BEST: Andy Samberg's opening musical number
Andy Samberg’s put to words — and to music — what we’ve all been thinking about the TV landscape: that there is so much, too much of it. With a reference to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (hello, underground bunker!), a Les Mis interlude for no reason (but worked anyway, thanks to Will Forte’s Javert), and cameos from Jon Hamm, Kerry Washington, and Nathan Fillion (who gamely poked fun at Castle), this year’s host successfully put on a show while understanding perfectly that the Emmys are celebrating the medium that’s maybe overpopulated and overwhelming — but still, so rewarding to watch.
WORST: Andy Samberg's off-color jokes
Overall, Samberg had a strong showing as the Emmys host, firing off jokes during every appearance on stage and impressively weaving in digital shorts and bits. But the audience often groaned when he attempted an impression of Girls and ventured into heavier topics, including the wage gap (and age gap) and diversity.
BEST: Allison Janney ties Ed Asner, Mary Tyler Moore's Emmys record
Allison Janney’s seventh Emmy win — for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Mom — tied her with Ed Asner and Mary Tyler Moore for the all-time Emmy record for performer wins. All have seven wins, second only to Cloris Leachman, who has eight total Emmys. Janney, beyond making records, also took the chance to sing her acceptance speech, injecting a welcome bit of whimsy early into the show.
WORST: Presenters doing unfunny bits
What was up with those early introductions? Presenters like Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Kimmel spent time hogging the stage with bits that didn’t get the audience to laugh. Of course Gervais posed with an Emmy despite not winning, and of course Kimmel tried to pull off a prank. Neither got the crowd going, and only delayed the show.
BEST: Regina King can't believe she won an Emmy
Look closely at Regina King’s face during her win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie in American Crime, and you’ll see genuine shock and happiness. King did not expect to win — and so when she did, and cheered “yay,” and hugged Taraji P. Henson, and couldn’t stop smiling and thanking everyone she knew, well, it created a memorable Emmy moment.
BEST: Andy Samberg spoofs 'Mad Men' and then delivers a PSA
Samberg did it again with another digital short, this time spoofing the final minutes of Mad Men until it unexpectedly turned into a horror bit when an Emmy struck poor Jim O’Heir (better known as Jerry/Gary/Larry Gergich on Parks and Recreation) in the chest which then turned the whole thing into a PSA about the danger of the Emmys. It called back to the offbeat Lonely Island videos of old.
The only piece missing? Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer, Samberg’s Lonely Island counterparts. (Never mind — it turns out the two of them were standing behind Samberg the whole time. Our fault for missing their appearance!)
WORST: The montage of series finales
Whatever you think of spoilers — that people are too sensitive about them, or that they should be vigorously followed — this montage, celebrating all the series that ended this year, didn’t strike the right chord. Look, the Emmys is the right place to celebrate the end of Dave Letterman’s Late Show run, The Daily Show, and The Colbert Report, as well as the end of dramas like Sons of Anarchy, Parenthood, and Justified, but honoring all of those shows by cobbling together their endings felt, well, dissonant. It was less a celebration of those shows, and more a cacophony of series finales that made little sense. One second, there’s a shocking death; another, and there’s a punchline being delivered by a late-night host. Try harder next time with this idea, Emmys.
BEST: 'Olive Kitteridge,' Frances McDormand dominate the Emmys
With her win for her performance in Olive Kitteridge, all Frances McDormand needs to get that much-coveted EGOT — winning one of each from the Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, Tonys — is a Grammy. But for now, she and the Olive Kitteridge team stood out for taking over much of the middle of the awards night, capped off with a short and sweet speech from McDormand herself. Plus, she poked fun at Samberg, reminding him the project was based off a book. “It started as a book, okay, Andy?” she tells him, calling back to his opening monologue, when he declared that books, well, “suck.”
