The 71st Annual Emmy Awards were historic for a number of reasons, some remarkable (Billy Porter!) and some just facts (no host? Okay then).
As with every year’s ceremony, the three-hour telecast (which didn’t run over?!) was filled with highs and lows, but dare we say… more highs?
Here’s our list of the best and worst moments of the 2019 Emmys.
Best: The Fleabag-ening
It takes a singular comedy series to de-throne Veep after its years of sweeping the Emmys, and luckily Fleabag Season 2’s winning streak in the comedy categories was entirely earned, because it is just that. From Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s equally hilarious and cheeky win for writing to her truly gobsmacked response to her second statue for acting, to Harry Bradbeer’s win for direction and then the big win for in Outstanding Comedy Series… Fleabag Season 2 deserves every accolade it gets forever.
Worst: That extremely cursed musical number
Stick a Larry King impersonator on a set of stilts, force a juggler into a Meryl Streep mask, set off some pyrotechnics, and then uh… hope? We guess?
The incredibly talented Adam DeVine lead a bizarre musical number ahead of the Variety/Sketch Series categories that surprised honorees and left at-home viewers baffled. It was unexpected and, per Twitter, unwelcome in the middle of what felt like an already lengthy program.
Criticism of the live number piled atop complaints about the unusual walk-up selections left a tragic consensus: sad day for Adam DeVine, sad day for music, and sad day for Meryl Streep’s eyeholes.
Best: Hosts arguing for hosts at a host-less ceremony
Late night hosts Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel arrived on stage with an award to present, and an axe to grind. The former Emmy hosts weren’t fans of the “no hosts” ceremony format, making it a point to let the show’s producers and viewers know as much.
“I’m sorry, but this show SUCKS!” proclaimed Kimmel.
“It’s just sad,” Colbert added. “Hosts aren’t optional. Without a host, who would read the words, ‘You know my next guest from the hit series NCIS: New Orleans?’”
“No one would!” argued Kimmel. “Without a host, who would sit behind a desk and pretend to be interested in Jason Bateman’s vacation story?”
Cut to Jason Bateman looking almost as hurt as Colbert and Kimmel. Not having hosts may get people hurt, but it has to be said… things were faster. Vaguely.
Worst: The lack of recognition for When They See Us
There was a point in the night when it looked like Ava DuVernay’s critical docudrama about the Central Park Five would leave the awards empty-handed, a timeline mercifully course-corrected by an acting win for 21-year-old Jharrel Jerome. Yet even with Jerome’s standing ovation and a tearful reception for the now-exonerated Five, When They See Us lost out on other historic wins.
It wasn’t the first time Twitter noticed how white or broadly palatable Emmy likes its winners, even with shows like this one doing monumental work that extends beyond production and performance. Watching the show and bingeing the content isn’t always enough, especially when there’s real-world work to be done and messages to send to systems of power.
Best: Michelle Williams talking equal pay
In her acceptance speech for Lead Actress in a Limited Series, Williams described how refreshing her experience on Fosse/Verdon was in that no one ever questioned her requests, comments, or concerns. It made her better at her job, she argued, and contributed directly to the statue in her hands.
“When you put value into a person, it empowers that person to get in touch with their own inherent value,” she said. “And then where do they put that value? They put it into their work.”
“And so the next time a woman, and especially a woman of color — because she makes 52 cents compared to her white male counterpart — tells you what she needs in order to do her job, listen to her, believe her,” Williams said. “Because one day she might stand in front of you and say thank you for allowing her to succeed because of her workplace environment, and not in spite of it.”
Worst: The big, bad Veep shutout
Of course, we delighted in seeing Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tony Hale, and Timothy Simons presenting on-stage and in-character — but Veep Season 7 failing to win a single category was still unspeakably hard to take.
There was never going to be an elegant and broadly appealing solution for having Veep’s final episodes go head-to-head with Fleabag’s, but seeing the entire cast of HBO’s acerbic political comedy assembled on stage to present an award did drive home the end of its era (not to mention and how much incredible acting and writing the show gave us for years).
We’ll miss this incredible show, and only wish it could have been honored a bit more on its way out. Maybe we should get a JLD x PWB collab in the future? Please and thanks.
Best: Billy Porter winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series
We have stanned Billy Porter on Pose for a while, and the triumphant swell of the Television Academy finally agreeing with us could not have felt more gratifying.
The first openly-gay man of color to be nominated for and win the Lead Actor in a Drama Series category, Porter used his speech time to express his appreciation for the world’s growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community — and encouraged his peers to continue using their platforms as a means of inspiring change.
“I am so overwhelmed and I am so overjoyed to have lived long enough to see this day,” he said.
“We, as artists, are the people who get to change the molecular structure of the hearts and minds of the people who live on this planet. Please don’t ever stop doing that. Please don’t ever stop telling the truth.”
Best: Peter Dinklage wins again
Dinklage took home his fourth win for portraying Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones final season, which would turn out to be the show’s only acting award and one of two statues it won throughout the night (to be fair, the other was Outstanding Drama Series). The actor thanked his fellow artists and their community for accepting so many identities and walks of life, and making careers like his possible.
Worst: Not cutting the mics for the in memoriam
The 71st Emmys memorial tribute was, by and large, a moving homage to television icons lost in the past year.
Unfortunately, the production team’s failure to mute the audience’s inconsistent applause made for a less than classy segment of the telecast.
Best/Worst: Thomas Lennon’s commentary
In what might have been one of the most divisive bits in Emmys history, actor Thomas Lennon offered fun facts about Emmy winners as they took the stage for their speeches, becoming the ceremony’s de facto host, whether that was the intention or not.
(One example: “Ben Whishaw’s name is an onomatopoeia for when an attractive British person passes you on a bicycle. WHISHAWWW.“)
Reactions were polarizing, to say the least, with many Twitter users either loving or hating Lennon’s jokes throughout the night — and almost no reactions in between.
Was there point gold love for your TV ? See all the winners and nominees from the night here.