Review Round-Up: What Did Critics Think of the Emmys?

by | August 27, 2014 | Comments

NBC’s Monday night broadcast of the 66th Annual Primetime Emmys brought in a lot of viewers — many of whom had plenty to say about it. Here’s what the critics thought of the show, including who won, who lost, who hosted, who nailed it, and who might want to stay home next year.

How did Seth Meyers do?

Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter: Meyers was funny the majority of the night. While he didn’t deliver searing, belly laugh-inducing jokes (Jimmy Kimmel and Ricky Gervais did, with Jimmy Fallon, late in the evening, helping Stephen Colbert make up for a terrible bit), Meyers was affable and steady and kept the banter light and upbeat.

Robert Bianco, USA Today: Unlike jokes from some other Emmy hosts, none of Meyers’ were mean, pointed or unsuited to the occasion… That choice may not have made Meyers the most exciting host, but he was good-natured and efficient — as witness that on-time ending. Those are qualities we don’t always see at the Emmys.

Michael Starr, New York Post: Meyers didn’t appear to be jittery and played it safe, a good TV traffic cop keeping everything moving along.

Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press: No gimmicks. No dancers. Just a smart guy in a tux saying funny things. NBC late-night newcomer Seth Meyers scored big laughs with his opening monologue, which took aim at fat-cat network targets, not the nervous nominees.

Brian Lowry, Variety: Meyers adopted a minimalist approach to open the show, delivering a straight stand-up routine aimed at the TV-literate crowd — both in the room and at home — that resembled some of the better Oscar intros of years past. Going with a monologue not only played to the host’s strengths but reflected a sense TV has indeed grown up, without requiring inordinate bells and whistles to set the ball rolling.

Daniel D’Addario, [NBC] has a few potential hosts on its air, and seems to have chosen wisely with Seth Meyers; the Late Night host has his limitations, but does straightforward observational humor well.

How beautiful was that “In Memoriam” segment?

Michael Stark, Tampa Bay Times: The night’s most meaningful moment came later in the show, when the In Memoriam montage accompanied by Sara Bareilles’ lovely rendition of Nat King Cole’s “Smile” led into an anticipated Robin Williams tribute. It didn’t disappoint. Williams’ longtime pal and colleague Billy Crystal weaved a touching and bittersweet tale about working with Williams that emphasized his ability to inspire laughter anywhere. Followed by excerpts of Williams on TV over the years, it was the perfect blend of sentimental and celebratory.

Matt Roush, TV Guide: As expected, Billy Crystal delivered a genuine, sweet, funny and movingly personal tribute to colleague and friend Robin Williams at the end of a classy In Memoriam segment featuring Sara Bareilles singing “Smile.”

Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix: Though Robin Williams’ death is still raw for all who knew him and/or loved his work, Billy Crystal gave a composed, beautiful tribute to his longtime friend and collaborator, capturing what made Williams both a brilliant comedian and a great friend. And the clip reel of Williams’ TV highlights ended on the perfect one: Williams in his classic “An Evening at the Met” HBO special imagining a conversation with his young son, tenderly escorting him offstage and assuring him things will be okay.

Sara Smith, Kansas City Star: Billy Crystal sent off his pal Robin Williams with a low-key appreciation, calling him “the brightest comedy star in our galaxy.”

Did the Academy pick the right winners?

Brian Lowry, Variety: The parade of repeat winners — and overlooking of projects that injected new blood and excitement into this year’s races — simply flummoxed whatever plans the producers might have had. There was probably no bigger example of that, frankly, than the momentum-busting Emmy haul for the latest season of PBS’ Sherlock, which felt slightly deflating, no matter how red-hot Benedict Cumberbatch (an upset winner, and not in attendance) is right now.

Robert Bianco, USA Today: As for the awards, for the series at least, they were largely predictable — and largely a rebuff to shows like True Detective and Orange Is the New Black that tried to game the system by moving into categories where they didn’t belong. Repeat winners abounded, led by series champs Modern Family for a record-tying fifth time and Breaking Bad for the second. Which is fine: Complain about repetition all you want, but why should people who were great this season be punished for having been great before?

Tim Goodman, The Hollywood Reporter: Jim Parsons winning — his fourth time! — for lead actor on Big Bang Theory only further fueled the notion that Emmy voters were mailing it in. Not an unfamiliar charge, obviously, but one you’d think they’d have corrected in a decade or two’s time.

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times:[Breaking Bad is] a great show, a deserving show, but in this time of such rich and varied splendor, it’s hard to justify a sweep of any sorts.

Matthew Gilbert, Boston Globe: Alas, there can’t be Emmy term limits; it goes against point of celebrating the year’s best.

Frazier Moore, The Associated Press: The prime-time Emmys, bestowed for 66 years, are meant to celebrate excellence in television. But in Emmy’s eyes, excellence too often takes the form of stamina, not the burst of inspiration that may have launched a series and its characters many seasons earlier and since settled into routine.

Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News: Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that there are more good things on TV — and now on online platforms — than there are Emmys to go around. And more, too, than some Emmy voters, who do seem to watch broadcast TV, may get around to seeing.

Andy Greenwald, It’s OK that the Emmys continue to go to the same handful of people. Really, it is. I just wish the ceremony around those lucky few could be filled with the energy of the ones who still have empty space on their mantels.

What about those comedy bits?

Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press: Billy Eichner might be new to some people. But anyone’s who’s watched “Billy on the Street” on the Fuse network or Funny or Die’s website knows how hilarious it is for a crazed grown man to ask people impassioned questions about pop culture.

David Hiltbrand, Philadelphia Inquirer: Weird Al’s weak theme song medley was two minutes we’ll never get back.

Alan Sepinwall, Hitfix: Weird Al’s attempt to provide lyrics to the theme songs for Mad Men, Scandal and other shows mostly didn’t land, but the Game of Thrones song at the end — which had backup singers reminding the audience they can pause the opening credits map, and admonishing Weird Al for spoilers — worked.

Hank Stuever, Washington Post: It only felt like the 2014 Emmys once “Weird Al” Yankovic (a throwback himself, who has nevertheless happened to release one of the year’s best albums) took the stage to supply lyrics to some of the top nominees’ instrumental theme songs, including the manic jazz riff of Showtime’s Homeland intro and the thrumming anthem of HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Curt Wagner, RedEye: Weird Al Yankovic’s made-up TV theme song medley was an unfortunate part of the telecast, but it did give us Andy Samberg, dressed as King Joffrey from Game of Thrones, interrupting Lena Headey as she presented the next award.

Gail Pennington, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Billy Eichner of Billy on the Street was a bright spot, joining Meyers for a taped piece asking New Yorkers Emmy questions. Eichner’s best line: “Hotmail just picked up 12 new episodes of Judging Amy.”

Eric Deggans, NPR: Love that Chris Hardwick used his Emmy presenting moment to crack on Internet trolls’ bad grammar.

Esther Breger, The New Republic: Sofia Vergara began to spin onstage, providing “something compelling to watch” as the Academy’s CEO discussed, of all things, diversity. Vergara has defended the grossly sexist scene, but the queasy objectification was hard to forget in a ceremony that reflected the worst aspects of modern television.

Joanne Ostrow, Denver Post: Most daring but unfulfilling intro: Stephen Colbert and his imaginary friend. Equally daring but more fulfilling: Key and Peele.

Ana Luisa Suarez, Amy Poehler AKA Beyonce, is half the reason we even tune into these awards shows. She’s either hosting, presenting, or just being fabulous, and that’s alright by us.

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