“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I’m full! I’m full!”
Newly minted Emmy winner Jennifer Coolidge rightly called out the producers of Monday night’s Emmy Awards when they inexplicably played her off during her acceptance speech.
I think I speak for every TV fan and award show enthusiast by saying: How dare they play off Jennifer Coolidge!
It was a baffling choice that repeated itself throughout Monday’s otherwise joyous ceremony, with several thrilling wins. Matthew Macfadyen — Tom Wambsgans on “Succession,” one of the MVPs of the show’s spectacular third season — was also played off, making me want to throw water bottles at my screen, like Tom throwing them at Cousin Greg. (Macfadyen’s speech was “executive-level business!”) Similarly, the show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong, got played off during his speech for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, making me want to shout “Fuck off,” à la “Succession” patriarch Logan Roy.
As “Abbott Elementary” creator, writer and star Quinta Brunson, whose breakout ABC hit has transformed and revitalized network TV, wrapped up her speech for winning Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, they played “Time to Say Goodbye.” What?
During their speeches, several other winners breathlessly raced through their remarks and mentioned the flashing onstage signals urging them to wrap up. But, hey, gotta make room for some montages about medical dramas or some sponsored content from Kia.
How long to give winners to speak is a perennial award show question, along with everything else about the ceremonies’ often long duration. For years, the producers of various Hollywood award shows have experimented with methods for truncating the speeches. This year’s Emmys featured a little on-screen scroll, where each winner could submit a list in advance of the names of people they wished to thank, something the Oscars have also tried in years past.
Sure, an award winner standing onstage and listing out a bunch of names isn’t the most interesting television for the viewers at home. But forcing the winners to, in some cases, barely say anything on one of the biggest nights of their careers is pretty insulting, depriving them of their big moment.
It also deprives viewers of great television. Often the most memorable parts of these ceremonies are the acceptance speeches. Sometimes they can be routine and predictable. But often they deliver truly thrilling moments, sometimes full of pure joy and sometimes totally wild. Either way, people tune into live television for the possibility of spontaneity — not for the canned bits and cringey banter.
Ask any fan of award shows and they can probably list off their favorite speeches from their favorite stars over the years. One from Monday night that is instantly going down as one of the greatest award show speeches of all time: “Abbott Elementary” star and living legend Sheryl Lee Ralph absolutely bringing down the house and leaving not a dry eye.
Thankfully, the Emmy producers did not play off the veteran of stage and screen. Imagine the outrage if they had played off Sheryl Lee Ralph.