Jimmy Fallon arrived in a SmartCar for the opening of the 62nd Prime Time Emmy awards. Soon after his arrival, the show kicked off with Fallon’s guitar-playing and singing and a take-off on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” which involved many other television actors that none of us knew could sing (Hurley, from “Lost” — .really?) At one point, Tim Gunn, the gay guy from “Project Runway” said, “Make it work, Jimmy.”
Jimmy did make it work.
Fallon did a fine job impersonating everyone from Bruce Springsteen to Elton John. I loved the lyric memorializing “Lost:” “The island was mystical, and in the end they died. I didn’t understand it, but I tried.” (Sung to the tune of “I Hope You Have the Time of Your Life”).
One comment: some of the lines written for Fallon seemed needlessly cruel and, tone-wise, not consistent with Fallon’s normal Nice Guy style. The biting lines work coming from someone like Ricky Gervais, but Fallon’s remark when Neil Patrick Harris took the stage seemed out-of-character for the affable late night talk show host. The crack this night was that Harris (who took home an Emmy for guesting on “Glee”) was “so insecure that he has to use three names.” Harris countered by thanking the television academy for “allowing a gay man to host the Emmys two years in a row.” (Harris was last year’s host, and no, Fallon is not gay).
Other Fallon jabs were priceless. Fallon ruminated on his first time hosting the Emmys. With Conan O’Brien in the frame ruefully shaking his head, Fallon said, “NBC asking the host of a late night show to come to Los Angeles to host a different show. What could possibly go wrong?”
It was gratifying to see “Breaking Bad” stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul receive the acclaim they so richly deserve for their AMC series. Although it was Cranston’s third win in a row, it was Aaron Paul’s first, despite a previous nomination. (See my previous AC piece on Aaron Paul.) Although “Mad Men” took the Best Dramatic Series, the fact that the star and co-star of “Breaking Bad” walked off with the acting honors seemed to somehow even the score.
The other show that seemed to make out like a bandit in this year’s awards categories was the comedy “Modern Family.” It not only took the Best Comedy award, it also received the Best Writing for a Comedy Series award (Christopher Loyd and Steven Levitan). Even the announcement of the nominees was hilarious,with Loyd and Levitan on horseback.
Levitan took the stage to accept the honor and delivered a clever acceptance speech in which he said, among other things, “I’d like to thank our wives, without whom we’d probably be dating around a lot. ‘˜I just won an Emmy.’ That’s a pretty good pick-up line.” Redeeming himself in his wife’s eyes, Levitan then said to his wife in the audience, “‘Modern Family’ is and always will be a love letter to you.” Also winning from “Modern Family” was Eric Stonestreet, who plays the gay partner to Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Three of the nominees from the series, the third being Ty Burrell, who plays the husband of Julie Bowen (late of “Ed”) were nominated. It was great to see the show receive the accolades it has deserved since it went on the air; the comic bit involving George Clooney (no doubt YouTube fodder) was priceless.
It was also nice to see Jim Parsons of “The Big Bang Theory” finally win for his inspired physics professor nerd (“He’s ‘Bringing Nerdy Back'” as Fallon said) on that show. He beat out some big names (Alec Baldwin for “30 Rock”, Steve Carrell for “The Office”, Larry David for “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Tony Shaloub for “Monk” and Matthew Morrison for “Glee.”)
“Glee” had been much touted for its multiple nominations. Aside from Jane Lynch, (whose first Emmy win this was) and Ryan Murphy for Directing a Comedy Series, the show failed to live up to the early hype. (It reminded me of the Oscar year that “The Turning Point” was nominated for many Oscars and won nary a one.) I can understand the enthusiasm of teen-agers for the show, and the singing/dancing portions, (especially when big name guest stars participate), display a lot of musical talent, but when the teen-aged actors start obsessing over the Big Glee Club Competition this Saturday and how it’s “Do or Die Time” for the old glee club, I feel like saying, “Oh, Puh-leeeze!” I was extremely active in high school music and remained a big booster of music in the schools all through my children’s high school years, helping accompany and attending many contests, but the amount of drama cooked up regarding competing in a high school singing competition makes such school contests out to be the Super Bowl of School activities. (Really, folks? You think?) It’s a good show for high school students active in music who are enthusiastic about their participation in that activity, but never, in real life, do music competitions attain the “Life or Death” trumped-up status that “Glee” gives it onscreen. Seems very puerile. Jane Lynch in her role is very good, however, and her win was deserved. (I’d have given her an award after “The Forty-Year Old Virgin.”) [I have it on good authority from a professional television writer that the show has a bit of a split personality, with one director for the musical sequences and one for the over-the-top dramatic portion. All I know is that, as an adult, I’m not going to go ga-ga over “Glee” any time soon; it’s fine if my 16-year-old niece wants to.]
Another show that didn’t get the awards it was supposed to garner was “The Good Wife.” The upset win of Kyra Sedgewick in “The Closer” over Julianna Margulies, (who plays the female attorney lead on “The Good Wife”) was quite surprising. It was nice to see “The Good Wife’s” female sidekick, Archie Punjabi, win for Best Supporting Actress, as the show was largely shut out, otherwise. Margulies did reappear to award George Clooney the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award (they formerly played lovers on “E.R.”). Clooney’s appearance at that point was ho-hum, but his appearances in a series of skits involving the “Modern Family” cast earlier were hilarious. It was amusing when he urged the crowd to be seated, when he came onstage, saying, “Because I feel like maybe I’m sick and I don’t know it and then I’d feel bad.”
