There were some head-scratching surprises. Few saw Jason Bateman winning Directing for a Drama Series for “Ozark” or “Bandersnatch” winning TV Movie over “Deadwood: The Movie,” but for the most part the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards only thrived on the euphoric surprises such as “Killing Eve’s” Jodi Comer and all those “Fleabag” wins and some truly eloquent acceptance speeches.
It’s helpful to take a step back and realize it could have been a much worse production. Especially after the opening bit with an animated Homer Simpson and a stressed-out Anthony Anderson could have easily been discarded. Luckily, Bryan Cranston got things back on track, but it often felt like an Emmy telecast that couldn’t get out of the way of itself. Throw in a gigantic digital background that felt smaller than it should have in the Microsoft Theater and, from a production standpoint, the show seemed, for lack of a better description, half-assed.
Keeping all that in mind, here are some of the best and the worst aspects of this year’s Emmy telecast.
Worst: Tik Tok
The bit with Ken Jeong creating a Tik Tok video with the audience was incredibly awkward. Was it a product placement the producers thought would be a fun bit? Was it actually just meant as a fun interactive bit? Clearly Jeong realized it bombed completely because he started joking about the future of his career at the end. Award shows have been trying to recapture Ellen’s selfie moment since 2014. This proved the concept might truly be dead.
— kadija (@s0phietrnr) September 23, 2019
Best: Alex Borstein
The “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star, who won Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for the second year in a row, started her acceptance speech by making a self-deprecating comment about wearing a bra this year, but quickly turned to an uplifting personal story she had not shared on an awards stage before. She dedicated the award to her mother and her grandmother, both of whom are immigrants and Holocaust survivors. “My grandmother turned to a guard. She was in line to be shot in a pit and said, ‘What happens if I step out of line?’ He said, ‘I don’t have the heart to shoot you, but somebody will’ and she stepped out of line. For that I am here and for that my children are here. Step out of line ladies, step out of line.”
"I dedicate this to the strength of a woman." #MrsMaisel star Alex Borstein (@AlexBorstein) dedicates her #Emmys win for best supporting actress in a comedy to the women in her life – including her grandmother who survived the Holocaust https://t.co/WmT1Fmyol4 pic.twitter.com/GQfUR41UL5
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) September 23, 2019
Best: Phoebe Waller-Bridge and the wonderous night for “Fleabag”
We should have known it was going to be a big night for Amazon Prime and BBC’s “Fleabag” when almost every single person on the purple carpet seemed to mention it. Not only did Waller-Bridge take the Comedy Writing Emmy, but Oustanding Actress in a Comedy and the show stunned by taking Outstanding Comedy. While accepting the Writing honor, Bridge held up the Emmy and joked “The reason why I do this is this” and added, that even a “dirty, pervy woman can make it to the Emmys.” Throw in the fact that the show’s directing winner, Harry Bradbeer, had one of the lines of the night after forgetting to thank his wife during his acceptance speech (“We’ve had a very difficult hour”) and it was one for the history books.
Worst: Felicity Huffman Joke (aka Thomas Lennon’s horrible commentary)
Having Thomas Lennon provide commentary for the Emmys was one of the producers most short-sighted decisions. We should have known it was going to be a disaster when early in the show he noted, “The producers have asked me to give a shout out to any of our previous lead actress winners who are watching from prison. Hopefully, those two weeks are gonna fly right by.” Yikes. Lennon kept bombing through the night trying to give jokes and terrible statistics during some of the more moving or surprising wins of the telecast. At one point he realized it wasn’t going well (perhaps he checked on twitter), but no one figured out the best solution was to pull the plug.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) September 23, 2019
Worst: No host
FOX has a dearth of major talent that could host an award show at the moment with their rotation on deck the network decided to take a page from the Oscars this past February and proceed without an emcee. The difference, of course, was that the Academy Awards were forced into that scenario because of Kevin Hart dropping out with little time to spare. With more star power including the likes of Lady Gaga, the “Avengers” cast and some blockbuster nominated hits ratings increased enough for everyone to overreact and call it a massive success. That will likely not be the case here. Sure, the show ended right on time, but it was only a compelling watch thanks to so many impressive acceptance speeches and some genuine drama at the end over the Comedy Series win. At one point, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert appeared on stage as presenters and mocked how the decision was affecting their livelihoods. The truth is they were a reminder it would have been a much better show if their respective networks, ABC and CBS, had aired it this time around.
