TOSS-UP: Seth Meyers' Monologue
While Meyers got in some solid (if predictable) jokes about the increasing non-network domination of the Emmys and the perplexing choice to move the ceremony to Monday, a monologue in which one of the early jokes is an acknowledgment that the gags are flailing (”Jokes are like nominees: They can’t all be winners”), is going to be an uphill climb. Then again, two of Meyers’ goals were ”no twerking” and ”avoid a trainwreck,” so perhaps he should consider this monologue a mission accomplished?
WINNER: Beyoncé, ummmm, Amy Pueblo, I mean Amy Poehler!
The Parks & Recreation funny lady, and seven-time(!) nominee, may still be Emmy-less, but every time she found herself under the camera’s gaze—from her introduction of the Best Supporting Comedy Actor category (”I’m here to present the award for Best Onscreen Orgasm in a Civil War Reenactment”) to a Seth-and-Amy-on-SNL-style joke-off about True Detective nominees Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson—was unequivocally awesome. Even without her Gal Pal for Life Tina Fey, Poehler owned the night.
LOSERS: Predictable Winners
No shade to Ty Burrell and Jim Parsons, but their Comedy wins for Outstanding Supporting Actor and Outstanding Actor, respectively, were inevitable to the point of disappointing—especially when worthy contenders including critically beloved Louis C.K. (who took home a statuette for his writing on Louie), Girls‘ Adam Driver, and last year’s winner Tony Hale (Veep) were denied a trip to the podium. Credit to Parsons, though, for graciously acknowledging in his acceptance speech, ”There’s no accounting for taste, and it’s through a lot of good fortune that I’m standing up here tonight.”
WINNER: Gail Mancuso
In her second consecutive acceptance speech for directing Modern Family, Mancuso eased her nerves by publicly insisting on unfettered eye contact with Matthew McConaughey. Certainly an unorthodox tactic, but it worked for everyone—even the cameraman that Mancuso directed to ”get out of my way a little bit.”
WINNER: Billy Eichner
The namesake of Billy on the Street may have freaked out random passersby (as is his shtick), but he had audience members howling at intentionally awkward, shouted ”news” announcements (”Yahoo! just picked up 12 new episodes of Community and Hotmail picked up 12 more episodes of Judging Amy”), questions (”DINKLAGE VERSUS PATINKIN?!”), and even his incorrect ID of a woman (not pictured) as a lesbian—though he was on the money when he pegged her as an Orange Is the New Black fan.
LOSER: Seth Meyers, Awards-Show Host
After his so-so monologue, Meyers was consistently upstaged by his contemporaries, including both Jimmys (Kimmel and Fallon), a Fred (Armisen) and an Andy (Samberg), as well as sore loser/two-time Golden Globes host Ricky Gervais and his sour-grapes would-be acceptance speech. Without a doubt, Meyers is a master of the straight-man role, but that acts generally requires a partner to work; as such, he was at his most forgettable while standing on-stage alone. Perhaps Meyers’ many talents are better suited to other venues.
WINNER: Comedy's New Super-Couple
One of the best speeches of the night happened before any actual words were exchanged—only saliva. When five-time Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus earned her third consecutive Outstanding Comedy Actress trophy for Veep (also breaking a record as the first actress to earn three Emmys for three different series), she only made it halfway to the stage before Bryan Cranston grabbed her for a mouthy smooch. It came on the heels of the duo’s presentation of the Outstanding Comedy Actor Award, in which Louis-Dreyfus ostensibly didn’t remember Cranston’s five-episode gig as her Seinfeld boyfriend Tim Whatley. After the kiss, though, the former Elaine Benes confirmed with a gasp, ”Yeah, yeah, he was on Seinfeld.”
TOSS-UP: Jon Hamm
Sure, he’s able to poke fun at himself, but why has this man still not won an Emmy? Fingers crossed for 2015!
LOSER: Stephen Colbert as Stephen Colbert (not to be confused with ''Stephen Colbert'')
Introducing the Outstanding Supporting Actor, Miniseries, Colbert launched into a lengthy joke about his unacknowledged Supporting Actor/Invisible Friend Roscoe. It was strange at best, awkwardly unsuccessful at worst. Not the way to impress audiences curious about what he’ll do on the Late Show in 2015.
WINNERS: Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson
On the one hand, their presentation of the Outstanding Miniseries Actor awards was rambling and a bit uncomfortable (due to a True Detective plagiarism joke). On the other, it was authentically them. The deciding factor? As many Internet-izens pointed out, the Texan twosome seemingly styled themselves in homage to the guys from A Night at the Roxbury. Consider the scales tipped.
LOSER: The Internet
Shortly after Sherlock no-show Martin Freeman (the Outstanding Supporting Actor, Miniseries, winner) wasn’t present to save Colbert’s Roscoe shtick, Benedict Cumberbatch likewise couldn’t be at the Nokia Theatre to accept his Outstanding Leading Actor, Miniseries, trophy for playing Holmes. And the Cumberbabes wept.
WINNER: 'Weird Al' Yankovic
Poking fun at the proliferation of instrumental title themes on TV, the parodist wrote cheeky lyrics that isolated the elements of absurd hilarity about some of the small screen’s most dramatic series, including Mad Men, Scandal, and Game of Thrones. For the Westeros-set favorite, Yankovic even got Andy Samberg to cameo as the late, hated Joffrey Baratheon and author George R.R. Martin to tinkle the keys of a typewriter so that he might finish his series sooner rather than later.
