The 2022 Emmys In Review: A Mixed Bag But Still Entertaining, Just Like Actual TV!

The ​​74th Primetime Emmy Awards took place last night, in a show that was a vast improvement from last year's chaotic hybrid of in-person and virtual celebration. The awarded stars were all together for the ceremony for the first time since COVID-19 reared their ugly head, with folks like (seemingly only) Bill Hader wisely accessorizing his tuxedo with a K95 mask. We love and support an immunocompromised king.

Kenan Thompson hosted the festivities, delivering a reliable, and unproblematic performance, a far cry from the usual forced clowning of other award show hosts. His opening monologue was pretty standard fare, joking about how we'd all rather watch TV than read, followed by an extravagant musical salute (with some killer choreography) to some of the most beloved shows in TV history, while simultaneously delivering some well deserved roasts, like how "Friends" is a whitewashed version of "Living Single."

The Emmys also tried a new feature this year, on-screen chyrons that allowed winners to include more people to thank than their short on-mic acceptance speech time would allow. Even still, winners were played off early, mics were cut, and more than one winner made a comment about the lack of time they had. National treasure Jennifer Coolidge was one of those winners, who yelled out "Hold on! This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing!" before still being cut off. We get it, east coast viewers need to go to bed, but it's Jennifer f***** Coolidge!

Overall, the show was a tonally confusing attempt at recapturing the normalcy of award shows pre-pandemic, and it mostly worked out. The biggest night honoring TV is as inconsistent as actual TV while still proving entertaining? Who could have predicted this?

Kenan was a new style of host

Hosting an awards show is a massive honor, and with that comes a lot of pressure. Fortunately, Kenan Thompson has been in the business for over 30 years, and it shows. Thompson has consistently worked in comedy, but as anyone who grew up watching movies like "Heavyweights" or shows like "Kenan and Kel" could tell you, Thompson has always been a low-key funny guy. Sure, he's more than capable of playing larger than life or cartoonish characters, but his strength has always been in playing the straight man to someone else's nonsense.

Thompson thrived as a host because he wasn't worried about telling the edgiest jokes possible like some stand-up comedians do when given the chance, or camping it up like comedy actors have often felt pressured to do to prove their talents. This was most evident compared to some of the presenters, namely Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, and even Amy Poehler. The internet is currently petitioning to have the "Only Murders in the Building" trio host a show in the future, and Poehler has a solid track record of hosting the Golden Globes with Tina Fey. All four came prepared with textbook, rock solid funny "awards show presenter banter," which felt more traditional than Thompsons low-key delivery.

Thompson was a refreshing change from the usual awards show host schtick, and surely got a huge pop from millennial viewers when he reunited with Kel Mitchell for a short "Good Burger" bit. Dude showed up, delivered some solid albeit safe jokes, and left without inspiring any think pieces. His best moments were when he was given someone to play off of (Thank you, Bowen Yang and Kumail Nanjiani), but ultimately, Kenan was fine! This shouldn't be a revelation but the bar for good hosting is so low it's in hell.

Why the montages and commercials?

Scattered throughout the night were odes to the variety of television shows at our disposal, lumped together by similar genres. Comedies and dramas made sense to be featured since the show separates awards by genre already, but the decision to highlight medical shows was an odd choice, but the weird copaganda section dedicated to police procedurals featuring "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” stars Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay was ... questionable. Show announcer Sam Jay joked that the two actors are ones "no one wants to see defunded," which was such a weird choice considering the Emmys had just awarded "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" the award for Outstanding Variety Talk Series ... which the night before had dedicated an entire segment to criticizing the way "Law & Order" has negatively impacted the real life criminal justice system.

These segments also doubled as a distraction from an immersive Kia advertisement. At first, it looked as if Robert Ri'chard was making a nostalgic appearance in a sketch, but it turned out to be how Kia executed their role as the Official Automotive Partner of the awards. The dramatic bit was not a sketch, it was an advertisement for the 2023 Telluride and Telluride X-Pro, scheduled to play before the Emmys would break for an actual commercial break. Jake Lacy also popped up backstage to present an awar– just kidding, it was a Peacock ad for the upcoming series "A Friend of the Family." At least someone finally kicked "He's All That" off the throne for most egregious hidden advertisements.

