Jon Stewart ended his iconic tenure on “The Daily Show” this past month, after a memorable 16 years, which is why it came as no surprise last night when “The Daily Show” took home the Emmy in all three of its nominations. While I have the upmost respect for “The Daily Show” and I was just as sad as anyone when Jon Stewart left his desk for the last time back in early August, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” got a little bit snubbed. With superb writing, enthralling exposé pieces and its track record of enacting social change, “Last Week Tonight” is my choice for the best variety show of today, and the Emmys just didn’t reflect that for me. Congrats though Stewart, we are all going to miss you.
The award that threw me off most was “Game of Thrones” for best writing. I’d be the last one to bash “Game of Thrones” — the acting, the visuals, the entire presentation is incredible. However, most of the writing credit should go to the book series author George R. R. Martin. It takes a ton of work to convert a book series into TV — and I respect that — but I don’t think the way that was done this season was really award-worthy. The deviations from the book took away from the story. We’re all obsessed with “Game of Thrones,” but the series writing doesn’t really measure up to that of the shows that came up with their own material.
When Jon Hamm went to accept his award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, he didn’t walk up the steps to the stage, as winners at award shows usually do. No, Hamm — who finally won for his performance as Don Draper on “Mad Men” after having previously been nominated in the category seven times — crawled on stage on all fours. It was the sight of an an exhausted marathon runner dragging himself across the finish line and receiving a participation medal: the bare minimum recognition by the Emmys for one of the all-time great TV performances.
The Emmys nearly made up for its past shortcomings Sunday night, finally honoring Jon Hamm for his magnificent turn as Don Draper in AMC’s “Mad Men,” as well as broaden the field by selecting Jeffrey Tambor as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for his both stately and vulnerable performance as the transitioning head of the complicated Pfefferman clan, Maura, in Netflix’s “Transparent.” However, with Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s victory in Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Amy Poehler lost the category her sixth year in a row for her role of Leslie Knope in “Parks and Recreation.” As the show ended its run this past spring, this was the last year the Emmys could have awarded for her inspiring characterization at the heart of the show’s unrelenting charm. Nevertheless, Poehler brought her charisma and upbeat attitude to much of the award show’s proceedings, from her red carpet interviews for her site “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls” to her staged bits from the audience. Shrugging off of her fourth loss in as many years to Dreyfus, Poehler echoed her show’s underdog sentiment, proving that winning — especially at the Emmys — isn’t everything.
The undisputed best moment of the entire Emmys awards didn’t involve an award or anything. Tracy Morgan wasn’t even supposed to be there, as he recalled how Jimmy Kimmel said on stage last year, “We’ll see you back here next year, Tracy Morgan.” Morgan absolutely stole the show, showing the strength, humility and courage to return to the stage following his life-threatening accident. It was a relief and a blessing to hear him admit that he’s starting to feel like himself again and even crack jokes the way we know only he can. This man is a legend, and we are lucky to see return to his element.