TV kept us such good company this year.
So the return of the annual Primetime Emmy Awards to Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater on Sunday night was special.
The 73rd annual award ceremony wasn’t overindulgent. It was triumphant. The Hollywood A-listers at this COVID-safe gathering — attendees were required to produced negative COVID test results within the last 48 hours — sparkled in subdued designer silhouettes and gave graceful, gratitude-filled speeches, doing their part to usher America into a new normal with humor and a bit of joy.
The night began with Cedric the Entertainer, LL Cool J, and Rita Wilson rapping about how this past year, TV had what we needed to the tune of the late Biz Markie’s hit “Just a Friend.” Reggie Watts, the band leader on The Late Late Show With James Corden and the instantly recognizable voice of veteran rapper M.C. Lyte, was responsible for the announcements.
The atmosphere was festive but the night was far from a victory party for nominees with Philly ties.
British actor Brett Goldstein beat University of the Arts alum Carl Clemons-Hopkins in the category of outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series category, for playing Roy Kent in Ted Lasso. Clemons-Hopkins played Marcus, the low-key, funny assistant to glamorously cantankerous standup comedienne Deborah Vance (Jean Smart) in Hacks. Later that night, Smart won the Emmy for outstanding actor in a comedy for her role on the show.
Pitman native Madeline Brewer — the one-eyed Janine Lindo or Ofhoward in The Handmaid’s Tale — lost out to The Crown’s Gillian Anderson for the outstanding supporting actress in a drama series. Anderson won for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in the Netflix series that dramatizes the goings on at Buckingham Palace.
HBO’s Mare of Easttown, the acclaimed HBO murder-mystery series starring Kate Winslet and set in the Philadelphia suburbs, was nominated for 16 awards, but managed to take home only three.
Winslet won the Emmy for outstanding leading actress in a limited series or movie for her on-point portrayal of melancholy police detective Marianne “Mare” Sheehan in Mare.
“I just want to acknowledge my fellow nominees in this decade that has to be about women having each other’s backs,” Winslet said in her acceptance speech. “I support you. I salute you. .... Mare of Easttown brought people together and gave them something to talk about other than a global pandemic. ... Yes, I’m a winner.”
Evan Peters won Mare’s first Emmy of the evening. He clinched the award for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series for his portrayal of Detective Colin Zabel on the HBO runaway hit. Peters expressed gratitude for “hoagies” and “homes” during his acceptance speech in a Delco accent. And Julianne Nicholson won the Emmy for outstanding supporting actress in a limited series for her portrayal of Mare’s best friend, Lori Ross.
Yet the joy of winning didn’t erase the pain of loss. America lost a lot of great actors, including Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek and actors Ed Asner, Cicely Tyson and Michael K. Williams. The ceremony’s In Memoriam was a solemn performance of “River” by Leon Bridges and Jon Batiste.
Sunday night’s Emmys capped off a week of return to the red-carpet events starting with the previous Sunday’s MTV Music Awards and Monday night’s Met Gala. But Sunday night’s Emmys were the first awards in just under two years where everyone on the carpet was a Hollywood A-lister.
Sleek and sophisticated black dominated on both the men and women. Although Pose star Billy Porter’s Ashi Studio, wide-legged pantsuit with its pleated winged shirt and wide-legged pants was the winner. “Interestingly enough it was supposed to go all the way to the floor,” said the 51-year old nominee for outstanding lead actor in a drama series. “When it came in, I started playing with the shapes in the mirror. They feel like wings. I mean, I am the fairy godmother,” Porter said referring to his role in Amazon Prime’s Cinderella.
Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang, nominee for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy, cut a sleek silhouette in a Zegna suit and a pair of silver, closed-toed chunky boots by Asian designer Syro. Meanwhile, Kerri Russell, Rita Wilson, Winslet and Smart were well-dressed in bodycon black, too.
Jewel-toned hues — namely green and teal — gave us a pop of hope. Pose’s Mj Rodriguez in Versace Atelier, Yahara Shahidi in 1950s-inspired Dior, and Jason Sudeikis in a crushed-velvet Tom Ford tuxedo were bold in hue but calming in vibe. Emmy host Cedric the Entertainer wore a color-block teal suit by Jason Lambert Design, and twice-nominated Kenan Thompson — he’s up for outstanding actor (Kenan) and outstanding supporting actor in a comedy (Saturday Night Live) — gave the red carpet life in a pink tux.
Actor and dance veteran Debbie Allen said she was trembling “with grace and gratitude” as she accepted the television academy’s Governor’s Award. Actors Jada Pinket-Smith, Ellen Pompeo and Michael Douglas and director Ava DuVernay recited Allen’s iconic line from long ago TV show, Fame: “Fame costs and right here is where you start paying, in sweat.”
Nostalgia — especially the playlist that included tunes from Stevie Wonder and Chaka Kahn — fueled the emotional ceremony Sunday night. A nod to the nostalgia — watching old shows, listening to old music, and remembering the good times that helped us get through the loneliness of the pandemic.
Allen ignored the clock during her emotional speech, as did The Queen’s Gambit director, Scott Frank, who accepted an Emmy for outstanding directing in a limited series anthology or movie. Frank’s praise of the series star, actress Anna Taylor-Joy, included admiration for how she memorized her lines and complicated chess moves. His words brought the actress to tears.
Michaela Coel accepted the award for outstanding writing in a limited drama — in a magnificent canary-yellow dress by designer Christopher John Rogers — for I May Destroy You, besting Mare’s creator Brian Ingelsby. Coel’s HBO drama was a raw look at sexual assault.
“In a world that entices us to browse through the lives of others to help us better determine how we feel about ourselves, and to in turn feel the need to be constantly visible, for visibility these days seems to somehow equate to success, do not be afraid to disappear,” Coel said in her powerful acceptance speech. “And see what comes to you in the silence.”