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The Highs and Lows of the 2022 Emmys

Oh, the Emmys. Not quite as out of touch as the Grammys but definitely not as zeiteisty as the Oscars, the Emmys are tasked with the unenviable job of keeping track of all of TV, a job they take about as seriously as they should. Which is to say, not very.

The broadcast itself was mostly fine. Kenan Thompson was an host who leaned heavily on his greatest super power, honed over a record number of years on Saturday Night Live: remaining unflappably pleasant even when the material itself failed him. He duly paved the way for the highs and lows of awards acceptance speeches, of which there were some indisputably moving examples. And we’ll get to those.

But what about the broader idea of the Emmys in general? What about the actual concept of people in showbiz handing out awards to other people in showbiz? Well, there are some highs and lows there too.

High: Sheryl Lee Ralph’s Acceptance Speech

Let’s get this out of the way: Sheryl Lee Ralph became the second Black actress to win outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for her role in Abbott Elementary, and the weight of the moment was clearly on her. The 65-year-old industry vet chose to devote her speech to a song: Diane Reeves’ “Endangered Species.” It was a stunning, remarkable moment that showed the power of live television, as the audience leapt to their feet in rapturous applause.

“To anyone who has ever ever had a dream and thought your dream wasn’t wouldn’t couldn’t come true I am here to tell you that this is what believing looks like,” Ralph said after she finished singing. “This is what striving looks like, and don’t you ever, ever give up on you.”

“Because if you get a Quinta Brunson, if you get a husband like mine in your corner,” Ralph added. “If you get children like mine in your corner, and if you’ve got friends like everybody who voted for me, cheered for me, loved me, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Low: Groupthink

The big winners of the evening were Ted Lasso, The White Lotus and Succession, three well-awarded series that are deserving of acclaim.

But the thing is, there’s just too much good stuff on TV for anyone to seriously believe these shows should be cleaning up to the degree they are. This isn’t to say they aren’t filled with good performances, direction, writing and music. It’s just to say that there’s so much more out there than Emmy voters are willing or maybe even able to consider.

Station Eleven one of the best shows of last year, was completely absent. As were shows like Our Flag Means Death, Ted, Yellowstone, Kevin Can F Himself and plenty more that we at RELEVANT haven’t had time to see either. But instead of reacting to the shifting realities of the television landscape, Emmy voters have remained stuck in cable TV years, handsomely rewarding the few shows they’ve heard of while struggling to pretend everything else just doesn’t exist.

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Snubs happen all the time. That’s part of awards shows. But given the state of television right now, something has to give if the Emmys want to continue to represent the industry they claim to lead.

High: Abbott Elementary’s Non-Campaign Campaign

Abbott Elementary clinched a few awards though it lost the evening’s big comedy to win to Ted Lasso. And part of the reason might be of its very own, praiseworthy doing. During his opening monologue, Thompson announced that show creator and star Quinta Brunson chose to donate the money they’d been given to campaign for Emmys to public school teachers instead. “That’s what it’s all about,” Thompson said. We couldn’t agree more.

Low: Playing Jennifer Coolidge Off

Have some self respect, Emmys!

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