Regular readers of The Argus may remember how I feel about awards shows (hint: that they’re a frantic grasp for relevance by industry professionals who, by and large, are incapable of keeping up with a changing artistic landscape), and the Emmy Awards, which aired this past Sunday night on Fox, are no exception. In a world of Netflix and Amazon Prime (and Apple TV+, and Disney+), network television isn’t the force it used to be, and a large chunk of the show felt like desperate self-promotion from Fox. It also lacked anything approaching the spectacle required to make an awards show memorable viewing, choosing instead to show a baffling number of weird retrospectives for shows that are no longer airing. However, the one thing the Emmys got pretty much right (for once) were the awards themselves. As always, there were a handful of underwhelming recipients who beat out more exciting nominees. (“Game of Thrones” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” I’m looking at you). But for the most part, the Emmys honored some of the strongest television of the past year: shows like “Fleabag,” “Succession,” “When They See Us,” and “Chernobyl.” So for readers who couldn’t get through the whole show, here’s the SparkNotes version.
Biggest Red Carpet Trend: Maximalism
The Emmys proved that when it comes to awards show looks, the less-is-more approach is (finally) on its way out. From Natasha Lyonne’s metallic gold lavaliere gown to Gwendoline Christie’s dramatic red and white robe-style dress (which drew comparisons to both “Game of Thrones” and Jesus), the dresses on the red carpet embraced color, texture, and extravagant detail. This was evident in most popular color scheme of the night—red and pink, seen on actresses like Mandy Moore, Taraji P. Henson, Zoe Kazan, and Susan Kelechi Watson—which resembled nothing so much as a third grader’s valentine. To be clear, I mean that in a good way; I couldn’t be more relieved to see the end of the era of tasteful column gowns in various shades of beige. Some have argued that fashion trends are tied to economic ones and that a movement towards minimalist design is often a response to recession. I don’t know how much truth there is to this theory, but for the sake of both my impending entry into the workforce and my unceasing need to scroll through red carpet slideshows, I hope the current trend is here to stay.
Most Deserving Award Recipient: “Fleabag” (Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series, Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series)
Look, if you still haven’t given in to the online buzz and watched the critically adored “Fleabag,” I don’t know what more I can say to convince you. The show’s first season was great, but its second (which creator and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has said will be the last) was miraculous: a piercing examination of grief, shame, and intimacy that managed simultaneously to be devastating and side-splittingly funny. Despite the dozens of think pieces it generated, “Fleabag” still felt like it was destined to be a cult favorite, so it’s gratifying to see it get mainstream recognition. And the red carpet photo of Waller-Bridge gingerly balancing three awards while grinning ear to ear is so delightful that I’m considering making a vision board just so I can put it on my vision board.
Most Baffling Award Recipient: “Ozark” (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series)
Can someone please explain to me what “Ozark” is? Who is watching this show that somehow received five nominations and two awards? I consume an endless stream of television reviews thanks to my pathological need to know what the cool kids are talking about on Twitter, and I could not tell you one single thing about “Ozark.” If you are one of the (what I estimate to be) four to ten dedicated viewers of the show, please get in touch because I have some questions!
Shadiest Reaction: Billy Porter, to “RuPaul’s Drag Race”
It’s certainly true that “Drag Race” has done important work in bringing drag to mainstream culture and increasing public awareness of queer performance art. It’s also true that RuPaul has drawn criticism for his outdated attitudes towards race and gender identity. So, viewers were quick to notice when Porter appeared to roll his eyes while watching the (predominantly white) “Drag Race” team accept the award for Outstanding Competition Series. Porter—who himself won an award for his performance in “Pose”—has since denied any ill will towards “Drag Race.” Nonetheless, the moment, which has already gone semi-viral, invites comparisons between “Drag Race” and “Pose” (the latter of which has drawn praise for heavily featuring trans people of color in both its cast and writers room) and between the history and future of queer television.
Best Acceptance Speech: Patricia Arquette (Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie)
Arquette, who won an Emmy for her performance in “The Act,” gave a moving and grief-stricken speech about her late sister Alexis, in which she called for greater acceptance and protection of trans lives. Arquette’s speech was only one of many moving speeches delivered on Sunday night, from Michelle Williams’ call for properly valuing the work of female actors to Jharrel Jerome paying tribute to the Central Park Five. These and other speeches were a reminder that there are plenty of people out there making television that is thoughtful and important, even if the Emmys themselves aren’t.
Tara Joy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.