BEST: The Bluths take home Emmys
The Emmys did not make a huge mistake here, at least when it came to awarding actors who used to portray members of the Bluth family on Arrested Development. (Julia Louis-Dreyfus also won an Emmy, so make that a third former Arrested Development performer to nab a trophy this year.) Tony Hale, a.k.a. Buster Bluth, won Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Veep, while Jeffrey Tambor, a.k.a. George Bluth Sr., won Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for Transparent. If only they had a banner, and could write “Family Love Emmys” on it …
WORST: Mark Burnett poking fun at 'The Amazing Race' — for no reason
The Voice executive producer Mark Burnett celebrated his show’s Outstanding Reality Competition Program Emmy win by… jokingly apologizing to The Amazing Race for taking the award away from them. Sure, it was done in jest, but it didn’t land well — after all, The Amazing Race has now lost the Emmy in that category three times. It’s not like The Voice accomplished a major feat.
WORST: The HBO Now ad, with Andy Samberg's login info
It was a big night for the premium channel — congratulations, Game of Thrones! — and while Samberg giving away his username and password for HBO Now sent people scrambling to the site, the bit was, ultimately, an ad for HBO. At least it gave people a chance to toy with the account’s profile, but it did little else to honor television.
BEST: 'Inside Amy Schumer' wins newly created category Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
Though many predicted Amy Schumer would take home the Emmy for the newly created Outstanding Variety Sketch Series category, her win and subsequent acceptance speech alongside her sister Kim stood out for Schumer’s sincere reaction to winning an Emmy. In fact, Schumer’s acceptance speech was only the first of several memorable ones of the night for a slew of Emmy winners, including…
BEST: Uzo Aduba's heartfelt acceptance speech
Uzo Aduba’s emotional speech for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. The Orange Is the New Black actress had previously won an Emmy for guest starring on the series, but this win in this category brought the waterworks, as she thanked everyone on her team and the show.
WORST: The lame World's Best Boss mug
In theory, a bit involving Samberg with his former Saturday Night Live costar Seth Meyers should work. Not only did they work together on SNL, but Meyers hosted the Emmys last year, and the duo should be able to pull off something like the “World’s Best Boss” bit. In the end, though, Lorne Michaels stayed stiff (as usual) while they kissed up to their former boss, and the minutes spent with the mug felt wasted. The mug also, sadly, served as a reminder that after seven seasons as Dunder Mifflin head honcho Michael Scott on The Office, Steve Carell never won an Emmy for his performance.
BEST: Tatiana Maslany pulls a Helena
Orphan Black fans, Maslany may not have taken home the Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series trophy, but she did have a Helena-like moment, chowing down on a can of beans left behind on the red carpet in a bit with Tony Hale and Andy Samberg, mimicking one of her many clones from the show. (Alison would definitely have disapproved.)
WORST: Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson's awkward interactions on stage
Forget Terrence Howard’s personal issues that circulated in the media this week, his presentation with Empire costar Taraji P. Henson was just plain awkward. The two tried to banter before presenting an award, but ended up only looking off-put on stage. And just to cap things off, Howard kissed Henson on the cheek, leaving her looking a bit shell-shocked.
WORST: No Emmys for Amy Poehler or 'Parks and Recreation'
Oh, Amy. Despite seven seasons leading Parks and Recreation as the inimitable Leslie Knope — and sharing the stage with another Amy (Schumer, that is) early in the evening — Poehler didn’t win that elusive Emmy and neither did Parks and Recreation. As Jane Lynch’s version of the Game of Thrones “mean nun” would say, “Shame!”
BEST: Viola Davis makes history — and gives a candid speech
Sure, Davis didn’t bring on the waterworks while accepting her Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Emmy for How to Get Away With Murder, but she spoke clearly and honestly on the state of television diversity, using her stage time to give a triumphant, powerful speech about how tough it is to win an Emmy when there are no roles written for people of color, and what it means to be recognized alongside nominees like Taraji P. Henson for Empire. And that’s how to get away with giving a memorable Emmys acceptance speech.
BEST: Jon Hamm finally wins
Jon Hamm will certainly remember this time of his life. After all these years riding the carousel of Mad Men and seeing other, just as deserving actors win the stacked field, Hamm finally accepted an Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series. And then he took the stage and accepted the award from his Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt costar, Tina Fey. Not even Don Draper could have conceived of a more perfect Emmys moment for the actor.