Bryan Cranston walks us through TV history
After a painfully schticky opening sequence involving Homer Simpson and Anthony Anderson, Bryan Cranston strode onto the stage to bring some sanity to the proceedings. Instead of a monologue full of jokes, Cranston instead delivered a stentorian address to the power and impact of television. “Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and through the power of television, 600 million people walked with him,” he began. “Fifty years later, television still transports us to faraway places like Winterfell, the Upside Down, even paradise, and it welcomes us into a family home where we laugh with the Dunphys and we cry with the Pearsons; that’s multiple times. Every. Single. Week. Please, stop making us cry. Television has never been bigger; televisions have never mattered more; and televisions has never been this damn good.” It was a somewhat milquetoast opening, but a fitting tribute to the medium they were celebrating.
Bob Newhart is not dead
Ben Stiller kicked off the evening’s comedy awards with a walk through a wax museum of comedy legends including George Burns and Lucille Ball before he reached a living version of Bob Newhart. The eerie trip through a comedy Madame Tussaud’s was injected with life by Newhart, who mocked Stiller for thinking he was dead before telling him he hated him in Tropic Thunder. The bit could’ve really fell flat, but with his characteristic deadpan humor Newhart made for the first genuinely funny moment of the night.
Alex Borstein's acceptance speech
Alex Borstein kicked off her second acceptance speech for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel with a reference to her lack of underwear, but quickly veered into a more poignant topic. She thanked her parents and grandmother, noting her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. She shared a story of her grandmother’s experiences during the Holocaust, urging all women to follow her example. “Step out of line ladies,” she implored. “My grandmother was in line to be shot into a pit and she stepped out of line and for that I am here.”
Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel prove why this show needs a host
While the Oscars shined without a host, the Emmys were painfully in need of one — a fact hammered home by Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel’s presenting bit calling for justice on behalf of all hosts. “Applebee’s has a host,” Kimmel pointed out, before Colbert added, “You know who the real victims are here? It’s us! Hosting is the only thing we know how to do.” They made the bit even funnier by making a crack about pretending to care about Jason Bateman’s vacation photos, before cutting to the Ozark actor who brought it home with his deadpan looks. This brief interlude, capped off by Amazon’s Alexa presenting the nominees, made us yearn for a monologue from either of these funny guys.
Game of Thrones cast bids the Emmys adieu
This year’s Emmys sought to pay tribute to long-running hit shows that ended their runs this television season and there has perhaps been no bigger show of our current moment than Game of Thrones. So, it was a no-brainer to reunite the cast of the epic fantasy drama on stage at the Emmy Awards. But it was pretty head-scratching that not all of the cast in attendance got to take the stage and they were saddled with clunky, clichéd dialogue about the power of storytelling that felt like it came out of a J.R.R. Tolkien and George R. Martin game of Mad Libs. Much like the maligned ending of the series, this segment fell massively short of expectations.
Ben Whishaw is hungover
Phoebe-Waller Bridge and Bill Hader win at presenting
Most of the presenting bits tonight were painful, but Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bill Hader proved their ability to turn just about anything into comedy gold during their time on stage. With quips like “we are the two finalists for tallest people here” from Waller-Bridge and “a limited series is a TV show that was canceled” from Hader, they had plenty of one-liners up their sleeve that were genuinely funny and showcased their comedic timing to a tee. Can we get these two costarring in something soon? Maybe as a new Nick and Nora Charles in a modern update of The Thin Man?
Jharrel Jerome dedicates win to Exonerated Five
Jharrel Jerome earned one of the biggest cheers of the night for his Outstanding Actor in a Limited Series or Movie win for his performance in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us. But he quickly was surpassed by cheers for the actual Exonerated Five, who were seen on their feet (and some even in tears) cheering on Jerome’s win. :This is for the men that we know as the Exonerated Five — for all of them there,” he proclaimed. The tear-jerking win captured the power of the series and telling these men’s stories in a single moment.