LOSER: Live Comedy at Awards Shows
It’s not unusual toward the end of awards ceremonies for the host to become increasingly scarce due to the ticking clock, and Meyers was no exception. But this trend is also proof that necessary cuts—often on-stage comedy bits by the host—aren’t actually all that essential to the show. More and more, hosts aren’t able to make non-musical, non-pretaped gags work. Between Meyers’ weird audience Q&A segment and a handful of forced presenter introductions (Zooey Deschanel has bangs! Girls is a show about people who bang!), the argument for a hands-on host becomes harder to make with each ceremony.
WINNER: The Normal Heart
Upon The Normal Heart‘s victory in the Outstanding TV Movie category, the audience gave writer/pioneering AIDS activist Larry Kramer a standing ovation. Director Ryan Murphy took the opportunity to deliver an eloquent speech urging audience members to ”become Larry Kramers, to find a cause that you believe in, that you would fight for, that you would die for…. This is for all the hundreds of thousands of artists who have passed from HIV/AIDS since 1981. Your memory and your passion burns on in us.”
WINNER: Sarah Silverman
Anyone who missed Silverman’s pre-show peek into her pot-equipped purse, may not have been in on the joke, but the comedian’s sprint to the stage for Outstanding Writing for her variety special Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles was particularly hilarious for committed watchers, especially when she ended her speech with a line straight out of the bongo-banging McConaughey playbook: ”We’re all just made of molecules, and we’re hurling through space right now.”
TOSS-UP: Key & Peele
Yay to the comedy duo, who boldly eschewed the teleprompter for an intentional flameout that was actually able to make the requisite accounting spiel funny. Boo to Emmy voters for refusing to acknowledge their comic cred with at least a Variety Series nomination.
LOSER: Sofia Vergara
And on the other hand…. The show had already been on for two hours when Vergara attempted to employ her well-worn ”I like being objectified” shtick. Vergara is a comedienne with many assets, but her hot-lady-on-a-revolving-pedestal bit with television Academy president Bruce Rosenblum never had a shot at being funny.
WINNER: Jimmy Fallon
The Outstanding Guest Actor, Comedy, didn’t join fellow category winner Uzo Aduba (Orange Is the New Black) when she presented an award earlier in the evening, but he didn’t miss a beat later in the telecast when he hopped on stage to rib his Outstanding Variety Series competitor Stephen Colbert and presenter Gwen Stefani, who botched the victorious Col-BORT Re-PORT. After insisting, ”She said it wrong, so there must be a mistake,” Fallon was fed a thank-you speech by Colbert himself, including the night’s first (and only) bleep-bomb. It was redemption for Colbert’s bizarre Roscoe gag and further witness to why Fallon has proven himself as such a goofily affable host of The Tonight Show over the past six months. It was also a much-needed boost after a dense hour between the Comedy acting categories and the more exciting end-of-night awards.
WINNER: Aaron Paul
You’ve come a long way since The Price Is Right, baby. And since the Outstanding Supporting Drama Actor didn’t say those two magic words one last time, let’s say it all together: ”YEAH BITCH.”
There really is no winning during the In Memoriam tribute, particularly not with the recent tragic passing of Robin Williams, but—after a reel to Charlie Chaplin’s ”Smile,” sung by Sara Bareilles—Billy Crystal did his friend Robin Williams poignant, beautiful justice. ”It’s very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives. For almost 40 years, he was the brightest star in the comedy galaxy,” Crystal said, mentioning the many comedy stars lost this past year (including Ann B. Davis, Bob Hoskins, and more). He continued, ”Their beautiful light will continue to shine on us forever, and the glow will be so bright, it’ll warm your heart, it’ll make your eyes glisten, and you’ll think to yourself, Robin Williams: What a concept.”
TOSS-UP: Hair We Go Again
Could the man braids sported by True Detective director Cary Joji Fukunaga be the new awards season’s answer to the man bun? Discuss…
WINNER: Bryan ''Sneaky Pete'' Cranston
Just ask, Julia Louis-Dreyfus: Bryan Cranston is a champion among men. He may have been in the night’s most contested category, but the mustachioed man formerly known as Walter White nonetheless took home his fourth and final acting trophy for Breaking Bad. In the process, he delivered yet another perfectly charming acceptance speech, even admitting, ”Even I thought about voting for Matthew [McConaughey].” After crediting Bad creator Vince Gilligan and costar Aaron Paul, he quipped of TV wife and Outstanding Supporting Actress winner Anna Gunn, ”I love you—and especially those scenes in bed.” Cranston, who said he had been nicknamed ”Sneaky Pete” as a child because of his scheming ways, closed with these words: ”I’d like to dedicate this award to all the Sneaky Petes in the world, who thought that maybe settling for mediocrity was safe because it was a good idea—don’t do it. Take a chance, take a risk, find that passion, rekindle it, fall in love all over again. It’s really worth it.”
TOSS-UP: Predictable Winners, Part 2
While Modern Family took its fifth consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, Breaking Bad—which only gained steam at the Emmys in the past few years—took home the Outstanding Drama Series statuette for a second consecutive year and took a well-deserved victory lap for its excellent final season. As Bad showed, that which seems inevitable doesn’t have to be unsatisfying.