What got into the Emmy Awards this year? The three-hour telecast was actually fast-moving and entertaining! In terms of award-giving there wasn't a misfire all night. Even the host exceeded all expectations, pumping the show full of infectious energy right from the top and keeping at it throughout.
It seemed as though the Emmy producers threw out the old rulebook and decided to loosen up to a greater extent than ever before. This may be the result of the ceremony being banished to the dog days of August (due to NBC's NFL obligations) when, presumably, fewer people would be watching or caring about what went on.
(A note on that: Would it have been so calamitous for NBC and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to schedule the Emmys on a Monday night in September? Major award shows including the Academy Awards used to run on Mondays. When was the stone-carving ceremony that irrevocably moved all of them to Sundays, even at the expense of a potential audience?)
Whatever the reasons, host Jimmy Fallon was allowed to do what he did best on his old Saturday Night Live days -- perform killer impersonations of musical performers and cleverly clown around with a youthful exuberance that is much rarer in the medium than it ought to be (especially in late night, where everyone suddenly seems so old -- including, sometimes, Fallon).
The opening number, featuring Fallon in Bruce Springsteen mode belting out Born to Run while cast members from Glee, 30 Rock, Mad Men, Community, The Vampire Diaries and Lost, plus Kate Gosselin and Randy Jackson, sang and danced all around him, jazzed the home and theater audience alike, and the excitement never really flagged after that.
(Another note: Since Fallon was dressed as Springsteen in the iconic "Born to Run" video (picture at top above), couldn't arrangements have been made to have him pull Courteney Cox out of the audience and onto the stage, just as Springsteen did a quarter century ago? Maybe it's not too late for MTV to orchestrate something similar at this year's Video Music Awards.)
Not content to rest on a killer opening, as too many hosts on too many award shows often are, the indefatigable Fallon remained front and center throughout.
(He even delivered a second high-concept musical performance later in the show, paying a collective farewell tribute to 24, Law & Order and Lost as Elton John, a member of Boyz II Men and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, respectively.) His guitar-strumming strolls down the aisles provided welcome breaks from all that stage-watching and facilitated home-audience star-gazing. Near the end, he scored one of the biggest laughs of the night when he introduced presenter Tom Selleck as his "real" father.
Fallon ought to win an Emmy next year for his Emmy excellence. Indeed, the only time he fizzled was when he was forced to read lame-ass tweets from viewers. They were about as amusing as the mindless banter created by ridiculously overpaid writers with which so many presenters were saddled -- which is to say not at all. (Comedy stars Matthew Perry and Lauren Graham were made to look so unfunny they should demand public apologies.) It's a safe bet that tweets will not be included in future Emmy telecasts. Now if we could only do away with all that foolish joke-telling, too -- except when Ricky Gervais is on stage.
Also on the short list of things that should never be seen or heard during future Emmy ceremonies: Dreadful voice-over babble as winners are walking to the stage. Music will do very nicely, thank you.
As for the awards themselves, there were only two major categories that completely eluded both my predictions and preferences: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series and Outstanding Reality Competition Series.
There was a time earlier this season when it occurred to me that Archie Panjabi of The Good Wife would be a major contender in the former, so her win wasn't a huge surprise to me, even if I thought it would go to her co-star Christine Baranski (and even though I hoped Sharon Gless would be recognized). The big win for Top Chef was the biggest and most interesting surprise of the night. I like Chef, but I don't necessarily think it is more deserving of an award than The Amazing Race (or Dancing with the Stars, for that matter).
The other exciting surprise -- and also, from where I sat, the nights' happiest moment -- was the long-overdue win for Kyra Sedgwick of The Closer as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. At last!
One might also say that Jim Parsons' much-deserved win as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for The Big Bang Theory was something of a surprise, but only because everyone thought Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock would own this category for the run of his show. Meantime, the only person surprised by Edie Falco's win as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy for Nurse Jackie was Falco herself.
There can be no complaining about Jane Lynch, Eric Stonestreet and Aaron Paul being honored (along with Panjabi) in the supporting categories. Same goes for Mad Men and Modern Family being honored as Outstanding Drama and Comedy Series, respectively.
Interestingly, the only big win that didn't sit well with me was the three-peat for Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston. It's not that Cranston doesn't deserve ongoing recognition for his consistently brilliant performance. It's just that he already has two Emmys for his work on the show (and wasn't given quite as much great stuff to do in its third season as in its first two), while three of the other men who were up for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series -- Michael C. Hall, Jon Hamm and especially Hugh Laurie -- are egregiously overdue (and did their best work ever last season). Going forward, perhaps Sedgwick's long-awaited win will give those guys hope.