The Emmys After-Party: Viola Davis Makes History and Jon Hamm Finally Wins

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How to Get Away With an Emmy

Wesley Morris: When Viola Davis’s name was called, Taraji P. Henson, a fellow nominee (for the popular car-chase acting she does on Empire), leaped out of her seat as though she’d won too. This was a happier outcome all around than in 2009, when these two were nominated for supporting Oscars and lost — along with Marisa Tomei and Amy Adams — to the great Penélope Cruz. It was happier in part because Davis and Henson were in the lead category and because neither does custodial work on her show; other people clean up their characters’ messes. (It was also happy because, in announcing a black woman the winner, Adrien Brody managed to show real restraint in not planting his mouth on hers.) Davis didn’t want to get up there and give the entertainment industry the impression that, despite several major technical categories with a black nominee and acting categories with two and three, her win was satisfactory. For one thing, she might have noticed that, earlier in the night, Jamie Lee Curtis was having — to be charitable — a lame Stieg Larsson moment in referring to Supporting Actress winner Uzo Aduba as “the girl who I asked how to pronounce her name.”

The Hamm Stands Alone

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Mark Lisanti: Even from the vantage point of a couch several miles away, the tension in the Microsoft Theater was palpable, a heavy fog descending from the rafters and settling upon the shoulders of the tuxedoed elite gathered together to possibly witness another grand snubbing. At the beginning of the show, host Andy Samberg had singled him out and invoked a dystopian near future, were things to not break Hamm’s way last night, in which the lantern-jawed serial also-ran would soon spend his days laboring on the set of an AMC cash-grab about a satyristic wanderer — what’s in the bindle, Dick? Some thoughts on how to sell canned beans to a bum with a reliable trashcan stove? Hours later, onetime employer Tina Fey cracked open the seal on her envelope, the envelope that might contain the name of Kevin Spacey, or Bob Odenkirk, or Liev Schreiber, or (gasp, not again) Jeff Daniels, or Kyle Chandler, and read his name: Jon Hamm.1

There was no Jimmy Kimmel to devour the name written inside that envelope, nor Bryan Cranston to snatch it away and disappear into the night. We all heard what Tina said. And then the theater exhaled. No, the world exhaled, having generated a borderline absurd amount of sympathy2 over these long, Emmy-less years for one of the most successful TV actors of his generation, a man so Old Hollywood handsome that Cary Grant’s ghost often haunted his bedside wondering whether to smother him with a pillow out of sheer jealousy. But Tina Fey read his name, the right name this time, and then there was Jon Hamm, somehow not too overwhelmed by the moment to prick a hole in its perceived importance with some well-timed shtick, literally crawling over the edge of the stage to collect his long-elusive award, doing the most Jon Hamm thing possible at the most Jon Hamm time.

The acceptance speech was as heartfelt and humble, self-deprecatingly riddled with incredibles and impossibles and there’s-been-a-terrible-mistakes, and pretty much beside the point. For those of us who, say, spent large chunks of the past seven seasons writing increasingly bizarre fan fiction about his character’s missed erotic connections, nothing short of a beam of light exploding down from the rafters and drawing his now-sanctified body up into the awards-winner heavens would have equaled the importance of the moment. Nobody wanted to sit through an eternity of “You know, Jon Hamm never won an Emmy for Mad Men” fun-facting,3 and now we don’t have to. The only thing our ultimately triumphant Don Draper lost tonight was that second TV life as Dick Whitman: Horny Hobo. Which, you know, we probably could’ve worked with, fan-fiction-wise.

I’ll Be Missing You

Shea Serrano: “You blowin’ up? That’s good, fantastic.” —Kanye West

Jon Hamm won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the Emmys last night. It was the eighth straight time he’d been nominated for the award and the first time he’d walked away the winner. In fact, it was the first time he’d ever won any kind of Emmy, which is truly remarkable when you consider that he’s been nominated on 16 different occasions up through last night. So everyone seemed to be very happy for him, and I suppose I was, too, even though I do not especially enjoy Mad Men.

