Sunday night’s 2021 Emmy Awards got off to a flying start – and rarely gave up, leaving last year’s COVID-shellshock ceremony safely in its rearview mirror.
What a difference a year makes.
There were no big surprises; as expected, “Ted Lasso” and “The Crown” have cleaned up (best comedy, best drama, and stars / cost-star of the two, including Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Colman). “WandaVision” did not win, but there is always next year.
Host Cedric the Entertainer led an opening rap song / tribute to the late Biz Markie (“TV, I have what you need”) – signaling that despite COVID protocols, these were s ‘have fun. Tracee Ellis Ross, Billy Porter, Annaleigh Ashford, LL Cool J, Dave Burd, Anthony Anderson and many more have entered the scene. But Rita Wilson? Why?
Cedric’s opening monologue was smart and topical and felt like a (toned down) version of his stand-up number. I liked that, for once, preaching and politics were largely kept at bay. “Hacks” star Jean Smart gave a chic acceptance speech, choking everyone else when she thanked her late husband, Richard Gilliland, who passed away in March. A memorable moment.
The “Schitt’s Creek” gang teleprompter snafu was entertaining (whether real or scripted). There were a few hiccups: the odious director of “The Queen’s Gambit” Scott Frank, who did not want to be silent and ignored his musical signal to leave the stage (twice); Bowen Yang’s “count my steps” shtick; and the bit of “heckling” from Tichina Arnold / Beth Behrs.
But I really liked the clever track “Emmys Group Therapy” (Jason Alexander, Scott Bakula, Alyson Hannigan, Fred Savage, Zooey Deschanel, Dr. Phil). Deschanel: “I didn’t win an Emmy. My generation doesn’t like rewards. We all deserve love and respect… but also, where’s my Emmy called?
“Overall, this was a lively and fun TV show – a rare ‘talker’ in a generally boring and over-the-top genre.
Surprise: Hannah Waddingham for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy.
Not because she doesn’t deserve it (she deserves it), but because I thought she would cancel her compatriot “Ted Lasso” Juno Temple. It would have been nice to see “the other Hannah,” Einbinder, win.
Snob: Ann Dowd
Seriously? Gillian Anderson? For Best Supporting Actress in a Drama? Her parched Margaret Thatcher in “The Crown” sounded constipated – literally. What was that? Ann Dowd, who continues to shine as Aunt Lydia, deserved it.
Surprise: Kaley Cuoco’s “revenge” neon dress.
The “The Flight Attendant” actress, who was nominated tonight for Best Leading Actress in a Comedy Series, shocked on the red carpet and at the awards ceremony for her first appearance without her husband Karl Cook. The 35-year-old actress announced that she had been separating from her husband for three years in early September.
Surprise: will this man be silent!
Scott Frank, the director of “The Queen’s Gambit”, did not shut up and did not find his game music and chatted endlessly. His longer-than-necessary acceptance speech was truly heinous and unwarranted.
Snob: Michael K. Williams
Michael K. Williams should have won the award for best supporting actor in a drama. Not because of his recent death at age 54 (the vote was taken before that, anyway), but because he delivered a finely crafted and nuanced performance in “Lovecraft Country”. The winner Tobias Menzies was fine as Prince Philip – but already enough with “The Crown”.
Surprise: Reggie Watts
Who knew comedian Reggie Watts had such a beautiful announcing voice? It adopts a number of accents in its quirky stand-up number – but this is a first. He showed up at his advertiser’s concert.
Surprise: Olivia Colman for the lead actress in a drama series
She was fine, but my money was on Uzo Aduba for “In Process”. At least they ignored Elisabeth Moss. Enough with all the full-screen close-ups of her smirk in “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
Snob: “The boys”
“The Boys” should have won the Outstanding Drama Series (although it’s more of a dark comedy). It’s the best written and most performed show on television right now – a surreal mix of violence, humor, sex and gore.
Surprise: Josh O’Connor for Best Leading Actor in a Drama Series
He was solid as Prince Charles in “The Crown” and delivered a measured and mature performance. I am surprised, but happy, that they awarded a nominee for the first time.