Why Did the 2013 Emmys Suck So Bad?

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Bummer. I was so excited for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards, especially with Neil Patrick Harris as host. But the show was not a triumph. It feel as flat as a tuxedo cummerbund wound tight against Hollywood Man Spanx. 

What went wrong? Why did the Emmys suck?

Probably too little Tina and Amy, to start with. Well, boring performances by Carrie Underwood (singing the Beatles what?) and Sir Elton John (who I adore, but... ) did not help.

The opening itself was pretty flat, as they saved the two musical number for the middle of the show. A very Max Headroom opening seemed to be an admission that while television content is being celebrated, the institution of network television is changing because of technology. Neil Patrick Harris first acted out binge-watching television shows that talked back to him, which felt like a nod to Twitter's new role in watching and promoting television. He continued to joke that television was that thing you watch on your phones, iPad, Google Glass or on your contact lens.

It was the first death knell in a show that felt very somber indeed. 

I enjoy NPH, but truthfully, he kind of sucked as host. His love of television didn't come through as his love of theater had when he hosted the Tonys. Maybe it's that he is not a comic, or maybe the fault lies with poor writing that counted on his showman charm, but it didn't add up.

His attempts at bawdy humor felt particularly awkward. Especially bad was a line before introducing the Deschanel sisters which required him to make an exploitive ping-pong-balls-out-of-the-vagina joke complete with sound effects. No. 

Kerry Washington Emmys 2013
Image: © Prensa Internacional/ZUMAPRESS.com

Huge disappointing wins hurt the show, too. It's not fun to see Claire Danes win AGAIN for Homeland, when Kerry Washington could have been the first black woman to win an Emmy for Best Lead Actress for Scandal. Kerry is the first black actress since Cicely Tyson in 1995 to earn a nomination. Television is so white, so so white, and the Emmys brought that lesson home.

In memoriam moments woven through the show were another bad choice that brought the whole event down again, again, and then fifteen minutes later, again. James Gandolfini's tribute by Edie Falco was gutting. And then there was the actual cello-backed montage, in black and white no less. It was dark. 

Seriously, overall? If I hadn't planned on writing a wrap-up post I definitely would have dialed off to wait for wrap-up posts to appear, which pretty much proves the theme of the opening number. TV is dead. Long live television content on the Internet.

There were some highlights, of course. Here are some of mine:

  • Tina Fey and Amy Poehler telling NPH to twerk it. "It might be degrading, but we would be degrateful," said Amy, who has no problems pulling off bawdy.
  • Tony Hale and Julia Louis Dreyfus winning awards for their fabulousness in Veep, and JLD accepting in character. 
  • Jeff Daniels seeming to be genuinely surprised to beat Bryan Cranston and Kevin Spacey as Best Actor in a Drama, surprised enough not to spit out his gum before beginning his acceptance speech.
  • The trippy second dance number showcasing choreography inspired by leading shows was inventive, if random
  • Bob Newhart. Because I love him.
  • James Cromwell winning, because it's about damn time. 
  • Diahann Carroll onstage, owning the entire theater and praising Kerry Washington. 
  • Ellen Burstyn celebrating women over 65 who still "have a lot of juice" in her acceptance speech for her role as Sigourney Weaver's mother in the great Political Animals
  • Michael Douglas winning for Behind the Candelabra, and offering to share it with Matt Damon. "You want the bottom or the top?" he asked. Neil, that's how you do bawdy.
  • Will Ferrell and his kids closing it down, even if Modern Family won. Again. 
  • Breaking Bad winning for Best Drama. Righteous. It made missing Breaking Bad worth it.

 And then there was Twitter, always a highlight:

Did you watch? What did you think?


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