit all the right notes. "I don't know why I was blessed with such an abundance of good fortune," he said. "I was a kid who always looked for a shortcut. My own family called me Sneaky Pete. My own family." He went on to explain that now he'd finally found his passion, and he intended to do it forever. After lovingly thanking his costars Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn ("Especially those scenes…in bed"), he dedicated his award to "all the Sneaky Petes in the world. Take a chance."
When "True Queen of L.A. Punk Rock" Gwen Stefani read out the winner's name for Best Variety Show, she mispronounced name of The Colbert Show host as "Col-bore." That slight mishap was enough to get fellow nominee Jimmy Fallon (up for The Tonight Show) onstage with Colbert and his writing staff, insisting, "She said it wrong, so there must be a mistake." Gamely playing along, Colbert let Fallon accept for him and started feeding him lines — including an encouragement to say that everybody should claim to be writers for the show. "Just say you're a creative consultant…," Fallon said, before being bleeped; even the Tonight Show host seemed shocked by swearing on TV.
It was perhaps fitting that Jay Leno — he of the sanded-down jokes about award-show running times — would be chosen to present the Best Comedy Series award, given that the preordained winner was the sort of safe humor he'd appreciate. We knew that Modern Family would probably win for the fifth consecutive year, but that didn't make hearing its name called out any less depressing. A show that's just north of passable beating out Silicon Valley, Veep and Orange Is the New Black (never mind that the latter is not a comedy)? It's the death and taxes of Emmys moments, the inevitable thing that no one really welcomes or looks forward to; you just accept it.
True Detective was indeed incredible, if technically a miniseries. Mad Men has one more chance to nab it. But this was Breaking Bad's last year to take home Best Dramatic Series, and call us sentimental, but it was great to see the gang go up that stage again, hear Vince Gilligan's slight drawl and allow us to give it one more round of applause.