Veep brings the funny
While the Game of Thrones cast reunion fell flat, the Veep moment injected some much needed laughs into the night. After a winning introduction from series guest star Hugh Laurie, where he called Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ portrayal of Selina Meyer, the “single greatest comic performance from anyone I’ve ever seen,” the cast then took the stage led by their titular Veep, who began her speech and then abruptly stopped in true Selina fashion to comment, “I’m sorry, I was told I would be up here alone to celebrate a show that is Veep because that is me. I was the Veep.” The gag delivered even further when after coming back from the nominees’ package, she was standing alone on stage with Tony Hale, who had seemingly cleared the stage for her in one last Gary-esque act.
Michelle Williams makes a powerful statement for equal pay
Williams was a favorite to win for her stellar transformation into Gwen Verdon in FX’s Fosse/Verdon, and her speech was almost as magical as her performance. It was famously revealed that Williams made a scant $1,000 paycheck for All the Money in the World reshoots compared to her costar Mark Wahlberg’s $1.5 million fee. Williams used Gwen Verdon’s role in the series and her experiences on the show to make a powerful statement on behalf of equal pay for women. “I see this as an acknowledgment of what’s possible when a woman is trusted to voice her own needs,” she began, explaining that her requests for more voice lessons, a different wig, false teeth, and more were all honored because her bosses trusted her instincts. “I want to say thank you so much to FX and to Fox 21 Studios for supporting me completely and for paying me equally because they understood that when you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value,” she concluded. “And so the next time a woman, and especially a woman of color — because she stands to make 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white male counterpart — tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her. Because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment and not in spite of it.” Talk about giving them the razzle dazzle!
Billy Porter celebrates love y’all
Billy Porter won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his moving work on FX’s Pose, and the acceptance speech from the red carpet fashion maven did not disappoint. The win puts Porter one away from EGOT status, with just the Oscar required to put him in that rarefied company. “The category is LOVE y’all, love,” he proclaimed as he took to the stage. “I am so overwhelmed and I am so overjoyed to have lived longed enough to see this day. James Baldwin said, ‘It took many years of vomiting up all the filth that I had been taught about myself and halfway believed before I could walk around this earth like I had the right to be here.’ I have the right; you have the right; we all have the right.” Preach, Billy!
Jodie Comer leaves her parents at home
We love it when actors win and are genuinely shocked to find themselves on stage. Jodie Comer, who won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her work on Killing Eve, took home the genuine shock prize of the night with her acceptance speech. How? She admitted to leaving her mom and dad at home in Liverpool, England, because she “didn’t think this was going to be my time.” Villanelle would never.
Peter Dinklage wins his final Game of Thrones Emmy
Dinklage earned his fourth (and final) Emmy for portraying the fierce Tyrion on HBO’s Game of Thrones and celebrated the rare showcase the series has been for him. A win that earned him a standing ovation from the crowd and felt like a farewell victory for the series as well since it was more lively and heartfelt than the acceptance speech for Outstanding Drama Series later in the night. “I count myself so fortunate to be part of a community that is all about tolerance and diversity. No other place could I be standing on a stage like this,” he began, before addressing the show’s creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. “I literally walked through fire and ice for you, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.” Tyrion we’d walk through fire and ice for you, too.
Fleabag wins big
All hail Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Fleabag who had one massive night winning best comedy writing, directing, actress, and series. Waller-Bridge took home gold for both writing and acting, quipping, “I find writing really hard…I’d like to say from the bottom of my heart the reason I do it is this.” She went on to pay tribute to her character, saying, “It’s nice to know a dirty, pervy, angry messed-up woman can make it to the Emmys.” By the time they won Outstanding Comedy Series, she proclaimed, “This is just getting ridiculous” and went on to pay tribute to Andrew Scott for his brilliant performance of “depth and complexity” that she said elevated the second season to award-winning levels (Justice for #HotPriest). Fleabag has made Waller-Bridge a Hollywood darling, and it was a delight to see her and her brilliant series get so much love, particularly when she was so chuffed about the whole situation. Long live messy women (and amazing black jumpsuits) on television.