TV Review: 2015 Primetime Emmy Awards

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Another Primetime Emmy Awards for the history books! To be perfectly honest, I’m actually fairly pleased with the entire show. A lot of the jokes worked and actually didn’t run overlong, which isn’t something that happens nearly as often as it should. Hell, the entire show ended early. What is this?! An awards ceremony that has its shit together and the people don’t talk forever? Previously thought impossible, but that’s what we just had. As for the winners, we had some pretty surprising picks that actually left a smile on my face. I even set a new personal record for predictions! The show wasn’t flawless, obviously, but when you go into a ceremony expecting a lot of bombs or missed opportunities, it’s nice to not have many complaints.

Let’s break it all down shall we?

The Host

Andy Samberg started off the show with one hilarious musical number. This is a guy who has made his career off crazy internet videos, so seemingly giving him free reign to produce his own content was an incredibly smart move. It got everything going on the right foot. Unfortunately his monologue killed some momentum. He constantly alternated between really solid jokes (the shame nun, suck it books, Uzo Aduba is Ed Asner, Allison Janney is Uzo Aduba as Ed Asner), and some big bombs (hoagie joke felt forced, random politics references, Jackie Robinson bit). Perhaps with a little less time opening the show, Samberg could have done better weeding out his weaker jokes to keep the whole thing tight.

How well that can turn out was proven throughout the night. Once it came time to give awards, Samberg made use of his limited time to deliver great material. He motorboated the butt of the Emmy statue. Gave Lorne Michaels a World’s Best Boss mug with Seth Meyers (that should have gone to Shonda Rhimes). Wished happy birthday to George R. R. Martin. Sang that everyone deserves an Emmy, and then threw one right into Jim O’Heir’s chest. Made us watch Tatiana Maslany and Tony Hale fight over a can of beans. Bottom line, he was easily one of the more consistently funny hosts I’ve seen on an awards show in a very long time.

The Presenters

Presenters were their usual hit or miss. It honestly doesn’t seem like certain actors really tried to make their material work. Case in point, Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson. You could cut that awkward tension with a freaking butter knife. If the chemistry they show on Empire is all an act, then perhaps these two should act whenever they’re together. Otherwise you have “jokes” that go insufferably long. Second to worst? Jane Lynch and Eric Stonestreet. I get the Outstanding Variety Series category is new, and we’ve had a lot of variety shows over the years, but the least you can do is pick jokes from the shows nominated. Stonestreet had the good will to use Saturday Night Live hits, but Lynch’s first joke was “I’m Rick James bitch.” Not only is The Chappelle’s Show not even nominated, it stopped airing new episodes in 2006.

At least these were balanced out by the enjoyable appearances. For once, Ricky Gervais actually wasn’t entirely grating with his typically self-deprecating speech. Taking a model Emmy and getting pictures with it was hilarious. As was Jimmy Kimmel cutting the name off the card and eating it. I also completely agree with Jon Oliver’s statement that Jeopardy! will last well beyond time itself. More of this, less of that, basically.

Modern Family’s Streak Ends…

Finally. After five years of the Academy showering Modern Family with awards, the ABC hit went home empty handed. It does not have the record for winning this category six years in a row. The actors, directors, and writers didn’t have to go up and feign surprise that, once again, they’re going home with a trophy. I get that this show is very funny and has a massive fan base, but it has long since passed the time of constant award recognition. Other people and programs deserve these prizes too.

…To Veep

Technically, it’s not Modern Family, which is great, but Veep winning Outstanding Comedy left me feeling a bit deflated. This show also has received annual nominations and Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her fourth consecutive Emmy. Picking this show very much continues the Academy’s narrow view on comedy. Nearly every winner in this category had won it before, some even last year (Dreyfus, Allison Janney). It honestly feels like in order to win big in this category, you have to either be Modern Family, Veep, or Janney.

Transparent Won Big Too Though

The undeniable brightspot for the Comedy categories was Transparent winning both Lead Actor and Directing. This is a show that has resonated with a lot of people across the country and giving it recognition here is extremely important. Should this show have won the big award too? You can easily make that case. Both Transparent and Veep netted a lead acting and production award each, giving them an important edge over competition. It would’ve been nice to see Transparent win top prize however. With such an important show as this, it feels like a missed opportunity. Perhaps next year.

