In the days leading up to Sunday's 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, host and comedian Cedric the Entertainer stressed he didn't want the night's vibe to be too stuffy. "Though we're dressed up and wearing tuxedos, I don't want that Oscars feel," he told The New York Times.
As it turned out, resembling the disastrous 2021 Oscars ceremony would have been an improvement for this year's Primetime Emmys, which effectively made a case for their own irrelevance.
After ABC's mostly virtual Emmys in 2020, the 2021 show was supposed to be a return to normalcy, "a ton of fun" with "a lot of people participating, singing, rapping." But CBS's widely-panned broadcast failed to do the most basic job of entertaining its audience. The sketches were painfully unfunny, ranging from distracting (why couldn't Ken Jeong present the award to Saturday Night Live without that lame gag about being locked out of the ceremony?) to weirdly out of tune (the skit about a fly landing on Mike Pence's head was literally 11 months too late). The few truly funny moments of the evening were all unscripted reactions by Conan O'Brien.
No comedy would have been better than comedy this bad. Amy Poehler was all of us when she quipped toward the end of the three-hour slog, "What time is it, and how do we get out of here?"
But the ceremony was the least consequential of the night's problems. Far more damning was the awards' lack of adventurousness. Voters overlooked some of the year's most ambitious and artistic shows and failed to recognize any of the year's great genre programs, like WandaVision. Viewers could be forgiven for believing only four shows aired in the past year: Ted Lasso (which had four actors nominated in the "Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series" category alone); The Crown; The Queen's Gambit; and The Handmaid's Tale (which seemed to exist to give the other three something to beat). And all four favored shows have largely white casts — indeed, despite a "record number of 49 non-Anglo creatives [who] were recognized in the acting and reality competition," including the late Michael K. Williams from Lovecraft Country and Michaela Coel from I May Destroy You, "all major acting trophies [went] to white actors," Variety reports.
All this blares a question: Why have the Emmys at all? Most viewers have already tuned out; the ceremony's ratings have been plunging for years. And if the Emmys can't entertain home viewers or honor the most deserving achievements of the television industry, the show is little more than public venue for streaming service rivalry.
Next year, the Television Academy and CBS need to seriously reconsider the Emmys — including, perhaps, having them at all.