Emmys prove awards shows’ descent

GABRIELLE LEITNER, Executive Editor

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The best of the best in television were honored at the 71st Primetime Emmy Awards, held at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday, Sept. 22.

One thing the Emmys proved this year was that awards shows need a host. The Emmys followed the Academy’s decision to go hostless earlier this year after the Kevin Hart controversy.

What worked for the Academy Awards, however, did not work for the Emmys. Actor Thomas Lennon was the closest thing the television program had to a host, providing lazy commentary on each of the winners as they approached the stage. The sound production was poor at best, as the audience would clap as Lennon was trying to pass along a quip.

The big winner of the evening was “Fleabag,” an Amazon Prime Original Series. The British comedy finished its second season and was up against sister program “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which received a heavier ad campaign from streaming platforom Amazon. I was a little shocked to watch this show receive so many awards since I knew so little about it. In some categories that it was nominated in, I was familiar with every  other show except for “Fleabag,” although I fully recognize that the Emmys are based on merit and not on recognition.

I was excited to witness history being made, both with Jharrel Jerome from “When They See Us” being the first Afro-Latinx to win an Emmy for acting and Billy Porter from “Pose” being the first black gay man to win an Emmy. I hear a lot about how “white” awards shows are and the fact that we are still having these “firsts” proves that Hollywood still has a long road ahead in terms of diversifying film and television.

I won’t act like I’ve seen every single film and television show that was nominated, but I will provide a few comments on the people who won who I have seen the work that they have been nominated for.

Variety Talk Series and Writing for a Variety Series: “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver”

John Oliver is one of my favorite late night hosts. I find his centerpiece stories to be intriguing. He can discuss a wide spectrum of topics from political to non-political, and manage to get a 20-minute bit out it. A personal favorite of mine is his segment about multi-level marketing. Both categories were a tough competition, but ultimately, Oliver’s long-form means of storytelling prevailed.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie: Patricia Arquette in “The Act”

Patricia Arquette gave a haunting performance in “The Act,” a miniseries portraying the real-life events that led to the murder of DeeDee Blanchard (Arquette) by her daughter, Gypsy Rose (Joey King, who was also nominated in this category) and her boyfriend (Calum Worthy). Arquette accurately portrays DeeDee as a complex human being, not just a manipulative mother. During her speech,  Arquette gave a shout-out to her late sister and actress, Alexis Arquette, a trans activist who died in 2016 due to HIV-related complications. It was a touching tribute.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Bill Hader in “Barry”

“Barry” is an excellent show. The HBO dark comedy stars Bill Hader as the titular character, a hit man who travels to Los Angeles for a job and stumbles into acting teacher Gene Cousineau’s (Henry Winkler) class and joins. Before I started watching this show, I was hesitant to accept Hader’s dark comedy, especially since prior to this, I primarily knew him from his work on Saturday Night Live. I was pleasantly surprised at Hader’s range and felt he was extremely deserving of this award.

Snubs of the evening

It wouldn’t be an awards show without some snubs. Obviously, even being nominated is a huge honor; however, it was hard to see some people leave without statues — one being NBC’s “The Good Place.” The show was nominated in five categories: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Comedy Series, Writing for a Comedy Series for the episode “Janet(s),” Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media Within a Scripted Program and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. “The Good Place” is one of my favorite shows on television, starring Ted Danson as Michael, Kristen Bell as Eleanor, William Jackson Harper as Chidi, Jameela Jamil as Tahani, Manny Jacinto as Manny and D’Arcy Carden as Janet. I was most surprised at their snub for Writing for a Comedy Series for the episode “Janet(s).” Carden, while playing not-a-robot Janet, also portrays the four human characters as they visit her void. The episode is hilarious and excellently demonstrates Carden’s acting chops.

I was also surprised at the outcome of the results of the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series category. With four out of the seven nominations being for guest appearances on Saturday Night Live, the probability of one of them leaving with a statue was over 50 percent; however, the award went to Luke Kirby for his appearance in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” If I had the power to choose from the SNL nominees, my vote would have gone to Adam Sandler. Don’t get me wrong, I love John Mulaney -— so much. It’s rare for a day to go by where I don’t quote one of his specials or SNL episodes, but Sandler’s tribute to the late Chris Farley is enough to give my vote to him.

The bottom line

Ultimately, I think that as the entertainment industry is changing and as more streaming services and high-budget programing enter Hollywood, awards shows are going to become less prestigious due to the increasing variety consumers and awards shows’ voters are provided. While I thoroughly enjoy watching Hollywood’s finest walk the red carpet, host these special programs, present awards and give inspiring speeches (I’m looking at you, Alex Borstein), I think awards shows are losing the sentiment that they once held.

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