Parks and Recreation Leaves With Nothing, But Amy Poehler Is Still Amazing

Parks and Recreation left the way it aired: without recognition. This was the year to give the show at least one award and the Academy just didn’t do it. The worst part is Amy Poehler losing Lead Actress. Does Louis-Dreyfus really need to be surprised at her fourth consecutive win? No. Does Poehler deserve to be awarded for one of her best performances of her career? Absolutely. It’s absurd how widely avoided this show was come awards time. At least Poehler had a sense of humor of it all. Louis-Dreyfus may have won, but she didn’t look extra badass with aviators, a hoodie, and multiple gold rings. Poehler will always be the best.

Mad Men Loses and Jon Hamm Wins

In a shocking turn of events, Mad Men didn’t go the way of Breaking Bad with a category sweep. This critically loved show went out almost entirely empty handed. You’d think with a final season a praised as this one, it would get more awards. Clearly that wasn’t the case. At the very least though, Jon Hamm finally got the hardware he deserved. This is after eight Lead Actor nominations. This is one thing the Academy absolutely had to do. If Hamm didn’t get at least one recognition for Don Draper, people would have gone nuts. This was, by and large, the most deserving and well-picked category of the night. You earned that standing ovation Hamm.

Game of Thrones Takes Over

Directing, writing, supporting actor, and drama. I honestly never thought I would see the day where Game of Thrones would take so many categories, even getting the most wins by a single show in one year. The Academy is notorious when it comes to fantasy programs. Not only are they never nominated, they have an even less chance of winning. There’s no way they were giving Tatiana Maslany an Emmy. Peter Dinklage winning a few years back seemed like a one off moment too. Yet here we are. Game of Thrones is officially the best drama, and Dinklage is a two-time winner. Now if only the ladies can get the love…

Viola Davis Makes History

History was made at the Emmy’s this year, though many viewers probably didn’t even realize. Viola Davis is officially the first African-American woman to win the Lead Actress award. It was overwhelmingly deserving, of course. She slays How To Get Away With Murder. Clearly Taraji P. Henson and Kerry Washington knew exactly what was going on too. The former gave a personal standing ovation, and the latter was weeping greatly. Davis rules, and it’s fitting that the Academy has now declared that as fact.

Olive Kitteridge’s Near Perfect Sweep

If it wasn’t for Regina King taking Supporting Actress, Olive Kitteridge would have completely won the entire Limited Series category. Losing only one is impressive in itself though. It takes a truly high quality program to dominate a category, and clearly Olive Kitteridge is one of those. One has to love Frances McDormand’s speech too. Quick, coherent, and poignant. If every speech was like that, the Emmy’s would be an hour shorter.

Variety Series Victory

Creating a separate category for variety shows was one of the smartest moves the Academy ever made. Sure, even though these are all comedies, it’s in a field that the programs can all compete against on an equal level. Inside Amy Schumer definitely would not have won the overall comedy award. Best Variety Series though? Completely different story. I’d say the big winner though is how the writing portion of this segment was announced. Yes the montages were a bit lengthy, but they were all completely original and very funny. Awards shows can go a long way adding some extra spice like this.

Tracy Morgan Returns

The best way to end this segment is easily to talk about one of the best parts of the night. After spending over a year out of the limelight, Tracy Morgan returned to a standing ovation. It was gloriously emotional. The pain this guy has gone through after that horrible accident is unimaginable, and yet despite brain damage, here he is on stage telling jokes like the Morgan we all love. You could just tell the guy was barely keeping it together too. Comedy is his life, and the fact that he can still do it obviously means the world to him. Morgan, we cannot wait to see you make your come back.
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Luke Kalamar is Pop-Break.com’s television editor. Every Saturday afternoon you can read his classic video game column, Remembering the Classics. He covers Game of Thrones, Saturday Night Live and The Walking Dead (amongst others) every week. As for as his career and literary standing goes — take the best parts of Spider-man, Captain America and Luke Skywalker and you will fully understand his origin story.
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