Emmys 2014: 10 things we learnt from the awards
Jimmy Fallon is the best presenter/host around. Period.
He was funny when he presented. He was funny when he hijacked Stephen Colbert's acceptance speech. He is funny pretty much every night he's on air as host of The Tonight Show. If Jimmy Fallon isn't named as the host of next year's Oscars ... well, someone else will be. But it will be a mistake.
People love True Detective, they're just not sure about that ending
If you could have smelted all the love in the room, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey (the latter especially) would have gone home with awards for their turns in the brilliant gothic cop drama True Detective. Over eight episodes of disrupted narrative, the pair debated faith and nihilism and the show seemed to convincingly come down on the side of the latter. And then, in the last 10 minutes, it backtracked. Whaaaaaa? In the eyes of many it was an outrageous betrayal, and it was hard not to suspect that played out in the voting. It won five awards but all but one (best directing) were in the technical categories.
People love Matthew McConaughey, they're just not sure about that speech
If anyone in the True Detective cast seemed a shoo-in, it was McConaughey, whose low-talking alcoholic cop, Rust Cohle, was the abrasive centre of the show. But as Jimmy Kimmel joked, "you were great in True Detective but you just won an Oscar five months ago! How many of those speeches do we have to sit through?" In case you've forgotten, Kimmel was referring to the stomach-churning speech McConaughey gave after winning best actor for Dallas Buyers Club, referring to himself repeatedly in the third person and gushing a geyser of love for his creator. For those who remember it, here's hoping your therapy helps with the healing process.
TV is creating some great roles for women, but it's still not averse to sticking them on a pedestal (and making them spin around)
Anna Gunn won for her knockout turn as Skyler White in Breaking Bad, Julianna Margulies for her equally compelling Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife, both strong, complex, morally conflicted characters who just happen to be women (well, you could debate that "just happen to be" endlessly, but they are never reduced to their gender, ever). And then we have the admittedly amusing and self-parodying spectacle of Modern Family's resident bombshell Sofia Vergara being asked to stand on a rotating plinth while a man makes oblique references to eye candy. You've come a long way, baby. And then you've been turned around and sent right back where you came from.
We've lost a lot of genuine talent this year
That was some roll call. Robin Williams got his own tribute, of course - sensitively handled, with just the right mix of light and shade, by Billy Crystal - and you could quibble over how many of the names truly belonged on a TV awards show, but what a lot of talent has been lost this past year. Lauren Bacall, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Mazursky (co-creator of The Monkees), Paul Walker (Fast & Furious), Harold Ramis (Groundhog Day), Bob Hoskins (Mona Lisa). Some years you see the names scroll past and think, 'Who?' Not this year.
Modern Family may be predictable, but it's still predictably good
Five seasons in, Modern Family has long since moved from original to reliably formulaic, and its characters from welcome change to stock type, but it still manages to wring truth, pathos and laughter from the times and travails of the extended Dunphy clan. As Community, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock have also shown, it's harder to stay fresh than funny. Five wins on the trot suggest it's managing the latter just fine.
Breaking Bad will be missed, but it timed its exit perfectly
The final season of Vince Gilligan's spectacularly good series was the big winner on the night with five awards (it also picked up best editing in the technical awards given out last week). Though Gilligan missed out on best direction (to True Detective's Cary Joji Fukunaga) and best writing (to his own series' Moira Walley-Beckett), there's little doubt he was riding a tide of goodwill all the way to that beach marked "legend". Here's hoping Better Call Saul doesn't wash him back out to sea.
Is Heisenberg funny? You're goddamn right he is
He went the pash on Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the pay-off for an obscure set-up that referenced his guest role 20 years ago on Seinfeld (as dentist Tim Whatley, who briefly dated Elaine). He told a great little story at his own expense about being a lazy loafer, nicknamed Sneaky Pete by his own family, who belatedly found his way in life. He took the stage to accept best actor and opened with: "Even I thought about voting for Matthew [McConaughey]." Bryan Cranston had them eating out of his hand, moving from gag mode to earnest and back again with ease. There's so much more to this guy than Walter White, and here's hoping we get to see it soon.
Weird Al Yankovic can't sing
The idea was cute - putting old-style "it's a story, of a lovely lady"-type lyrics to the theme music of the nominated shows in order to explain their storylines - but Weird Al was all but incomprehensible in his delivery. Thankfully, those of us who have actually seen the shows could put storylines to his lyrics. The spot didn't really work, but it did prompt the question of whatever happened to those kinds of theme songs. They sure helped make opening episodes a lot snappier, since you got all the set-up out of the way in the first 45 seconds. Hell, you could have reduced the first two season of Lost to a seven-inch double A-side single (remember those?).
Someone needs to shoot the piano player
Look, we get it that long speeches can be boring, and no one wants to sit through a laundry list of thank-yous, but when it's the guy who created one of the best shows in television history accepting the award for best drama - the last one of the night - and the show is over, well you might just think a little leeway is in order. Seriously, that Richard Clayderman wannabe must be sitting there with the stopwatch function on his phone counting down the seconds, his sweaty paws poised above the ivories just itching to see the 00:00 come up so he can start in on Fur Elise or whatever it is. Sheesh.
Sydney Morning Herald