But so when they called his name, when he won, when he finally won, there was really only one thing I thought about: I miss Bryan Cranston so much.

Let me toss a couple of stats at you:

  • The first three years in which Hamm was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor (2008-10) were also the first three years in which Cranston was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor (Walter White, Breaking Bad).
  • In each of the instances mentioned in the bullet point above, it was Cranston who left with the trophy.
  • Cranston is only the second human in history to win Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series three times in a row.
  • In fact, when Cranston won it again last year, giving him four total, it moved him into a tie with Dennis Franz for the most OLAiaDS wins in all of Hollywood history.
  • It took Cranston only six tries to get his four wins. It took Franz eight tries, which, incidentally, is the record for most nominations in the OLAiaDS category. He’s tied with Raymond Burr (two wins), Peter Falk (three wins), and …
  • Jon Hamm. Hamm has been nominated as much as anyone else in all of the 66 years the Emmys have taken place and yet he still has just 25 percent of Cranston’s win total.

Congratulations to Jon Hamm on winning last night.

I miss Bryan Cranston so much.

Take the Throne

Jason Concepcion: Awards shows, like kings, are capricious and frequently cruel. Just when you think you have them figured out, just when you feel as if you understand their biases, their blind spots, their weird hatred of Martin Scorsese, of Susan Lucci, of Jon Hamm and their unexplainable love for Modern Family, they surprise you. Which is to say that, despite HBO’s juggernaut-like performance at the 2015 Emmy Awards (shouts to Olive Kitteridge, whatever you are!), Game of Thrones’s win for Outstanding Drama Series over the sculpted coiffures and critically acclaimed carcass of the final season of Mad Men feels like an upset. Partly, that’s because the sci-fi and fantasy genres, despite their evergreen popularity, usually never garner more than a cursory tech-centric award or two, if they win at all. That Thrones should win for a season that was arguably its least consistent just adds to the mystery of awards-show subjectivity. This is a great moment for the social acceptability of nerd shit.


Alex Pappademas: Even Birgit Nutter looks like she can’t believe they gave someone an Emmy for that “Shame Shame” bullshit.


The Host With the Most

Concepcion: Andy Samberg got his best laugh when he reenacted the scene from Girls in which Marnie got her butt eaten out, with the large onstage Emmy statue standing in for Allison Williams. It was a great bit. Butts are timeless fonts of comedy and desire. Some of the funniest stuff in The Canterbury Tales is about farts. That’s not to say that the rest of Samberg’s material wasn’t hilarious. It was, even if the response was, at times, mysteriously muted. Maybe it’s because the power of the Internet has managed to turn a picture of Michael Jordan — MICHAEL JORDAN — into a ubiquitous symbol of failure and regret. Or perhaps it’s because of the Internet’s viral reaction to a grizzled Tommy Lee Jones’s memorably mirthless response to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s effortless japery in their capacity as Golden Globe Awards cohosts. Whatever the reason, it seems like the only thing certain in today’s increasingly fragmented world of entertainment is that industry heavyweights, welterweights, and anyweights would prefer to not be seen or heard or, god forbid, GIF’d laughing at monologue jokes. Especially when those jokes skewer said industry’s famous lack of diversity. You could almost feel many in the crowd be like, “Does my relative level of privilege allow me to laugh at this? AND, DEAR GOD, AM I ON CAMERA RIGHT NOW?” Don’t worry, white people of Hollywood — awards shows always cut directly to the black people in the audience right after diversity jokes.

