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Review: Worst. Emmys. Ever? (UPDATED with Video)

by Caryn James
September 19, 2011 3:32 AM
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By my count there were about five entertaining minutes out of three hours on last night’s Emmy show. I admit, I’m math challenged so I may be off by a minute or two, but I promise, no more than that.

Amy Poehler tried to save the show. The night before, she cooked up the one really fresh, surprising sketch and completely sold it on the air. When her name was announced as the first nominee for Best Actress in a comedy series, she rushed onto the stage before the other names were called – it took a split second to realize all the actresses were in on it, running to the stage as they were named, then holding hands in a parody of a Miss America moment as the winner was named. That’s why Melissa McCarthy, from Mike and Molly, accepted wearing a tiara and carrying a bouquet of roses. Clever, funny, slightly making fun of the whole awards thing – exactly what the rest of the show was not.

Here it is:

The show started with a lame taped opening in which host Jane Lynch sang her way through the sets of various shows. The one amusing moment: on the Mad Men set she told them that in the future women can marry each other (Peggy was intrigued) and we can watch TV on our phones (Roger held the receiver over his eyes). When she said we can even zap through commercials, Don Draper told her to leave. So now you know all the good moments.

What was missing from that opening suggests what was so deadly dull about the Emmys and most awards shows. At the start, Lynch walked into the office of the fictional President of Television, a role originally played by Alec Baldwin. But when Baldwin learned that Fox was going to cut a reference to the NewsCorp phone-hacking scandal (NewsCorp is Fox’ parent company, of course) he asked to be removed. He was replaced by Leonard Nimoy and no phone-hacking joke. (The casting also became nonsensical; Baldwin made sense, mirroring his 30 Rock character.) That's what they settled for: the timid little Emmys.

Like any awards show, the Emmys are always torn between the need to entertain and the self-important need to celebrate the industry - and what could be more navel-gazingly sincere than TV celebrating TV? But there was no need for it to be this moribund.

Even Charlie Sheen was earnest! As widely reported, he showed up as a so-called “surprise” presenter and gave a straightforward speech wishing his old Two and a Half Men colleagues the very best. He wasn’t presenting so much as kicking off the Charlie Sheen Please Let Me Back On Television Tour. He did seem to have a hard time keeping a straight face. (Twitter was flooded with comments that compared his appearance to a hostage video.)

Lynch looked pained as the night went on, saddled with wince-inducing lines. When the announcer promised “an epic musical performance” after the break, it sounded like a threat and sure enough it was. An all-star cast including Maya Rudolph and Ed Helms recreated Andy Samberg and Lonely Island’s greatest hits from Saturday Night Live (including “Threeway”). Even with Lonely Island there it came off like the elevator music version of something that was once cool, possibly generations ago.

At one point Ricky Gervais showed up in a taped routine that pretended Fox had cut out all his scathing lines. The idea was funnier than the sketch, but it was a reminder that the one really lively awards show was the Golden Globes he hosted, the one that got such flack for its so-called irreverence.

No need to recall all the horrors of last night's pallid attempt at a spectacular. Let’s just leave it at “Nice try, Poehler,” and be grateful that actual good TV (including her Parks and Recreation) will be arriving very soon.

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  • tv lover | September 22, 2011 7:53 AMReply

    Karma has comeback to bite Jane Lynch on the tush because she was badmouthing the past Oscars on HBO's Bill Maher program . Now, she has proven to be a bad and charmless award host ( horrible acting & painful singing ) . What was with all those lame Gay jokes ?! Yes, Amy Poehler ( sometimes she is annoyingly forceful ) and Steven Levitan were the highlights. Jane was hideous on SNL - no excuse, she comes from The Groundlings ) .

  • Xolodnyj | September 22, 2011 6:05 AMReply

    The problem with the emmys: It seems there is only wrong for ONE none ABC,CBS, FOX, NBC show (mad men), who are always getting the awards for best shows, drama, comedy, etc. TWO: How about a show only getting one nomination in a category (Modern Family). I swear it was more of a tribute to that show, as funny as it is, then anything else. I think the emmys were grateful for a show that came along, kicks butt and ISNT on cable.
    THREE: Does it seem to anyone beside me that the actors/actresses would be rather doing something else than be on tv shows. Except for the folks that work on Showtime, & HBO, no one really thinks the writing for regular channels are up to par, but you know what they say, it's a living.
    FOUR: That singing thing about the shows, god awful as well as the tribute to those who have died. They really didn't need people singing Hallelulah, they should have just had the band/orchestra play something nice. They kept breaking away to the people who were singing instead of concentrating on those who have moved on.

  • Allymax | September 21, 2011 6:10 AMReply

    One of the worst award's shows in history. Jane can't sing, the opening segment went on forever, the "banter" between presenters must've been written by a nine-year-old and the voice-overs when winners walked up to get awards were insulting and infantile. They may have brought the telecast in on time but it felt like a five hour ordeal.

