More than once during Sunday night’s 64th annual Emmy Awards, Jimmy Kimmel welcomed the show back from commercial break by asking the audience inside the Nokia Theater something along the lines of, “Are you hanging in there? Everybody all right?” He meant it as sly commentary on how major awards shows can feel for its participants like a glamorous marathon of nerves and hunger. But the audience watching at home may have also taken his words as a sly commentary on Kimmel himself. Not to put too fine a point on it, but most participants in EW.com’s Emmys live blog weren’t exactly thrilled with the host’s performance — 80 percent gave the host either a C, D, or F. But is all that snark deserved? How much of the evening’s success or failure ultimately fell on Kimmel’s shoulders?
For one, unlike last year’s feast of unexpected first-timers (Peter Dinklage, Margo Martindale, Kyle Chandler, Melissa McCarthy), this year’s Emmys were dominated by predictable, repeat winners, especially, but not exclusively, in the comedy category, which did not exactly make for exciting viewing in the first half of the show. For another, Kimmel did try to put his own particular stamp on the proceedings, including an all-star opening video skit (featuring nominees like Zooey Deschanel, Christina Hendricks, Connie Britton, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus) that felt quite similar to his star-packed skits that run after the Oscars, and an “In Memoriam” tribute to… Jimmy Kimmel. The host’s biggest gambit was an elaborate social media “prank,” in which he asked the viewing audience to tweet that audience “volunteer” Tracy Morgan had passed out, and then had Morgan lie prone on the stage for the rest of the segment. Meanwhile, some of Kimmel’s best one-liners were oddly reserved for his Twitter feed: At the halfway mark, he tweeted, “Stick around for the halftime show with Willie Nelson featuring Pitbull,” and just as the show was about to end, he tweeted, “Just opened a beer using Jon Hamm’s chin!”
As for Kimmel’s on-air gags, it’s ultimately a matter of taste whether you thought they connected or fizzled — EW’s TV critic Ken Tucker certainly enjoyed him, calling Kimmel “well prepared and loose,” and noting that everything Kimmel did other than his Tracy Morgan prank “was well received.” (It likely didn’t help that Morgan’s own shaky health of late — he was hospitalized at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and underwent a kidney transplant in late 2010 — made it all too plausible that he could collapse on live television.)
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