Requiem for a Daily Show

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Dave Schilling: They certainly did not make it easy. In a category in which every show was a hall-of-famer in waiting, it was damn near impossible to pick a winner. We said goodbye to Letterman. We welcomed John Oliver. There were so many shows to congratulate that even trying to consider a champion was a fool’s errand. This might have been the most competitive year we’ve ever seen in the variety category. But the trophies had to go to The Daily Show — a series that did more than make us laugh for 16 years. It readjusted our political discourse and heralded a transformative presidency. Comedy owes a debt to Jon Stewart’s iteration of Madeleine Smithberg and Lizz Winstead’s creation. In a field that was crowded with progeny, there was no choice but to reward the kings of political satire one last time, even if our last image of Stewart on television was his scrawny figure taking an Attitude Adjustment.

The Queen Taraji

Molly Lambert: Thanks to the Emmys for including a large image of Robert Durst’s face in the opening, because it really set a nice mood. All in all, it was a pretty good showing by Samberg and a workmanlike pace. I could have used a long musical dance montage or two. The acting categories were overstuffed with great performances, some of which won. Viola Davis gave the best speech. There were a lot of Game of Thrones jokes I didn’t get and binge-watching gags I understood all too well. I came away with only one observation: Taraji P. Henson should play Ursula in a Maleficent-style origin story about the Little Mermaid villain. She could Raging Bull the weight gain, or just rely on whatever CGI would also be giving her tentacles. She’s so great at playing a sympathetic antihero on Empire, and her eyebrows are always perfect.

Hollywood Reality Check

Serrano: The most exciting thing that has happened to me in the past 14 months occurred Sunday afternoon. And then, not too long after that, a very sad thing — quite possibly the most sad thing — happened too.

The exciting thing: I flew from Houston to Los Angeles on Sunday (this is not the exciting thing). Then I got into a cab driven by a polite Russian man who drove like he was a very big fan of The Transporter (certainly thrilling, but not the exciting thing). Then I checked into my hotel (very nice, but not the exciting thing). Then I went to my room and ordered room service (still not the exciting thing). Then I went down to the lobby (not the exciting thing). And then that’s when it happened. That’s when the exciting thing happened. That’s when I saw them.

My hotel is where many of the people who attended the Emmys stayed. And so, a couple of hours before the show started, the lobby area and bar area and hangout area were all busy with people in nice clothes waiting to walk over to the big theater where the show was being held. I did not recognize nearly all of the people there. But two of them I recognized immediately. I recognized their walks and their haircuts and their smiles and their extend-o-skeletons. It was …

… are you ready for this …

… it was …

… hold on …

… hold on to your butts …

… it was …


Now, let me be 100 percent clear when I say this, because I don’t want the buildup or all-caps thing to fool you into thinking I’m being insincere. This was not play excitement when I saw them. It wasn’t ironic excitement. It wasn’t sarcastic excitement for the sake of being sarcastically excited. It was real, genuine, earnest excitement. It was the excitement where you say, “Ohhhhhh fuck, it’s [NAME]” to yourself because you don’t know a better way to respond to the idea of being near someone (or someones) you like and enjoy but have never met. It was the excitement where you have to call someone else who cares about the person or people you’re looking at just to say, “You. Will. Not. Believe. Who. I. Am. Looking. At. Right. Now.” It was that kind of excitement.

Property Brothers is a wonderful show. It’s the one HGTV show I have set on my DVR. My wife and I started watching it last year, when we began preparing to buy a house, and we’ve stayed watching it ever since. Through the TV, Jonathan and Drew look to be smart, considerate humans with above-average hair, and in person they appear that way too.

When I saw them, they were with a group of people waiting to take pictures with them. I didn’t want to bother them any more than they were already being bothered, so I tried to time my steps so that I’d be within talking distance of them as they were between pictures. And it worked out perfectly. They smiled at a cell phone, and then they were done and waiting the two seconds for the next person to stand near them to do it again. That’s when I ended up right behind them. I said, “Yo, it’s Jonathan and Drew. What’s up, dudes?” They glanced back, said hello, turned back around, and smiled for more pictures, and that was that.

