There comes a point in time every year when some interaction or social media scrolling will prompt the reaction: “Wait, the Emmys are tonight?” This year that day was September 12. At 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time the academy award show honoring the year’s most notable accomplishments in television aired on NBC. School is back in session and the time to mindlessly binge anything from the trashiest reality television to emotionally devastating dramas is limited. So, if a busy schedule kept you from watching, or you did not even realize they were happening, here’s how your favorite shows stood up to the standards of the academy.
This year the Emmys were hosted by Saturday Night Live star Kenan Thompson who participated in the opening dance number to various television theme songs, delivered such one liners as Zendaya, at 26, being “too old to date Leonardo DiCaprio” and constantly poked fun at Netflix declining subscriber count. One may gather that some main themes of the night were streaming services and the fact that Zendaya was there. Additionally, Thompson did audiences a favor by cutting short the academy representatives by poking fun at the lofty speeches addressing lack of diversity and outlining the selection processes given at other award shows and acknowledging the fact that no one wanted to hear them. (Although, they did still grant precious runtime to Television Academy President Frank Scherma, who referred to the importance of telling stories “different from ours,” an alienating turn of phrase.)
There were many presenters over the course of the night (as many as there were awards in fact) so here are just a few highlights from their bits. Hannah Einbinder was shy and revealed she only presented to get a better view of Zendaya. Jung Ho-yeon and Lee Jung-jae from Netflix’s hit show Squid Game walked onstage while re-enacting ‘red-light, green-light’ with a giant, functional prop doll. Jimmy Kimmel had to be dragged on stage by Will Arnet after losing the Outstanding Variety Talk Series award ten years in a row, and Law and Order stars Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni sprinted on stage to apprehend a masked burglar who stole an Emmy statue.
Taking home the big awards for the night were Ted Lasso for Outstanding Comedy Series, Succession for Outstanding Drama Series, and The White Lotus for so many awards that creator, writer, and director Mike White had to run out from backstage to accept back-to-back awards.
Unfortunately, the night was not all smooth sailing. The venue was unconventional, and its stage was like a runway in the middle of the room, meaning a portion of the audience was in the background of every shot. One of the venue’s core features was screens surrounding the room which were heavily over-utilized. The biggest issue that loomed over the whole night was the fact that the program was consistently behind-schedule. Speeches were awkwardly rushed and the energy was thrown off because everyone was frantically trying to catch up to the original timetable.
Even so, there were some incredible speeches from individual winners that carried the program on their backs to worthwhile viewing. Jennifer Coolidge hilariously and awkwardly shared that an allergic reaction to a lavender bath was inhibiting her speech and later proceeded to protest the music playing her out, opting to dance instead of leaving the stage. Lee Jung-jae became the first Asian to win for Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In his speech, Squid Game director Hwang Dong-hyuk thanked viewers who “opened up the doors for Squid Game” to be at the Emmys. Most notably, first-time Emmy winner Sheryl Lee Ralph reacted to her award for Best Supporting Comedy Actress with tears yet began her acceptance speech with a powerful rendition of Dianne Reeves’ song, ‘Endangered Speeches.’ She finished her speech with a plea to the audience to never give up on their dreams, proclaiming, “I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like, this is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”