TV is back baby! At least that was the energy in the air at the 2022 Emmy Awards. After a jointly in-person and virtual 2021 ceremony and a completely virtual one in 2020, 2022 saw the return of a proper Emmys. The categories were stacked, the Fiji water bottles in plain view, and the room was filled with hundreds of dazzling smiles (save for Bill Hader, the only visible person who wore a mask).
But every awards show is not without its highs and lows, and this year’s Emmys were no different. There were excellent wins (Jerrod Carmichael I’m looking at you), some unfortunate snubs (the Emmys’ vendetta against Better Call Saul is a cosmic joke at this point), and some delightful presenter parrings (Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez continue to dazzle, plus a surprise The Bear reunion!) We had our mandatory reminders of the Rock/Smith Oscars incident of 2022, a solid jab at the new King Charles III by Jesse Armstrong, and an relentless onslaught of ads for NBC’s fall programming. So while the statues are still warm, let’s look back at all this year’s ceremony had to offer:
Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Emotional Win
Easily the highlight of the entire show was Sheryl Lee Ralph’s win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for Abbott Elementary. You could feel how important that moment was through the screen. The room erupted into applause and then fell silent before Ralph burst into the opening verse of Dianne Reeves’ “Endangered Species.” Ralph’s win makes her only the second Black woman to take home the award in her category (35 years after the last winner, Jackée Harry for 227).
Ralph’s speech and song brought many in the room (and also myself, I admit) to tears. It’s the kind of moment that makes award shows so powerful. To see someone who has worked tirelessly for their craft for decades achieve such glowing admiratio and get a platform to express their love for their art. Especially since the Abbott Elementary team donated their For Your Consideration budget to public school teachers, it made this win all on Ralph’s merit. She deserved standing ovations throughout the country.
Uneven Speech Time Limits
Did the Television Academy learn nothing from last year? The enforcement of speech time limits was all over the place. Ralph and Michael Keaton got ample time to give beautiful speeches while others were practically pushed off the stage. The most heinous example was Jennifer Coolidge, an iconic character actor who has rarely gotten her due in prestigious circles, being ushered off after barely getting out her thanks. She tried to play along by dancing to her farewell song but the producers decided to just cut her mic and move on.
By the end of the show the poor planning crunch meant that everyone only got a tight 45 seconds, if that. Several presenters mentioned the clock seemed to start when their names were called, leaving only 30 seconds by the time everyone got to the stage (thanks for pointing that out Jason Sudeikis). I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many winners acknowledge the actual seconds remaining on the teleprompter before.
Awards shows want both efficiency and relevance. These two factors are constantly at war. You can’t get beautiful moments like Sheryl Lee Ralph’s win without being generous with your seconds. And yes, sometimes people go on too long. But what are awards shows about if not giving a stage to those who have worked hard? I’d trade a few minutes of my time to see more speeches like Lizzo’s or Keaton’s. Let people talk about what they love and cut out the nonsense.
What Was That Car Commercial?
Speaking of nonsense, you guys saw that too, right? Awards shows are a familiar home to strange skits but this one was truly bizarre. Especially in contrast to how rushed the winners were, why did we have to watch a two minute (was it that long? It felt like forever) skit about how delivering lines changes things. Wow, what a concept! Thanks Kia, now I know the importance of acting. Thank goodness you communicated that in lieu of, say, a seasoned actor who’s spent years of their life working toward a moment when they’re recognized by their peers in front of the world. That would be so boring compared to seeing two people filming in front of a green screen in Burbank for a day trying to sell one of the stupidest car brands in the world.
Look, I get it. The Emmys can’t run without ad dollars. I’m not going to harp my point because NBC has bills to pay. But this bit felt especially embarrassing considering the hosting duties of the evening were actually pretty high quality compared to past years. I would rather Kenan Thompson describe the specs of a Kia Sorento straight into the camera.
How to Fill Time? More Kenan, Less Montage
Kenan Thompson is a talented comedian. His opening monologue got some genuine out-loud laughs from me, which does not happen very often. He’s a comedy and acting veteran who knows how to move things along and when to cut a joke short. His mini reunion with Kel Mitchell was great, and the sketch with Kumail Nanjiani was legitimately funny (or at least as good as an awards show sketch can be). Playing the accountants off like the other presenters was an excellent subversion of the most boring part of every show.
Since Kenan’s skills as a host were so good, why did we spend so little with him? He practically disappeared by the halfway point (I assume because the show was running over). And yet we were treated to a thrilling montage of scenes from currently airing medical dramas as an introduction for… two presenters? The opening monologue was shared with an extended dance montage to various TV show theme songs. Don’t get me wrong, the dancers were very talented. But dancing and the Emmys go together live doing a live painting demonstration at the Tony’s. It’s just not what we associate with the medium.
As any producer for the Oscars can tell you, a good awards show host is a rare get. So why squander such a great get with a bunch of filler that goes nowhere, especially during a show that’s constantly pressed for time. Kenan has been on SNL for almost 20 years, he knows how to write and perform a bit. Just put some faith in him and less in producers who don’t have any idea what people actually like about award shows.
Jimmy Kimmel Commits to the Bit (Too Much)
Speaking of bits… this was probably the only moment that could be considered controversial at the 2022 Emmys. Will Arnett dragged Jimmy Kimmel by his feet when they presented the award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The joke is Kimmel is too depressed from losing for so many years he can’t get up. It worked fine and got an appropriate amount of laughs.
The problem is once Quinta Brunson took the stage, winning for Abbott Elementary, Kimmel remained on the ground. Brunson moved on well enough after acknowledging him and gave a fine speech (again, limited by time) all while Kimmel lay there. It was a strange scene and felt disrespectful on Kimmel’s part. The director of the show wisely elected to not show Kimmel while Brunson gave her speech. But the commitment to the bit came off in poor taste, especially considering what a triumph Abbott Elementary has been. Brunson has put years of her life trying to make this show, and during her moment to celebrate her hard work Kimmel just had to stay there. Get up man, you’re gonna lose to John Oliver again next year anyway.
A Very Strange DJ Setlist
I’m not very familiar with Zedd. I know him as two things: a DJ and one of those people who welcomes you to Los Angeles over the speakers while you wait for your bags in LAX. But his job as DJ for the 2022 Emmys caused this ceremony to be the first time I really noticed the music that plays for the winners. Instead of an orchestra or generic songs Zedd went with what sounded like the playlist for a Ross. Lot’s of decade old+ top-charting songs (remember “Uptown Funk?” Now I do!) Although, having “Play That Funky Music” start when Pete Davidson took the stage was pretty funny.
But by far the best, the funniest, the most iconic moment of the night was when Jesse Armstrong won for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for Succession (specifically for the incredible finale “All the Bells Say”) and Zedd decided to play… “Shake Your Booty.” Was it a reference to everyone freaking out at how good Sarah Snook looked in that episode? A desire to spur more inspiration for a future Tom/Greg fancams? Is Zedd just a slut for a funky beat and Succession? Whatever the reason may be, it will stick in my head for the rest of the week. That’s the power of awards shows. That’s the power of television. And in the end, isn’t that what the Emmys are all about?
Leila Jordan is a writer and former jigsaw puzzle world record holder. To talk about all things movies, TV, and useless trivia you can find her @galaxyleila
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