Jimmy Kimmel swore he wanted the 68th Primetime Emmy Awards to move faster and feel shorter than in past years, and in that respect, the ABC late-night host kept his word. And yes, in one of the first but not last Donald Trump-inspired lines of the night, Kimmel did make the Emmys great again even if he didn’t win the Outstanding Variety Talk Series trophy and get wonderfully mocked by Matt Damon.
One thing is for sure: Even though the nearly three-hour ceremony jumps from network to network every year, Kimmel should be considered as a semi-permanent host the way Ricky Gervais is and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were for the Globe Globes. Fast on his feet, hitting his cues with apparent glee and even handing out food, the now-two-time Emmys host injected the bite and buzz that Andy Samberg’s stint last year on Fox sorely lacked – or as my colleague Mike Fleming Jr. noted of Kimmel: “Why hasn’t he hosted the Oscars yet?”
Long review short: promoting a network star when it’s your year makes branding sense, but for a good show you need a pro who knows how to keep the ball bouncing night after night and week after week to keep the crowd inside and outside the Microsoft Theater interested and entertained. He did so tonight, bringing up his game from when he first hosted in 2012 with a well packaged aerodynamic show around him.
Kimmel did have some help on a night that also saw the Emmys up against a marquee Minnesota Vikings-Green Bay Packers matchup on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. That fact is, after last year’s ratings low, the annual biggest night on TV had to bring some real muscle to the field to show it was in the game; as everyone but The Walking Dead will tell you, looking to tackle the NFL is pretty much a losing proposition. But the Emmys executive produced by Don Mischer, Charlie Haykel and Juliane Hare hit the ground, or rather the road, running.
Lighting fireworks, there were also surprise wins by Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany for Best Actress in a Drama Series, Mr. Robot‘s Rami Malek for Best Actor and Bloodline‘s Ben Mendelsohn in the Best Supporting Actor Drama category. Multiple big wins by Game Of Thrones in the Drama category — breaking an Emmy record for scripted series wins in the process — Veep in the Comedy category and The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story in the Limited Series slot weren’t that big a shock, but not too shabby either. Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones showing up to jolt the Ernst & Young accountants’ slice of the night and calling out the online hack she suffered last month was a nice touch for a comedian who never hesitates to put herself out there – even when trolls try to shout her down.
Maybe it was the L.A. heat on Sunday, but more than in past years the Emmys felt very local. The show started with a smart video bit that had Kimmel in the backseat of O.J.’s Bronco on the freeway, hitching a ride from the Modern Family crew, and then carpool karaoke with James Corden and a bit of Wham! A surprise cameo of a limo-driving Jeb Bush added the first but far from last political spice of the night, and Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke provided a dragon fly-by that literally burned Ryan Seacrest.
— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) September 19, 2016
All in, a grand entrance that set the night’s brisk tone as did handing the Best Actor Comedy trophy to Transparent’s Jeffrey Tambor right near the beginning and a tight monologue that had an extra dose of the cutting wit that Kimmel has displayed in his Upfront presentation for ABC year after year. The fact that favorite Tambor, who was grace personified tonight, did win was just that little bit better as was the actor’s “what they take away…” line as he walked up to the mic. A spontaneous follow-up to Transparent creator Jill Soloway’s declaration to “topple the patriarchy” and a fake introduction of an obviously-not- there disgraced Bill Cosby only solidified that this Emmys had teeth and daring – which has been sorely lacking in recent years.
Introduced by his on and off-air pal Tambor, a very nice tribute to past Emmy host and winner Garry Shandling also displayed a fittingly sentimental side of tonight’s show.
Part of the show, to no one’s surprise this election year in heavily Democratic leaning Hollywood, politics came up again and again with Hillary Clinton and GOP rival Trump’s names mention almost as much as Game of Thrones. Accepting his award for The Voice’s Outstanding Reality Competition Series win, Mark Burnett hit back at being blamed earlier by Kimmel for the Presidential race of the ex-Celebrity Apprentice’s host. Unfortunately for the prolific producer, his joke about Clinton calling him to thank the host and ABC for giving Trump more free network airtime fell faster than the Democrat’s polls in recent weeks.
The same could not be said for Kimmel’s aiming upward repertoire, so, with that all said and done, again- about that Oscar hosting spot, ABC? Looks like you’ve got a tried and tested winner in the house.