Emmys 2022 – The Dread Carpet

Thanks to @dailymail.com MailOnline, where this piece first appeared

Lizzo came as a lurid red Boeing 747 struggling to take off in a storm. Melanie Lynskey was a bright green Christmas candy. Laverne Cox, reporting from the Red Carpet for E, turned up as an extra from Thunderbirds – not one of the astronauts, but a spare part from a rocket.

The Emmys is the precursor to all major awards ceremonies. As with them all, we gazed in disbelief as Fragile Rock hit the road – and all because a deluded someone, earlier that night, had said: ‘You look really great.’

It was the first time Laverne had hosted the channel’s Red Carpet event (taking over from Giuliana Rancic). Sporting two silver chest pyramids (cone bra, if you want to be technical about it), she threatened the eyeballs of everyone who came within kissing distance while gushing enthusiastically over every other hideous outfit.

Christina Ricci looked as if her upper half had obtained its own visa and was already en route to pastures new; Sarah Paulson, in bizarrely angled Louis Vuitton black (they really should stick to baggage), appeared to have been invaded by a sinister Cubist. Nicole Bayer, in turquoise trousers and an unmatching top, had millions reaching for the remote, convinced their TVs had suffered a horrific color malfunction.

There were some elegant, welcome exceptions – Amanda Seyfried in Armani – ‘I’ve come as a mermaid’; Jean Smart in a Laura Basci glamorous pillow of white, and dripping with diamonds; Lily James in Versace gold. Their elegance and grace stood out amid the sewer of sequins elsewhere.

And let’s not forget the men – Nicholas Braun in stunning Christian Dior white, and so many in traditional, classy suits and ties that never fail – Steve Martin, Matthew Macfadyen, Seth Meyers. Maybe the men should start dressing the women.

Sketches and dance routines introduced each category, so although Saturday Night Live star Kenan Thompson had been billed as host, apart from the opening monologue his contribution was rather lost in a show that, at three hours, was a century too long. A second stand-up comedy piece, with a couple of digs at Netflix, was amusing, but hardly side-splitting, although in all fairness, the Red Carpet was a tough act to follow in terms of inducing belly laughs.

The most dreaded phrase in the English language is ‘resident DJ’. It’s a euphemism for forthcoming hell. So hearts sank when Kenan introduced house DJ Zedd. He churned out such a racket, for the first time in my life I prayed the acceptance speeches would be longer.  

Comedian Sam Jay joined the throng as the ‘announcer’. Boy, did she like to announce! Competing with Zedd’s cacophony of horrors for most irritating noise of the night, it was impossible to see what her contribution added. So many cooks spoiling the broth it could have been served up as a Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare.

Presenters were stars in their own right. You could only empathise with their pain as they delivered allegedly funny lines obviously scripted by writers with a sense of humor bypass. Excruciating doesn’t begin to cover it.

The normally hilarious Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler (who probably did write their own skit) limped through a routine that was as unfunny as it was embarrassing; likewise, Will Arnett and Jimmy Kimmel, the latter being jokingly dragged onto the stage as if unconscious, having imbibed too many drinks after losing out to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, enjoying its seventh Emmy for Variety Talk Series in a row.

A notable exception to the pairing failures were Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak, who were hilarious. Novak poked at writers with a string of jokes about their basically doing nothing all day at home. On the evidence of this night, if only.

Also welcome was the contribution of Law and Order stars Christopher Meloni (Organized Crime) and Mariska Hargitay (SVU), who frankly can do no wrong. It’s always joyous to see them reunited either in their respective shows (they worked together on SVU) or in real life. Will Elliot and Olivia get it together is the question we have been asking for aeons (Mariska is coming up to 25 years on the show), and the pair teased the ongoing tension with a near kiss onstage. Looks like we’ll have to wait longer for the real thing.

The inevitable screaming banshees sobbing about their dream accomplishments were out in force.

Oprah Winfrey, looking stunning in white, led the way with a speech about the difficulties of winning ‘the most coveted television accolade on the planet’ and the importance of never losing belief in yourself. She received one of many ovations of the night – or maybe everyone kept standing up in the hope of doing a runner from Zedd and his noise machine.

Sheryl Lee Ralph, who won Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for Abbott Elementary, also received an ovation and burst into song before declaring, ‘To anyone who’s ever had a dream, never give up on YOU.’

Alas, as the night’s dream turned into a nightmare in which daylight seemed forever receding, there was genuine shock for many winners. 

Without wishing to rain on the parade, it was clear that as with all awards ceremonies now, more than a passing nod must be given to diversity, irrespective of whether the person was the best in their category. Most deserving winners were for Succession – Matthew Macfadyen for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, and the show itself for Drama Series – and the inventive Squid Game (the most-watched Netflix show ever), which saw awards go to Hwang Dong-hyuk for Directing, and Lee Jung-jae for Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

Thank goodness, at the end of a long night, for Pete Davidson, presenting the penultimate award for Comedy Series.One of the most naturally funny people on stage all night, and poking fun at the microphone that had not been adjusted for his six-foot three frame (you had one job, microphone adjuster! One job!), he commanded the stage.

There is a sadness that lurks barely below the surface with Davidson, as you imagine for a boy who, at age 7, lost his  firefighter father in the 9/11 attacks. Maybe an inherent sadness that is often a mere breath away from the biggest laughs is characteristic of all the best comedians.

And so, with Selma Blair announcing Succession as the winner of the final gong, it was all over. My lasting memory will be of Lizzo, in her Jason Rembert cloud, collecting the award for Competition Program (for Watch Out for the Big Grrrls) and engulfing the stage with color like she was the Red Sea. The frock was bigger than my New York apartment. Next time I go camping, I know who I’m going to call.