Neil Patrick Harris summed it up best midway through last night's Primetime Emmy Awards: "This just in," deadpanned the sophomore host during one of several notable lulls in the three-hour show. "Nobody in America is winning their Emmy office pool. Surprises galore."
Broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards elicited few surprises, save perhaps for the Best Drama win by Breaking Bad in the closing minutes. And twerking was only mentioned once. The annual TV awards fête maintained a formal tone in keeping with the Academy Awards, yet lapsed into a giddy stage show more mindful of the Tony Awards at times.
The highlights and lowlights:
A host with the most
Back for his second Emmy-hosting stint, Harris was a ball of energy. The show began with a pretaped opening where Harris tries to absorb a full season of television in one sitting, which lead to him bursting onstage in his natty burgundy blazer. He kept the Emmys show, which began 10 minutes late, a classy and civilized affair, even if the pace was glacial at times.
Getting the hook
For a show that stretched to three hours, the Emmy producers sure seemed in a rush to get the winners off stage after they collected their trophy. Each recipient had 90 seconds to give thanks, and then the strains of piano were heard – and not softly – to get them the hell out of there. Over the course of nearly two-dozen categories, the only Emmy-winner who escaped the hook seemed to be the low-profile Merritt Wever, winner of Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for Nurse Jackie, who said simply, "Thank you so – Oh no! Thanks so much. Um. Thank you so much! Um … I gotta go. Bye."
We see dead people
As promoted ceaselessly in advance, last night's Emmys broadcast devoted a sizeable chunk of screen time to eulogizing five TV stars who passed away this past year, with each memorial coming from TV colleagues and friends. Hence, Robin Williams delivered a respectful tribute to his "mentor," the late Jonathan Winters; Rob Reiner gave a touching farewell to Jean Stapleton, who played his mother-in-law on All in the Family; Jane Lynch briefly eulogized the Canadian-born actor Cory Monteith, saying "Cory was a beautiful soul"; and Michael J. Fox had kind words to say about producer Gary David Goldberg, who made Fox a star in Family Ties and then did it all over again in Spin City. The most moving sendoff was reserved for James Gandolfini, who passed away suddenly last summer and was eulogized by Edie Falco, who played his wife on six seasons of The Sopranos. "It's Jim the man, the very dear man, that I will miss the most," said a tearful Falco.
Funny comedy bits
Bob Newhart sneaking in with the accountants. Will Ferrell coming out in soccer-dad wear with his own three kids to present the important categories of Best Drama and Best Comedy ("They called me 45 minutes ago," explained Ferrell.)
Also funny: While Julia Louis-Dreyfus was thanking people for her Best Actress in a Comedy award for Veep, standing right beside her, feeding her words, was her co-star Tony Hale, who had already won his own Emmy for playing her personal assistant on the HBO political comedy series. Nice touch.
Unfunny comedy bits
An overlong pretaped segment about "Excessive Hosting Disorder," assembled by Harris's How I Met Your Mother co-stars. You know a sketch is going bad when they bring in Arsenio Hall to save it.
Cheesy corporate sponsorship moment
Shemar Moore, a cast regular on the CBS series Criminal Minds, was situated backstage, talking up the glitz and glamour at a celebrity lounge glaringly sponsored by an automotive company. Shemar (real name) joked around with Bob Newhart and said Carrie Underwood was "as sexy as she wants to be."
A genuine moment
When The Colbert Report won for Best Writing, host Stephen Colbert was shown in the crowd, with his wife Evelyn cupping his face and mouthing the words to him, "You won!" (Colbert is deaf in one ear).
Moments later, when Colbert and his phalanx of writers were onstage, he skipped the usual platitudes and said he wanted to "thank my wife Evie for being so cool and sexy."
Faces in the crowd
Al Pacino, looking dour; Matt Damon, looking awkward. Jessica Lange, looking taut. Louie C.K., looking bewildered. Lorne Michaels, looking bemused.