The two were at the Emmys because their show was nominated for Outstanding Structured Reality Program (it was their first nomination). They ended up losing to Shark Tank, which is less endearing than Property Brothers but equally entertaining, and so that’s the sad thing.

It would have been neat if they’d won. I would have liked that. But they didn’t. And I was sad when I saw that they didn’t. Real sad. And I didn’t even know that there was a category for Outstanding Structured Reality Program before I looked it up last night.

L.A. is weird.

The State of the House of Gaga

Juliet Litman: Honest question: Is Lady Gaga still a pop star? The Emmys wanted us to think so. It’s the only reason why the first half of the show repeatedly teased her upcoming appearance. But the evidence isn’t there. She hasn’t had a no. 1 hit since “Born This Way” in 2011. Artpop was one of the biggest flops of 2013. Her latest album is a collaboration with Tony Bennett — not exactly the music that gets the kids excited — and her most exciting upcoming project is her appearance in American Horror Story: Hotel. We have not seen the meat-dress-wearing sensation in quite a while, and I’m not sure we will anytime soon.

Considering the number of celebrities in attendance, I’m not sure why Lady Gaga was dangled as a big draw. Tina Fey and Kerry Washington are arguably as famous and are more topical to the Emmy-watching audience. Gaga finally popped up around the 90-minute mark to present the award for Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie. (It went to Richard Jenkins for Olive Kitteridge.) She took the stage and demurely read the script. “Although I love toasting to women, tonight I’m here for the men.” I suppose the writers for the show were hoping that Pop Star Lady Gaga would show up to recite the lines with gusto. It was probably written for a woman who, once upon a time, always seemed to be issuing a rallying cry, even when the cause was unclear. But last night we saw a tentative speaker, not quite sure where to look or how to engage with the camera. It was not what you would expect from the woman who performed “Born This Way” at the Grammys while clad in nude-colored latex. This Lady Gaga seemed diffident. This was someone different.

Now that she’s an actor, Lady Gaga has finally stepped out of character. With women like Jill Soloway and Viola Davis leading the way, advocating for worthy causes, the Lady Gaga charade wasn’t necessary. I think these Emmys provided one of our first glimpses at Stefani Germanotta (and I’d like to formally suggest she revert back to her given name for this new career path). This Gaga has traded in the outlandish (and unflattering) costumes for stylish, conservative black dresses. She’s not playing an activist anymore, but I find seeing her without the theatrics to be more interesting anyway. I’m still not sure why the Emmys were invested in Lady Gaga, but I’m looking forward to seeing what comes in her second act.

The Not-So-Lonely Island

Amos Barshad: Almost exactly a decade since he first entered mainstream consciousness, Andy Samberg remains boyishly affable and always welcome. Watching him cruise through his opening monologue with a smirk and just a bit of menace — and no need to rely on Fallonesque gimmickry — was really fun: There’s no particular reason why a dude who came up from web shorts would be this good at what was effectively a stand-up set. Along with his starring role in the harmlessly happy Brooklyn Nine-Nine, now rounding into its third season, it’s all of a piece with what is a rock-solid on-paper post-SNL career. And yet — for those who still feel some type of way toward the digital short and the revolutionary tidings the form once augured, it can be a bit of a drag watching Samberg goofily play ball. There was a time when, it seemed, Samberg and his crew weren’t content unless their stuff was funny and aggressively bizarre — exactly the kind of stuff that’s anathema to award-show patter. It had seemed like, completely left to his own devices outside of Studio 8H, things might just get weirder and weirder. Instead, he’s become a regular TV personality. I think what I’m trying to say is, Hot Rod was sickly underrated.

Filed Under: TV, Emmys, The 2015 Primetime Emmys, Game of Thrones Season Five, Game of Thrones Season 5, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, transparent, How to Get Away With Murder, Lady Gaga, Jon Hamm, empire, Taraji P. Henson