    Here's a thought: if Hollywood insiders love these interminable and unfunny shows so much, why not hold the ceremonies and not air them; at least the rest of us would be spared this kind of junk.

  • maura mcshane | September 20, 2011 12:52 PMReply

    It was painful to watch this years Emmy's. It was low budget and absolutely awful. Actually, I was stunned at how bad a program with so many talented people could be. And Lonely Island did not translate well at all. Suggestion: in the future just do a private awards ceremony. No need to share it with us...........

  • Ronm01 | September 19, 2011 11:29 AMReply

    Yes! Worst Emmy show, ever! I DVR'd the show and it took less than a half-hour to scan my recording for the winners. I can't bear to watch your enclosed videos... why would I wish to relive this inanity?!

  • David Brier | September 19, 2011 10:40 AMReply

    Leave it to TV to ruin TV's annual celebration of TV.

    After 40 minutes, I turned it off, it was horrible.

    Jane Lynch should have been allowed to ad lib it. The writing and skits were NOT funny and it was painful to see Lynch and the actor audience suffer through such bad writing, directing and UNfunny material.

    Maybe they should called in a "Lynch mob" to end the night early.

    Thank god for Amy Poehler and the girls. The ONLY funny thing.

    And I mean ONLY.

    It still hurts to think about it.

  • kathi | September 19, 2011 10:16 AMReply

    The worst Emmys ever. PERIOD. Dumbed down...over the top gay agenda -Jane Lynch coming on to the woman in Mad Men ...why? Lost millions of viewers for sure...I had 4 calls before noon from people complaining about the quality -
    who is writing this crap these days? We DESERVE better!

  • Sharon | September 19, 2011 7:08 AMReply

    What's especially sorry about the quality of the event, is how poorly it reflects on a year of really great TV. (Actually, I think the last five+ years have offered a stunning number of exceptional programs--we've been living through a true "golden age."). The people nominated this year, as well as a substantial number of the shows, made for as great a lineup of deserving talent as I can recall seeing. In the various actor and actress categories, there was barely a performance that DIDN"T deserve to win. So sad that this embarrassment of riches was represented by such a straight-out embarrassment.

    And by the way, looking at that picture of the best comedic actresses, beside the powerhouse of talent lined up there, how gorgeous are each of those >40 women, with special call out to Martha Plimpton and Edie Falco, who I've never seen looking more stunning.

  • Sharon | September 19, 2011 6:53 AMReply

    Spot on, Caryn. Wish I'd just read your review, instead of watching that trying-too-hard-to-be-young-and-cool dud. Yikes. Worst of all were the "irreverent" comments by the announcer, as the winners were walking up to the stage. Unbelievably bad.

  • Zoe | September 19, 2011 6:38 AMReply

    Spot on review Caryn. Except I would add that the SNL sex music was not appropriate for prime time television. Even Jon Stewart was embarrassed for his children watching. I don't think Andy Samburg is funny anyway.

    The writing was horrible. Jane Lynch was a trooper and should not be blamed for the bad writing that made her look like an awkward host. The sound quality and technical aspects were atrocious too! It sounded like someone's cell phone ring tone was going off all night, then I realized it was part of the sound of the show. Insanely bad.

    Next year....gather some of the best writers in comedy and late night and have them scrip the show. Bring Jane back for another chance with better writing.

    And please TV gods, get this show off of FOX. What a horrible job all around.

    God bless Amy Poehler. It was the only part of the night I actually enjoyed and laughed out loud.

  • Caryn James | September 19, 2011 6:07 AMReply

    Of course, you're right, it's Island (deadlines are hell!). Thanks.

  • Lizzie | September 19, 2011 5:59 AMReply

    I'm pretty sure it's the Lonely Island... Not 'Lonely Planet'.

  • jay | September 19, 2011 3:26 AMReply

    Amy POehler should have gotten an award for not only coming up wit the idea, but knowing that she was going to be the first one up and had to trust the other girls to follow through with the skit.
    Honestly, Mellisa is a great performer, but Amy should have won the award. She's led Parks and rec back from the brink of cancellation.

  • Gil | September 19, 2011 1:47 AMReply

    I was bored, bored bored! It wasn't entertaining, but cheap it was. The pelvic trusts, and vulgar jokes have all been done again and again along with the boobs falling out of every gown. Flash! here's a really daring idea! It may be too much for this detached and self indulged group of TV insiders. TRY CLASS for a change.,

  • Walt | September 19, 2011 1:13 AMReply

    Great review. I'd only add Jane is in love with Jane --- so full of herself. And yes we know for the 1,000th time - you're Gay. Where do we pin a medal on Jane for this.

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