Sheryl Lee Ralph gets her flowers

Sheryl Lee Ralph has been in the business longer than some of the people in the room last night have been alive, and yet this was her first time taking home an Emmy statue. Winning for her role on "Abbott Elementary" was more than deserved, but her powerful acceptance speech complete with a rousing a capella rendition of "Endangered Species" by Dianne Reeves was arguably the best of the night. The Emmy production team was wise to not play her off early, because I think every person in that room would have flipped a table if Zedd dared to cue up the orchestral track.

"To anyone who has ever, ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn't, wouldn't, couldn't come true. I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like. This is what striving looks like. And don't you ever, ever give up on you."

She cried, she belted her face off, and she became the second Black woman in history to win Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series, an unforgivable 35 years after Jackée Harry did the same for "227," a role Ralph almost played herself. If you're in desperate need of a serotonin boost, Ralph's children posted a TikTok of their reactions to her win, and if "Yesssss, Mommy!" doesn't fill you with the warm fuzzies, I don't know what will.

What the hell, Jimmy?

The "Girl Who's Never Been on a Nice Date" is now "The First Black Woman to Get Three Emmy Comedy Nominations in One Year & Second Black Woman To Win In The Writing For A Comedy Series Category." Quinta Brunson took to the stage to accept her award for "Abbott Elementary," a historic moment that will forever be associated with the distraction of Jimmy Kimmel refusing to give up an already not-funny bit of laying on the ground in protest for once again losing for Outstanding Variety Talk Series. Will Arnett dragged him out on stage by his feet, and rather than realize "Hm, this is a historic moment, maybe I shouldn't try to make this about me," he continued laying on the ground as Brunson had to step over him to get to the microphone and give her speech.

Ironically, Quinta Brunson is scheduled to appear on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" tomorrow evening, so there's a good chance we'll hear whatever justification he had for refusing to bail on the bit and hopefully Brunson will get the apology she so rightfully deserves. There's clearly no bad blood as Brunson has already been joking about it on social media, but with "Abbott Elementary" existing as the best comedy on network TV by a mile, this certainly won't be the first time we see Brunson with an Emmy in her hand.

And the award goes to ... mostly who was predicted

Hwang Dong-hyuk and Lee Jung-jae made history for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama series, respectively, for "Squid Game," but other than that, the Emmys for the most "esteemed" categories went to the usual suspects. Jean Smart and Zendaya have now won back-to-back Emmys for Outstanding Lead Performance in Comedy/Drama, "Ted Lasso" is once again the Outstanding Comedy Series, and "Succession" earned a kiss from daddy as Outstanding Drama Series. "Saturday Night Live" is yet again the "Outstanding Variety Sketch Series" and while "The White Lotus" is a new show, they were the frontrunner from the very beginning.

In a welcome upset, "Lizzo's Watch Out For The Big Grrrls" dethroned "RuPaul's Drag Race" for Outstanding Competition Program, with Lizzo delivering a tearful acceptance and celebrating fat, Black excellence. "The trophy is nice, but my emotion is for these people who are on this stage with me," she said. For those unaware, Lizzo's show was about her finding a new team of backup dancers for her tour, who she continually shouted out and highlighted as the true stars each and every one of them are. If this win means Lizzo gets to come back every year to present, the world is better for it.

Final thoughts

Overall, this year's Emmys weren't a lot to write home about, but after the hellscape that was the Oscars, it's hard to be critical that they played things so safe. The show already felt a little smaller than usual after NBC again moved the ceremony to a Monday night to maintain the season opener of Sunday Night Football schedule, once again proving that high school follows us forever and the arts will always be deprioritized to make way for competitive sports.

It was extremely tame compared to other awards shows, but perhaps this isn't a bad thing? Sure, hearing people make countless jokes about how terrible the rich and powerful are amongst a room of people who make more money in a year than some of us will see in a lifetime gets pretty grating, pretty fast, but there's a weird sense of comfort getting to write about something that was pretty firmly walking down the middle of the road. It's certainly more interesting when an event falls to one side or the other, but if NBC intended to walk the line of safety, they achieved their goal.

The show was produced by Done+Dusted in association with Hudlin Entertainment, directed by Hamish Hamilton, and sadly hit a record low, dropping 25% compared to last year. There are a multitude of complicated factors as to why this was the case (like cord cutting, it being a weeknight, not enough people having Peacock, etc.), but as the years go by and algorithms become the new way of telling audiences what to watch, award shows may soon mean nothing more than vanity.