From fabulous first-time winners to heartfelt acceptance speeches, here are some of the highs and lows of the 71st annual Emmy Awards broadcast.
Best: Billy Porter making history
The “Pose” star became the first openly gay black man to win for Best Actor in a Drama Series. The ebullient Mr. Porter borrowed a line from his TV character Pray Tell in his acceptance speech: “The category is … love.”
Worst: Going host-less
By the 10 p.m. mark, it was clear that the Emmys were missing something. Aside from a handful of stirring acceptance speeches from the winners, the ceremony was lacking a bright, acerbic personality to warm up the room and provide some clever connective tissue. The opening moments had offered a few possibilities. Emmy favorite Bryan Cranston is a beloved performer whose ready smile would have been perfect. Stephen Colbert seemed to make us think he had been overlooked for the gig. He, too, would have been great. Perhaps producers were intimidated by his political humor. Even Jimmy Kimmel, who pretended to want the hosting gig — but who has publicly stated that hosting the Oscars is a thankless job — would have been fine. Without a guiding hand, this Emmy ceremony was a little too officious for its own good.
Best: The major acting winners truly deserved it
For once, they managed to get everything right. Billy Porter, Jodie Comer and Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her “Fleabag” — it was pretty astonishing to see these deserving souls win, one after another. Usually after one of these broadcasts, one wants to ask the voters: “Did you see the same shows I did?” This year, they obviously did. The “Game of Thrones” victory as Best Drama series was an unnecessary valentine in a weak category, but thankfully the show did not win for directing or writing — its two weakest features.
Worst: Don Cheadle, sore loser
Cheadle is a talented actor in comedy (“Black Monday”) and drama (“A Lesson Before Dying”), and he has been nominated for both projects. He did not win tonight, losing to last year’s winner Bill Hader for the HBO comedy “Barry.” Was that any reason to drag his feet to the microphone to present an award and announce to the audience, “I don’t care.” And then cue your co-presenter, poor Kristen Bell, to remind the audience that you have lost nine times. Susan Lucci lost more times than that, but she finally won for playing Erica Kane on “All My Children.” Your day will come, Don. Don’t be such a baby.
Best: Jharrel Jerome’s big win
This moment has been coming since episode two of “When They See Us,” when Jharrel Jerome, as Central Park Five defendant Korey Wise, tore our hearts out on the witness stand. His victory tonight as Lead Actor in a Limited Series was met with a thunderous standing ovation because performances this real and moving don’t happen every year. Bronx-born Jerome’s eloquent speech acknowledged the real Central Park Five — or, as he called them, the “Exonerated Five” — who were in attendance and moved to tears. A star is born.
Worst: Those tribute TV clips
One of the reasons the Emmys did not have a host was to give more time to salute departing series such as “The Big Bang Theory,” “Empire,” “Game of Thrones” and “Veep.” These tributes were bland — just repackaged trailer footage that we’ve seen before. A better solution would have been to tell viewers something about each of these long-running series that they didn’t know. A backstage revelation. Not more scenes of dragons and Selina Meyer not knowing what she’s doing. This was a wasted opportunity.
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Best: Patricia Arquette’s acceptance speech
The utterly fearless double-Emmy nominee Patricia Arquette, who won best supporting actress for Hulu’s “The Act,” concluded her acceptance speech with a heartfelt plea for justice for transgender people. “I lost my sister Alexis this year,” Arquette tearfully told the audience, referring to actress Alexis Arquette. She implored Americas to end its bias. “Give these people jobs!!”