Hey, maybe the Emmys won’t have to be canceled after all.
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards took place on Monday, the first time since 1976 that TV’s top night has been pushed out of its usual Sunday berth. And not just any Monday, but the last one in August, when TV viewing is not necessarily at the top of many people’s to-do list.
This led to predictions of ratings doom-and-gloom, but the final numbers came out surprisingly strong. The three-hour show, which saw top awards go again to AMC’s “Breaking Bad” and ABC’s “Modern Family,” drew an average of 15.6 million total viewers, according to Nielsen.
That was down 12% compared with last year’s show on CBS. But those Emmys took place during late September, when TV usage is higher, and also benefited from a pro-football lead-in. Not counting last year, Monday’s show was the most-watched Emmys since 2006, when 16.2 million tuned in.
All that counts as a victory, given the circumstances. Even Seth Meyers, who hosted the live telecast on NBC, knew the odds were stacked against him.
Alluding to this year’s scheduling of the ceremony in TV’s pre-Labor Day dead zone, Meyers cracked to the crowd at the Nokia Theatre: “If I understand television, [that] means the Emmy Awards are about to get canceled.”
Overall, NBC — which moved the Emmys out of their traditional slot to avoid conflicting with high-rated NFL Sunday games — enjoyed the most-watched night on any network since ABC telecast the Oscars back in March. And the show did a lot better than Sunday’s Video Music Awards on MTV, which slipped 18% to 8.3 million viewers.
But hold that victory march, TV academy.
This year’s Emmys earned mixed reviews from critics, many of whom found the ceremony tame and the winners predictable. Indeed, the top drama and comedy winners were the same as last year’s, and most of the honored actors were repeating their triumphant walks onstage too. The only new show to win a major prize was FX’s “Fargo,” the TV adaptation of the Coen brothers movie, which carried the miniseries category.
A number of partisans took to social media to complain about snubs, especially of Netflix’s women-in-prison comedy “Orange Is the New Black,” which failed to pick up a major prize Monday night (but did win three earlier awards in less-prominent categories).
“Netflix was for the most part shut out, as was ‘Game of Thrones,’” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president of ad firm Horizon Media. “Game,” the HBO fantasy epic, won just four of its 19 nominations, all for technical categories.
On the bright side, many viewers were kind to Meyers — a notable exception toward the general trend of social-media users picking apart every last aspect of a host’s performance.
The Times’ Mary McNamara wrote that Meyers “did great … [the] opening monologue was funny, fresh and smart, chock-full of good jokes and insight into the wonderful roiling madness that is television today.” (Not everyone loved him, though: “You don’t feel any passion, personality or vulnerability,” the New Yorker wrote of Meyers.)
After the monologue, however, some critics felt the comedy was hit or miss. The suddenly resurgent parodist Weird Al Yankovic sang gag lyrics to “Mad Men” and other show themes, but the accompanying production number left some viewers cold.
A sight gag that involved putting curvy beauty Sofia Vergara of “Modern Family” on a rotating pedestal while an academy official blathered on with boilerplate about TV as an art form drew some laughs from the live audience. But many critics weren’t amused by what they regarded as a sexist stunt — McNamara called it “pretty horrifying.”
Then there was Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, who first had his name butchered by presenter Gwen Stefani, who pronounced it “Coal-BORE” rather than “Coal-BEAR.”
Then, in a somewhat awkward pre-arranged comic bit, late-night rival Jimmy Fallon hijacked Colbert’s acceptance speech for his “Colbert Report” win.
Colbert treated the romp to the dais as a sort of valediction, alluding to the fact that his Comedy Central program will end when he takes over from David Letterman on CBS’ “Late Show” next year.
That could put Colbert in the running to host the 2016 Emmys, when they return to CBS. Presumably, that will be in late September.