The Emmys make it light and unmemorable

In his introductory remarks at the 74th Primetime Emmy Awards, Kenan Thompson joked about people inventing television so that we could all "watch at home on television," but were we? I was watching Peacock instead of NBC. I believe it was a similar experience, except instead of ads, I was ignoring floating circular visuals set to elevator music. The Emmys returned to a huge platform in a big space, the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, but they fared better in getting through COVID-19 than in losing the big streaming-video chip on their shoulder. For one more year, we witnessed broadcast television nervously asserting its significance as if it wouldn't have the opportunity to do so for much longer. The show entered a pleasant and unoffensive, formless and graceless groove after Oprah Winfrey praised TV as "the most successful broadcast medium" in the world and host Thompson said he was "so grateful to be welcomed into your living rooms for the past 30 years" it also settled into this groove after a few very overt jabs at Netflix's recent business setbacks. There isn't anything to be unhappy about or thrilled about. Another one was written down. There were several mysteries, such as the hospital-show montage slapped onto the opening of an unrelated award presentation to highlight the pandemic's toll, or the closed captions providing extra thank-yous that some prize winners had seemingly submitted in advance. The show's terrible scripted segments were among its most glaring flaws, so it might have been for the best. One attempt at a topical joke: calling Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay from the "Law & Order" series "two cops nobody wants defunding." Onstage as a presenter, Lizzo pointed out that her remark, "And the Emmy, who in her way is a tremendously big girl," was written by someone else. The remarks supplied to the introducers and presenters were both dull and disconnected as if they were half-written; undoubtedly Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez penned their lines, a wonderful, lengthy cascade of insults. The skits, which appeared awkwardly after commercial breaks — Kumail Nanjiani as the night's inept bartender; a "Simpsons" part with the novel premise of ridiculing the Hollywood crowd's reliance on aesthetic surgery — continued until their time was up, with no shape or many laughs. In any event, even before the pandemic, award show productions had devolved into a forgettable, bland, indifferently produced middle ground, with the memorable moments coming almost solely from the acceptance speeches. Monday's ceremony had them, starting with Sheryl Lee Ralph, who ripped out a half-sung, half-spoken acceptance speech for her acting award for "Abbott Elementary," a dramatic moment that jolted the theater to life for a moment and made Lizzo, who had to follow her onstage, looking uncharacteristically unsure of herself. Lizzo recovered well in her joyful acceptance of the reality competition award for "Lizzo's Watch Out for the Big Grrrls," Michael Keaton and Matthew Macfadyen were moving and eloquent in accepting their acting awards for "Dopesick" and "Succession," and Jerrod Carmichael, a winner for writing his comedy special "Rothaniel," gave a halting, halting series of monologues Then there was the night's most hilarious diversion: attempting to read the looks on the American nominees' faces every time "Squid Game" won an award. Emmys and Oscars used to aim at elegance, a trait that is no longer prized for a variety of reasons. Instead of a soiree, the goal is something in between a big business Christmas bash and a frat party, complete with studied "authenticity" and competitive vulgarity. Quinta Brunson had to deliver a sophisticated and extremely grownup statement while standing over Jimmy Kimmel, who was lying on the stage as part of a foolish skit and refused to get up. Self-indulgence, too, needs representation.