Edie Falco, last of “The Sopranos,” won an Emmy in the comedy category for “Nurse Jackie.” In accepting it, she said, “I’m not funny.” It seems odd to have “Nurse Jackie” competing in the comedy category when it is quite obviously a drama with a few humorous moments. (Since when did drug addiction, infidelity and a life-or-death nursing career become comic fodder?)
Reality TV: “Top Chef” won. It would have been nice to send “American Idol” off with a win, since it will probably decline precipitously this season now that nearly all of the judges, including Simon Cowell, are leaving, but it was admittedly a sub-par “Idol” season. What amazed me was the crowd of people who hit the stage when “Top Chef” was announced as the winner. There were 13 names listed under the show’s title, but I counted 16 bodies on the stage. It looked like lemmings heading over the cliff. (At least “The Amazing Race” didn’t win, for once.)
In another bit of writing that did not sound very Fallon-ish, Jimmy introduced Ricky Gervais as a “fat, rude, loud-mouthed Brit,” noting, however, that Gervais had lost some weight. Gervais got some of the biggest laughs from the crowd, commenting on the lack of alcoholic beverages at the bash. He told the crowd that they needn’t worry: he was saving his naughtiest material for the Golden Globes because “They’re all drunk, anyway.” He ruminated on why the Emmys did not allow alcohol, saying no one present would act up: “There’s no tough guys here — no Russell Crowe. He wouldn’t be seen dead here. It’s TV. Or Christian Bale — the same. Keifer’s got a couple more hours before he gets really smashed, as well. Mel Gibson. Come on. No. I’m not gonna’ have a go at him. He’s been through a lot. (Pause) Not as much as the Jews.” After a big laugh, Gervais asked, “Who wants a beer?” to almost unanimous applause. Waiters appeared and distributed bottles of beer to those in the first two rows.
Gervais also had fun with the name Bucky Gunts, who won an Emmy for directing the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. (“I hope it’s Bucky Gunts. Let’s face it. We’re all Bucky Gunts. It’s life.”)
Another name that was put through the wringer was that of Catharine O’Hara. She was a nominee for Best Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series or a Movie, along with castmate Julia Ormond (Guinevere in “First Knight” and Sabrina in the remake of that film), for “Temple Grandin.” When Ormond was announced as the winner, beating out Kathy Bates,fellow castmate Catharine O’Hara, Susan Sarandon and Brenda Vaccaro, Ormond seemed the epitome of the self-obsessed egotistical star. She gushed on about being nominated along with such other wonderful folk, whom she then proceeded to name — with the exception of her co-star Catharine O’Hara, whom she referred to as “Catharine O-What’s-Her-Name.” Immediately after that snub, intentional or not, Ormond raved on about Clare Danes, who played the lead, an autistic woman, calling Danes “a raw soaring talent.” I’d love to have been a fly on the wall when Catharine O’Hara left the auditorium — (good old “Catharine What’s-her-name.”) Raw and searing might apply to forgetting your also-nominated co-star’s last name during the thank you(s).
The Mini-Series “Temple Grandin” did well with David Straithorne winning for his role and Clare Danes for hers. Danes, at least, graciously called the woman whose life she had portrayed “the most brave, intrepid person I’ve ever known” (sitting in the audience, the subject of the film immediately stood up and waved) as Danes said, “This is in service of your work.”
I was quite happy to see Al Pacino take home the Emmy for his portrayal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in “You Don’t Know Jack.” It was also amusing to hear Adam Mazer, who won the writing award for a mini-series for the Kevorkian piece say, to Dr. Death, seated in the room, “I’m so grateful that you’re my friend, but even more grateful that you’re not my physician.” Mazer also made some comments about the necessity of a continued dialogue about end-of-life issues.
Another amusing moment was when the Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series award went to The Daily Show for the 7th time, beating out the Colbert Report, Real Time with Bill Maehr, Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien. Said the gaggle of Daily Show writers, smiling broadly, “It’s tough to feel bad. It really is.” Jon Stewart was not present to accept the award. Various jokes about his absence (Rehab? Alcohol?) were made at his expense.
Some stars of yesteryear emerged looking great, among them Susan Sarandon in the front row and Ann-Margret, who won an Emmy for a guest appearance on an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims’ Unit.” Ann-Margret and John Lithgow, who had won for his stint on “Dexter” as a serial killer, presented an award as a team, but there were many faces so new that very few of us at home could have been expected to recognize them, including the stars of the new series “UnderCovers,” premiering soon.
“Dexter” scored for Steve Shill as Outstanding Director of a Drama. He thanked his wife and family, noting, “This would be nothing without you.”
Four causes that received comment this night were autism, curing cancer, rational debate of end-of-life issues and “keeping the spotlight burning long after the cameras go away” (Clooney’s line in accepting his award) in places like Haiti and New Orleans.
All-in-all, a long show, but a good one, this year. Neil Patrick Harris did a good job last year, but Fallon did not fall short. I enjoyed the late night talk show host’s singing and dancing more than that of Hugh Jackman on another (previous) awards show, and the writing, while a bit sharp-tongued at times for the normally obsequious Fallon, was enjoyable.
(SOURCE: NBC’s airing of the 62nd annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards Show.)