Our TV critic’s notebook on NBC’s 2018 Emmy Awards:
From the hosts to the presenters to the winners, our take on the best, the worst, the exciting (and boring) moments of the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards.
Best: Long live “The Americans”
“The Americans” has been one of the best shows on TV in the past decade, and the most deserved awards of the night were those for writing (won by co-producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg) and Matthew Rhys for acting. If only Keri Russell had managed to leapfrog her worthy rivals to win best actress, and the show was recognized for best drama, it would have been a perfect night.
Worst: “Game of Thrones” wins, mostly by default
Talk about a lame final category. “Game of Thrones” taking the outstanding drama category for its uneven seventh season was an anti-climactic end to a night that actually saw surprise winners in other categories. “Thrones” is a juggernaut, and giving the fantasy series the trophy is like giving it to “La La Land”: Boring, expected, and not entirely deserved (if only it had been a mistake this time, too). I’ll never stop pulling for the exquisite final season of “The Americans.”
More: Emmys 2018: ‘Game of Thrones’ wins best drama, ‘Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ takes best comedy
Best: A ‘Marvelous’ evening
The broadcast sprinted through the awards, which is good for everyone who wants to go to bed at a reasonable hour, but also a little overwhelming. But seeing long-overdue veterans Alex Borstein (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and Henry Winkler (“Barry”) finally get their due as winners gave the show some genuine emotional warmth. The many wins for Amazon’s period comedy “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (and especially its quirky co-creator Amy Sherman-Palladino) proved a delightful start to the night. “Maisel” was also the first streaming series to take the best comedy Emmy, which was a delightful conclusion.
Best: “I don’t even believe in God, but I’m going to thank her tonight.”
One of the night’s best upsets was Thandie Newton taking the prize for supporting actress in a drama, besting three “Handmaid’s Tale” actresses. (Two other “Handmaid’s” stars, Elisabeth Moss and Samira Wiley, presented the award.) Newton is consistently the best part of the confusing mess that “Westworld” has become, and she only got better in the show’s second season.
Worst: The opening number
The opening musical number was basically a super-sized version of a “Saturday Night Live” musical monologue, and it was the worse for it.
In “We Solved it,” celebrities from the NBC and NBCUniversal family, including Kate McKinnon and Kenan Thompson, sung about how TV’s diversity problem is solved with the Emmys’ most diverse roster of nominees. It was a one-joke song that wasn’t funny and wasted the wealth of talent, from Sterling K. Brown and RuPaul Charles to Ricky Martin and John Legend, employed to sing lame punchlines including, “There were none, now there’s one. So now we’re done.” Get it? That the song’s melody was terrible was only highlighted when musicians like Martin and Legend tackled it.
More: Emmys 2018: The winners’ list
Best: Horsin’ around
Borstein had one of the best emotional speeches of the night, but my absolute favorite was Jeff Daniels’, who won his second career Emmy for best supporting actor for Netflix’s “Godless.” His riff about learning how to ride a horse for the Western miniseries – and how his horse compared him to Jeff Bridges in “True Grit” – was genuinely hilarious and pithy. And yes, the professional comedians should take notes from him.
More: All the ways stars got political on the Emmys 2018 red carpet
Worst: The hosts with the least
“Weekend Update” hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che’s opening monologue was about as shaky and uneven as their “SNL” banter.
The pair, usually seen behind their anchor desk, seemed a bit unsure what to do standing up. They got in a few good barbs, some directed at the Emmys’ shrinking audience and broadcast-nominee leader NBC, which Che described as being like “the sexiest person on life support.” (Although they were never quite as funny as a moment when audience-member Chrissy Teigen tried to hide from the camera during a reaction shot.) Their bits for the rest of the show were also lackluster.
Not great: The first surprise
After an adorable introduction from RuPaul Charles and Leslie Jones, Regina King took home the award for actress in a limited series or TV movie for Netflix’s “Seven Seconds,” and for once it was easy to believe the winner was truly shocked. Laura Dern was widely expected to win this category for “The Tale,” and although King is an outstanding actress, “Seven Seconds” was a disappointing series. Dern really deserved it.
Worst: The second surprise
Sorry, but I was not a fan of the wedding proposal by Glenn Weiss, who won for directing the Oscars telecast, to his girlfriend during his acceptance speech. It was sweet and everything, but public proposals are terrible (we all know this), and, as the director of an awards show, Weiss knows about time crunches. That was a power move.
Best: “Well done him”
The Emmys producers made a fantastic call by booking Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby to present an award after she broke big with this year’s buzzy Netflix stand-up special. Gadsby’s quirky brand of humor – “#NotAllMen but a lot of them! That was a joke. No one knows what jokes are, especially not men. Am I right, fellas?” – made an award where the winner wasn’t even present one of the best of the night.
More: Jessica Biel, Kristen Bell and more best-dressed stars stun at the 2018 Emmys
Worst: The Emmy “experts”
Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen are dynamic comedians with chemistry you can’t replicate. So why did they get a repetitive, unfunny bit in which they pretended to know Emmys history?