This year’s Emmys could have taken a lesson or two from a copywriting course at SCAD — know your audience, learn your brand’s voice, then cut out the jokes that aren’t actually funny. Even with a talented comedian like this year’s host, Jane Lynch (“Glee”), the night’s attempt at maintaining a hip, snarky voice landed just a hair above “meh.”
This is not to say Jane Lynch herself was entirely lackluster — you can’t blame the messenger if the writing isn’t up to snuff. Lynch is best known for her top-notch improvisational skills, but the jokes this year seemed strangely safe for such a seasoned actress.
Writers relied on one too many lesbian jokes, which may have been cutting edge in 2005 when Ellen hosted the Emmys, but in 2011 younger audiences are embracing openly gay characters like Kurt Hummel from “Glee” (actor Chris Colfer received an “Outstanding Supporting Actor” nomination for his portrayal). Know your audience. After all, this is a generation whose adjective of choice is “fierce.” No one is going to mind if the host happens to be into girls.
The presentation even fell short in announcing the nominees. Script writers tried to poke fun at obvious winners like “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart,” which took home its ninth consecutive award for “Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series.” Using the presenters’ dialogue to remind the audience that the other nominees don’t have a chance was more awkward than anything, and Stewart modestly improvised his acceptance speech saying, “We’re acutely aware of how fortunate we are to win it once let alone many times.”
The announcement of each winner coincided with the delivery of a pre-scripted list of achievements, juxtaposing “enjoys a bagel with orange juice” with a winner’s professional accolades. Even if this was funny, it would be hard to know, since the music often drowned out the announcer. It was like being in geometry with the class clown, but sitting just out of earshot of the jokes he’s mumbling.
And it probably goes without saying that Charlie Sheen, who presented the award for “Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series,” apologizing to his former colleagues at “Two and a Half Men,” was nothing short of uncomfortable television. The writers could have at least lightened his appearance with a joke, to save the home audience from squeamishly taking that moment to refill the popcorn. Sheen, now disgraced from the small screen, need not be stripped of all his tiger stripes.
The funniest moment of the show was possibly improvisational, when Amy Poehler of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” rushed the stage after her name was called as a nominee for “Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series,” only to be followed by the other leading ladies in the category. Yet, even this act, which resulted in a standing ovation from the audience, became more touching than anything, when television veteran Melissa McCarthy (“Mike and Molly”), turned her first Emmy nomination into a win. McCarthy, trying to hold back tears, asked “Is this really happening?” as her fellow nominees cheered her on.
The podium is where the awards show seemed to get it right, crowning one worthy winner after another. “Modern Family” won the first four awards of the night including the comedy nods for “Outstanding Supporting Actress” (Julie Bowen), “Outstanding Supporting Actor” (Ty Burrell), “Outstanding Directing” (Michael Alan Spiller) and “Outstanding Writing” (Steve Levitan and Jeffrey Richman). The show would go on to win “Outstanding Comedy Series” for its second year in a row.
The biggest snubs of the year were Steve Carrell, who many thought would be a shooin for “Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series,” as 2010 saw him exiting his long run on “The Office,” and “Mad Men,” which continued its reign as “Outstanding Drama Series,” but lost in the individual acting categories, including “Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series,” where Jon Hamm was favored to win but lost to Kyle Chandler of “Friday Night Lights.”
Yet, even if Hamm has to wait another year for his turn at the statue, his TV counterpart can rest assured that Don Draper and the advertising team on “Mad Men” would have undoubtedly concocted a better presentation for this year’s Emmys. But regardless of presentation value, it’s hard to argue with the winners in the major categories. Even if this year’s writers got it wrong, America can take consolation that the academy got it right.
Outstanding Actor in a Comedy
Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
Outstanding Actress in a Comedy
Melissa McCarthy, “Mike & Molly”
Outstanding Actress in a Drama
Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Outstanding Actor in a Drama
Kyle Chandler, “Friday Night Lights”
Outstanding Drama Series
Outstanding Comedy Series