TV fans are eagerly awaiting next weekend’s Emmy Awards, but on Sunday evening, the celebration of the year’s best television kicked off with the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards. It’s a ceremony that primarily honors behind-the-scenes work in TV but also packs in some categories like Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, which became the show’s buzziest award when it went to comedy legend Bob Newhart — his first Emmy win.
The jokes coming from presenters at the Creative Arts Emmys mostly poked fun at the ceremony’s long running time, nearly four hours of almost 90 awards (an edited-down telecast will air on FXX this Saturday), and the behind-the-scenes folks vs. stars dichotomy. “Tonight we honor all the people in television contractually forbidden to make eye-contact with me,” first presenter Joel McHale joked.
It’s a night when the less magazine-covering, less spray-tan-prone of the TV world get to dress up and be recognized for their often-under-the-radar work.
MythBusters co-host Kari Byron told EW before the show, held at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre, “This is the one day a year that we take off the clothes that we worry about whether they’re flammable or not and put on the fancy duds, walk the carpet and be part of this amazing celebration of the creative arts.”
But some were irked by the manner in which winners were honored at the event — namely, the very limited time they each had to get to the stage and give their acceptance speech, while presenters like Gilbert Gottfried and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog rattled off wisecracks for five-plus minutes each.
Producer of the show Spike Jones Jr. (not to be confused with Spike Jonze) stepped onstage before the event began and said, “You have 45 seconds to get from your seat all the way down the aisle, up the steps, and do your acceptance speech. I’m not kidding. Forty-five seconds.”
So several of the winners — including women in floor-length gowns and heels — ran, even sprinted from their seats to the stage before breathlessly delivering a rushed acceptance speech.
One multi-Emmy winner told Deadline, “It’s disrespectful, and it’s offensive to the professionals in this room to treat them like cattle… You can’t find an extra minute for someone who wants to thank people after a huge moment? I believe they need to rethink the whole way this thing works. As it is, it’s a little bit ridiculous.”
We’ll see if the Creative Arts Emmys come to be known as the “sprint to the stage” show. Previously, it’s been memorable for nominees as unbearably hot, as they’ve had to walk the carpet in triple-degree downtown L.A. weather. But this year there was a merciful breeze keeping attendees cool-ish. “This is a cake walk compared to last year,” nominated composer Trevor Morris told EW on the carpet.
Among the varied winners of the night were HBO’s Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra (which won eight awards), YouTube’s The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, the picture editors of How I Met Your Mother, and the stunt coordinators of Revolution. Guest Actor awards went to Newhart for The Big Bang Theory, Melissa Leo for Louie, Dan Bucatinsky for Scandal, and The Good Wife‘s Carrie Preston (her husband, Lost alum Michael Emerson, looked ready to celebrate that win as he entered Nokia Theatre with a flask in hand).
Bucatinsky, who plays journalist and new dad James Novak on Scandal, looked particularly surprised and elated when his name was announced, leaping out of his seat and mouthing “oh my God.” He won in a category that included Michael J. Fox and Harry Hamlin.
The actor-writer-producer has a previous Emmy nomination for producing Web Therapy, but this year was the “first time I’m here as an actor. It’s a huge honor,” he told EW on the carpet. “I can’t quite believe it. I keep pinching myself. So it’s like a Cinderella moment for me.”
The 65th Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards will air on FXX this Saturday, Sept. 21, at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Emmys in 26 other categories will be presented at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, which will air live on CBS Sunday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.