Well, that was… oddly somber!
Though the 2013 Emmy Awards gave us more than a few unexpected triumphs, the Twitter consensus is correct: The ceremony felt sad, and that’s because the otherwise rapid-fire award handout was stopped in its tracks every 15 minutes by a new “In Memoriam” tribute.
Edie Falco toasted James Gandolfini and cried. Jane Lynch (looking fabulous) toasted Cory Monteith and teared up. Robin Williams trembled through a Jonathan Winters memorial. Michael J. Fox told us about the Family Ties creator who changed his life. Rob Reiner lamented Jean Stapleton‘s death by comparing it to her character Edith Bunker‘s demise in the early ’80s. That was like a double death. Then we had a full-length “In Memoriam” reel on top of it all where we had to think about Larry Hagman‘s late studliness too. Oh, mortality! Because we could not stop for Death, He kindly interrupted the Emmys a million times. (This reminds me: Is that Emily Dickinson biopic starring Cynthia Nixon coming out soon? Miranda needs to finish her EGOT, kids.)
Now, this takes nothing away from our maroon-suited emcee Neil Patrick Harris, who sang admirably, juked his tiny ass through bigtime vaudevillian numbers, executed a semi-successful opening sketch where he binge-absorbed an entire season’s worth of television, and even delivered a cheeky gay joke when introducing presenters Emily and Zooey Deschanel: “These two performing sisters are much different from the two performing sisters I saw in Thailand.” Ladyboy laffs. Enjoy, Peoria!
But NPH ultimately felt like a supporting act to the completely unpredictable tally of winners. Did you think Anna Gunn was going to beat Maggie Smith for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, gay soothsayers? Did you bet on Jeff Daniels clearing Bryan Cranston for Best Dramatic Actor? What about Nurse Jackie‘s Merritt Wever overtaking not only former winners Julie Bowen and Jane Lynch but longtime non-winners Sofia Vergara and Jane Krakowski for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series? Clearly Wever herself hadn’t bet on her chances, since she staggered to the microphone and muttered this speech, transcribed in its entirety: “Oh my God. Thank you so much. Thanks so much! Thank you so much. Um. I gotta go. Bye.”
Merritt Wever might’ve just redefined acceptance speech glory, squeaking out a sincerely shocked, tweetably brief thank-you. It was unassuming perfection, and the room exploded. Thank God for it, because other expected explosions didn’t ignite as planned: That Elton John tribute to Liberace you prayed for? It didn’t rule. After a lengthy introduction, Elton performed a lukewarm ballad that I’ve renamed “Candelabra in the Wind.” [Editor's note- beat you to it Louis!] Elton embraced none of Liberace’s hypnotic fervor, save a few blazer sequins, and it took about 0.049 seconds to realize he was simply promoting new material. We’ve lost so many Faberge eggs inside of Liberace. He deserved more than this.
Furthermore, Carrie Underwood of all people performed a tribute to the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, singing “Yesterday” and reminding everyone that, yes, “Yesterday” is a song. I’d have rather seen Paul McCartney perform “Before He Cheats” while Ringo Starr smashed some headlights onstage, personally, but this American Idol Top 12 week ballad was OK. The genius of Carrie Underwood is she pairs conventional good looks with conventional music. Get it? A breakthrough.
Cutey superstar Jim Parsons won again for The Big Bang Theory, and I burst into teary applause when he called his partner Todd Spiewak his “favorite person on the planet.” Gays in love! Yessss. At age 40, Mr. Parsons still looks like an adorable polygon man made out of graphics on the Sega Saturn. Praise be to this beautiful, sharply paned guy.
I guess some people would consider The Voice‘s win in the Best Reality Competition category a triumph, but… that’s boring of them, The Voice celebrates performers with great voices (and allows them to talk about being gay, if they are), but the gimmick of greenlighting singers based on voice alone is disingenuous and self-congratulatory. Image is inevitably a part of every performer’s career, and hearing Christina Aguilera wax poetic about the importance of pure talent when she herself wears a waterfall of Crayola Washable maquillage and hair bleach is ridiculous. I’d have loved to see So You Think You Can Dance take this award. Shocked it didn’t, just like I’m shocked Derek Hough won the choreography Emmy (!) over four different SYTYCD routines. Maybe next year, symmetrical sex emperor Travis Wall.
Speaking of gay-positive TV series that I wish didn’t win, unfortunately: Modern Family just captured its fourth consecutive Best Comedy Series Emmy. I don’t dislike Modern Family. In fact, it is still great! For sure. Julie Bowen is fire. Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson sell the funny. Ty Burrell is dangerously hot to me, and it’s a problem. (You can see the Murder on the Orient Express-era Tony Perkins in him, no?) But while I always enjoy the show, it’s been eclipsed in novelty and raw hilarity by Veep, Parks and Recreation, and the final season of 30 Rock. Worth noting, though, is that for the first time in the show’s history, no one in the Modern Family cast walked off with an Emmy. Veep‘s Tony Hale beat out three Modern Family nominees, and I love that due to his awesomeness. Better yet, Hale accompanied Julia Louis-Dreyfus onstage when she picked up her second Emmy for Veep. He acted as her aide who reminded her in a furtive whisper to thank her family. “I love them so much,” JLD said, repeating Hale’s direction word for word. Comedy! JLD is aggressively flawless, and all the light in the universe bends toward her. Kudos to Mrs. Brad Hall forever.
Aside from a couple of barbs about lesbianism exchanged between NPH and Jane Lynch during an opening segment, the real LGBT situation of the evening occurred when Michael Douglas accepted the Best Actor in a Miniseries/Movie Emmy for Behind the Candelabra. No surprise that he won, but his thank-you speech directed largely at costar Matt Damon wreaked of sunny, celebratory gay panic. It seemed like it was going to be a funnier and crisper speech he began talking, but Douglas’ acceptance veered quickly into bawdy innuendo. “This was a two-hander!” Douglas said of his role as Liberace. “And Matt, you’re only as good as your other hand… You deserve half of this [award]. Do you want the bottom or the top?” Right, as if the most hilarious, ludicrous thing about Liberace was that he was gay. I don’t doubt that Douglas and Damon are pro-gay actors, but punning broadly about gay sex feels like a lazy move. As Guy Branum said in his roast of the James Franco roast, if gay sex is funny to you, you’re doing it wrong.
And lastly, on a chipper note, Ellen Burstyn won for her role in Political Animals, and she referenced her semi-accidental 2006 Emmy nomination for her 14-second role in Mrs. Harris. That’ll do, Burstyn. That’ll do. (Yes, that’s a reference to James Cromwell, who won for American Horror Story: Asylum. References! They fit into one another.)
What were your favorite moments of the night? Was Oprah‘s taped self-parody during Jimmy Kimmel Live‘s writing nomination reel your thing? My ultimate #1 may be Tina Fey and Amy Poehler stumbling up to the stage to present Wever’s trophy, but NPH’s sinewy sexuality is right up there.
Next page, gallery and full list of winners…