Emmys’ Long-Awaited Firsts Outweighed the Usual “Worsts”

Last night the awards show made history (Viola Davis!), warmed hearts (Uzo Aduba! Jill Soloway!), and proved that TV is a pretty great place for women right now.

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My fellow TV nerds, it is a great time to be alive. For the first time in years … maybe even decades, we had an Emmy awards that actually reflected US. All of us. The Westeros geeks, the Shondalanders, the Veep wonks, the Kitteridgers (they exist!). There was something in it for all of us, and it made for an excellent, and even historic night of television. Not that the broadcast itself was flawless, but the highpoints far eclipsed any of the low. From Andy Samberg’s very funny opening number about binge-watching (Who else wants a binge-watching bunker??) and Viola’s Moment™, to the end of our long, national Modern Family nightmare, there’s a lot to cover. Let’s get the worsts out of the way so we can focus on all the best stuff. 

WORST: We need to have a Come to Jesus meeting with whomever picks Ricky Gervais as a presenter year after year. His banter about losing has become interminable and sucks all the air out of the room. And no more pranks, Jimmy Kimmel.

WORST: Does Bradley Whitford’s hat have its own Twitter account yet? 


WORST: Holy spoiler city, Batman! A well intentioned montage of shows that came to an end this past season revealed WAY too much. Guess I can take Boardwalk Empire and Nurse Jackie out of my queue. Thanks, Obama.

WORST: Andy Samberg and Seth Meyer’s “World’s Best Boss” bit went absolutely nowhere and took an awfully long time getting there.

WORST: The set. If you were wondering what the Oval Office would look like in a Trump administration, here’s a preview: 


WORST: The academy voters saying Knope to Amy Poehler and Parks and Recreation after seven seasons. But we’ll always have Pawnee. And Amy seems to be handling it well.

BEST: The losers. Yes, you read that correctly. Think about it for a minute. These incredibly talented people lost: Amy Poehler, Tatiana Maslany, Niecy Nash, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, Taraji Henson, Elisabeth Moss, Christina Hendricks, Robin Wright, Edie Falco, Lily Tomlin, Jessica Lange, Felicity Huffman, Khandi Alexander, Angela Bassett, and Tina Fey. The fact that Niecy Nash, who stars in the criminally underrated Getting On from HBO, was even nominated is a tiny victory. Same for Tatiana Maslany and the beguiling Orphan Black. Can you remember the last time the Best Actress fields were this stacked with talent? I’m telling you, TV Nerds, life is good. 

BEST: Andy Samberg had what was, hands down, the joke of the night in his opening monologue: “Paula Deen is on this season of Dancing With the Stars. Though I gotta say, if I wanted to see an intolerant lady dance, I would have gone to one of Kim Davis’s four weddings.” 

BEST: The Amys. Could one or both of them (And Tina!) please host the Oscars? I can guarantee you neither of these women would do that stupid envelope in the locked box joke. I’m looking at you, NPH.

BEST: Uzo Aduba(Click link for video.) Not only did she make history by winning Outstanding Comedy Actress and Outstanding Drama Actress for playing the same role in Orange is the New Black, she also made the room quite dusty when she tearfully thanked her sister and best friend Chichi, who was in the audience.

BEST: Regina King. (Click link for video.) Her tremendous work in Southland overlooked, this win for her role in American Crime felt like justice served. And her win provided us with the first glimpse of Taraji P. Henson: Best Friend Ever. Speaking of which …

BEST: Taraji P. Henson. Her ferocious portrayal of Cookie Lyon on Empire is one of the best things we’ve seen on TV in years. But her pure joy at the victories of her friends (and in the case of Viola Davis, her competition) was both contagious and moving.

BEST: Inside Amy Schumer’s win for Outstanding Variety Skit Series. (Click link for the video.) No other show is as fearless when it comes to women’s issues than IAS. Whether it’s abortion, bro culture, birth control or the last fuckable day, Schumer is stripping away stigma and making us laugh our asses off in the process. Football Town Nights, y’all!

BEST: Jill Soloway, who used her Outstanding Directing of a Comedy Series (Transparent) win to spread the message that our trans friends have no legal protection from discrimination in many parts of the country. (Click link for video.) To find out what you can do to help change that, visit transequality.org.

BEST OF THE BEST: Viola Davis. (Click link for the video. You really need to see this one for an extraordinary speech! We implore you.) Viola Davis is the first Black woman to win Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. This is the 67th Emmy Awards. Let that sink in for a moment, and then listen to her speech.

“In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.” That was Harriet Tubman in the 1800s. And let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there. So, here’s to all the writers, the awesome people that are Ben Sherwood, Paul Lee, Peter Nowalk, Shonda Rhimes. People who have redefined what it means to be beautiful, to be sexy, to be a leading woman, to be black. And to the Taraji P. Hensons and Kerry Washingtons, the Halle Berrys, the Nicole Beharies, the Meagan Goodes, to Gabrielle Union. Thank you for taking us over that line. Thank you for the Television Academy. Thank you. 

Those words. Kerry Washington’s tears. Taraji’s bear hug. It was the best moment of the night by a landslide.

It’s easy to be cynical about television. After all, for every Orange Is the New Black, there are a dozen Real Housewives of the Seventh Circle of Hell. And to be honest, I went into tonight’s awards anticipating plenty of things to feed that cynicism. But it wasn’t that kind of night. And that makes us all winners.


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