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Emmys 2021: 10 Best, Worst, and Most WTF Moments

Our picks for the highs, lows, and head-scratching moments from last night’s ceremony

The 'Ted Lasso' gang celebrates its win for Outstanding Comedy

Cliff Lipson/CBS

If you ever wondered what an awards show in purgatory might look like, the 73rd Primetime Emmys Awards just granted your wish. You could blame it on the times: In 2020, we were collectively starved for connection — any connection — and television provided a decent simulacrum, bringing people and their stories into our homes when we were at our most isolated. This year has seen society emerge from the fog of the worst days of the pandemic, and no one is really sure of what to take away from all of it — least of all the entertainment industry.

Which brings us to the 2021 Emmys, which seemed to take place in a sort of limbo between disaster and its aftermath, between business interrupted and business as usual, between stagnation and progress. While the 2020 ceremony was a sort of apocalyptic shadow play, with then-host Jimmy Kimmel performing to an empty theater and hazmat-suited presenters dropping off statuettes on winners’ doorsteps, this year’s was an in-person, vaccinated, unmasked ceremony that felt almost normal, presided over by first-time host Cedric the Entertainer.

An anxiety ran through the proceedings (best expressed by the night’s first presenter, Seth Rogen, when he fretted, “There’s way too many of us in this little room!”) that, as the night wore on, was supplanted by a creeping boredom. The big wins went off as anticipated, with stacks of trophies going to Netflix’s grand dame The Crown for drama and The Queen’s Gambit for limited series, and the Apple TV+ comedy Ted Lasso for its freshman season. Meanwhile, HBO’s Mare of Easttown and Hacks netted three wins apiece.

These predictable sweeps offered a snapshot of our current cultural moment: Despite some of the more artistically daring, socially challenging, and diverse offerings that were nominated (see: I May Destroy You, Lovecraft Country, PEN15, WandaVision, and the final season of Pose), the Television Academy rewarded what felt safe. The telecast, too, seemed to be more about TV’s past than its future, with a draggy ceremony that was hindered by hokey comedy bits and a few overly long speeches. If this is what a “return to normal” feels like, maybe it’s time that the Emmys throw the concept of normal out altogether.

From Rolling Stone US

WTF: Conan O’Brien Merrily Trolls the Ceremony

Talk-show icon Conan O’Brien wrapped his nominated TBS series Conan after 11 seasons this past summer. And after he lost the variety talk series Emmy to HBO’s Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, he apparently decided he had nothing else to lose — because that’s when his campaign of chaos began. When Television Academy president Frank Scherma came out to give his (deadly dull) speech about the state of the biz, O’Brien went full heckler, saluting and clapping until he’d whipped up the whole audience into a confused standing ovation. Later, he raced onto the stage with Stephen Colbert and his Election Night 2020 team when they accepted the variety special trophy, shouting and hugging the actual man of the hour. “Wow, I haven’t met some of these people before,” Colbert joked at the start of his speech. This is the kind of unhinged, why-the-hell-not energy that awards shows have always needed — and Conan was just the guy to bring it. JS