Worst: So many “Masked Singer” tie ins
Emmy Award shows have historically been used by the hosting network to help promote their upcoming or current series. FOX didn’t go too overboard on the presenter front, but dear god did they make us detest the “Masked Singer.” Hired guns wearing the costumes for season two of the breakout hit were everywhere. The red carpet, the Variety Series musical number and even the mandatory acknowledgment of the accountants moment. Considering every other commercial break seemed to include some sort of “Masked Singer” promo spot (especially if you were watching on streaming) it was simply way, way too much.
Best: Kardashians walk into one
Nothing is funnier than when someone ends up mocking themselves without knowing it whatsoever. And for Kim Kardashian and Kendall Jenner that came while presenting the Outstanding Reality-Competition Emmy to “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” In a clear best for the audience – and perhaps some shades from the copywriters – Kardashian noted: “our family knows first hand how truly compelling TV comes from real people just being themselves.” This caused a wave of laughter from the audience and a stone-faced response from the two sisters. “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” made both women household names, but the fact so much of the show’s “storylines” are concocted by producers (or the family) isn’t lost on anyone. Well, maybe almost everyone.
Worst: Adam Devine
Somehow the current “The Righteous Gemstones” star is somehow overexposed. Every time he shows up on an awards show or event you sort of know it’s not gonna be good. Devine was the star of a musical number celebrating variety shows that only found Samantha Bee, who had a short cameo, escaping with her dignity intact. Devine gives it all every time he gets a chance to get in front of the camera, but maybe he should start saying no to some of these opportunities?
Worst: Spoiler Alert?
Is there some irony that a show produced by the Television Academy not only gave away one major spoiler from the last season of “Game of Thrones,” but the other major shocking moment as well? Granted, the final seasons of “GoT” were watched by millions and clips of these moments were all over social media. Still, while the telecast surely wanted some sizzle why would they include these scenes in their montages? There are still millions of viewers HBO, at least, hopes will watch these episodes in the future. Odd.
Best: Strong comedy presenter pairings
From Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Bill Hader (“That’s on you you Dannemora”) to Amy Poehler and Catherine O’Hara or Maya Rudolph and Ike Barinholtz misreading the teleprompter due to afternoon Lasik surgery to Kristen Bell and Don Cheadle mocking the fact the latter was now a nine-time Emmy loser, the best thing the show’s producers did all night was come up with some very smart comedy presenter duos. Instead of having Poehler and Rudolph present together, as they have numerous times previously to great effect, they put them with other strong performers to spread the wealth a bit. And, for a show that needed any comedic energy to feel like a compelling watch at times, it worked.
— AmigoZ ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) (@acgamigo) September 23, 2019
Best: Jharrel Jerome
After Jerome won his Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie Emmy the “When They See Us” star reappeared to present another honor with one of the smoothest walks of the night. But it was his acceptance speech that had the Microsoft Theater audience on their feet and literally screaming for joy. The 21-year-old thanked his family first and then noted with incredible enthusiasm, “This is for the men we know as the exonerated five. This is for Raymond, Yusef, Antron, Kevin and King Korey Wise!” It was quite a moment.
— Variety (@Variety) September 23, 2019
Best: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
She might not have won a record number of acting Emmys this year, but Louis-Dreyfus still brought it when the cast, er, her co-stars from “Veep” was highlighted during the telecast. “I’m sorry I thought I was going to be up here alone,” she deadpanned. “A chance to share the stage with this incredible cast. My co-stars. It sounds like a cliche, but over these last eight years these people have become like family to me.” She then refers to Timothy Simons as “Jonah,” his character’s name, with a straight face which was the perfect reminder of the brilliance of her Selina Meyer character. Plus, six acting Emmys overall for “Veep” ain’t bad either.
Best: Michelle Williams on equal pay
Many viewers were thrilled that the Williams beat out a very competitive field to add an Emmy to place next to her Globe and Spirit Award, but the “Fosse/Verdon” star wanted to make sure they took something away from her acceptance speech. Williams spoke strongly about the disparity for not only women in the workplace, but women of color. Williams remarked, “The next time a woman, 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 in 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.” Amen.
'I see this as an acknowledgement of what is possible when a woman is trusted to discern her own needs… and respected enough that they'll be heard.' — Michelle Williams highlighted the importance of equal pay for ALL women in her #Emmys acceptance speech pic.twitter.com/rON0VGEWhn
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) September 23, 2019
Best: Billy Porter
Just the fact Porter became the first openly gay black man to win Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series would be enough to put his achievement in “The category is: Love, y’all! Love!” He then quoted James Baldwin and noted: “I have the right, you have the right, we all have the right” [to walk on this earth]. It wasn’t just a joyous speech, but a joy to watch.
— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) September 23, 2019