Andy Samberg's Emmys Prove a Warm, Winning Show
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this year's Emmy Awards was that it was hard to find much of anything in the show to gripe about. Honestly can't remember when I've felt that way about an Emmy broadcast, typically one of the clunkiest nights of any TV year.
Andy Samberg proved to be a warm, winning, funny and charming host who got the live telecast off to a great start with his filmed "I done watched every damn show" musical crowd-pleaser, an inspired take on the "too much TV" issue. The monologue that followed suffered a bit by comparison, though we did get that moment with Jane Lynch as the "mean nun from [the Emmy-winning episode of] Game of Thrones"—crying "Shame! Shame!"—and Samberg's response to Paula Deen's controversial casting on Dancing With the Stars: "If I wanted to see an intolerant lady dance, I would have gone to one of Kim Davis's four weddings."
The montage of series farewells later in the show seemed redundant once Samberg had delivered this zinger: "We also said goodbye to True Detective, even though it's still on the air." A bold joke given what a triumphant night it was otherwise for HBO, which won for comedy (Veep, finally derailing Modern Family), drama (Game of Thrones, whose surprising roll on George R.R. Martin's 67th birthday kept Mad Men from taking one last victory lap for its uneven final year), and limited series (Olive Kitteridge, which picked up six awards during the limited series/movie portion of the night, as usual the segment where you could really feel attention drifting).
HBO also had taken home the TV-movie prize (Bessie) the week before at the Creative Arts ceremony, and it would have been pretty much a clean sweep for the network if Last Week Tonight With John Oliver had won the Variety Talk category. No complaints, though, that this field was dominated by the final run of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. (And Oliver did enjoy one of the night's most memorable presenter moments, breaking down the very idea of a "limited series" by going on a Jeopardy! rant: "The last sound emitted from Earth will be a [Alex] Trebek sigh." Hilarious.)
No Emmy show is perfect, but we can even forgive Samberg's dud routine with Seth Meyers declaring Lorne Michaels "World's Best Boss," because Samberg actually got the show off on time.
Of course, it helps that the winners generated plenty of excitement and some actual Emmy history, especially as it reflected a year of great diversity on TV. Starting with Regina King's pleasant-surprise win as supporting actress in a limited series for ABC's American Crime, Uzo Aduba repeating for Orange Is the New Black (moving from guest comedy winner last year to supporting drama actress) and peaking with Viola Davis's emotional and historic win as the first African-American lead drama actress for How to Get Away With Murder. With fellow nominee Taraji P. Henson (Empire) applauding from the audience, Davis began her powerful acceptance speech by quoting Harriet Tubman, then thanked the writers and producers "who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black." And here's a line everyone in the industry can take to heart: "You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there." Amazing.
Also groundbreaking: Jeffrey Tambor's comedy actor win, after a distinguished career of character acting, as the transgender parent in Amazon's sublime Transparent (which also won for comedy directing).
Just as satisfying in its own way was Jon Hamm's long-overdue win for playing the iconic Don Draper after seven seasons on Mad Men, incredibly the only actor from this magnificent ensemble ever to win an Emmy. Crawling onto the stage, reminding us he's as great a clown as he is a matinee idol, Hamm gave a speech notable for its hushed humility.
The Game of Thrones team seemed just as shell-shocked to be rewarded for writing and directing as well as taking home the big prize. Well-deserved, though, given that this was the season when the series, despite blowback over some of its violent excesses, began to improve over its source material (book 4, anyway). For a popular dark fantasy to win Outstanding Drama was quite an Emmy moment.
A moment made even more special by being presented by Tracy Morgan in the comeback of the year, a wonderfully touching surprise appearance that earned one of the ceremony's few standing ovations. What a great finish to one of Emmy's proudest nights.