It was a cruel irony that the year with the best Emmy nominations yielded one of the worst awards ceremonies in recent memory. Jimmy Kimmel was affable, but not particularly funny. With very few exceptions, the skits and gags were disastrous. (Should we really be encouraging Tracy Morgan these days?) And the winners were so bad, especially in the comedy categories, that we suggest the Academy consider outsourcing those decisions to real comedians for 2013. (Jon Cryer wins for Two and a Half Men?!) And yet, there were a few redeeming moments, thanks to perennial favorites like Breaking Bad, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler, and Jon Stewart. If you DVR’d the ceremony to watch tonight, we recommend you skip it; we’ve rounded up the only ten moments worth talking about below.
Lena Dunham opens the Emmys naked, on the toilet, eating cake
The ladies kicked off this year’s ceremony with a few actresses who didn’t end up winning anything — Christina Hendricks, Zooey Deschanel, and Mindy Kaling — dressed in bathrobes, practicing their “I can’t believe I won” faces in the bathroom mirror. The sketch gets old after a while, but the moment when Kathy Bates busts in on Lena Dunham naked and cross-legged on a toilet, digging into a birthday cake, is perfect.
Breaking Bad before cable
In one of the evening’s few entertaining sketches, the Emmys imagined what Breaking Bad would have looked like back in television’s golden age. Apparently, it would have been just as violent, despite the addition of co-star Don Knotts.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus reads Amy Poehler’s acceptance speech
For the millions of us who feel Poehler should have won Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series last night, Louis-Dreyfus’ gag was a home run. Instead of her own acceptance speech, she read one that was clearly the Parks and Rec star’s, and had Poehler run up to the stage midway through to switch it out for Louis-Dreyfus’ own. Make sure you watch all the way to the end of the clip for the kicker.
Seth MacFarlane screws up his entrance
We were supposed to laugh at Tracy Morgan’s scripted tomfoolery, but MacFarlane missing his mark and mumbling into the ether was a whole lot funnier. “That’s gonna be on YouTube,” he predicted. And, of course, he was right.
Aaron Paul kisses Giancarlo Esposito, is adorable
We didn’t think we’d see anything more adorable than Breaking Bad’s Jesse Pinkman and Gus Fring embracing when Paul won Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, a category where both had been nominees. But then Paul had to go give a sweet, shocked speech that came straight from his heart. The look of surprise on his face as he stepped up to the podium was priceless.
Claire Danes: “Mandy Patinkin, HOLLA!”
Everyone knew Danes was going to win Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her stunning performance in Homeland, but she still managed to surprise and delight us with her colorful shout out to co-star Mandy Patinkin. She also thanked her “baby daddy.”
The Daily Show wins, Jon Stewart fights with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon
Jon Stewart knows that there’s nothing inherently interesting about his show winning an Emmy for the tenth straight year. So perhaps that’s why he had to spice it up for us by play-fighting in the aisle with two of his competitors.
Jon Stewart’s acceptance speech
Stewart also proved that, after all these years, he still has smart and novel things to say about The Daily Show. “Free. Sandwich. After ten,” he began, out of breath from the scuffle with Colbert and Fallon, before giving specific compliments to each of the other nominees. “We make topical comedy, which has the shelf life of egg salad. Nobody cares after five days,” Stewart said. “So to do this for 15 years and to have tangible proof that what we made wasn’t just ephemeral is wonderful. Years from now, when the earth is just a burning husk and aliens visit, they will find a box of these and they will know just how predictable these fucking things can be.” Although the end of that last sentence was, of course, censored, you can hear the unedited version above.
Homeland upsets Mad Men
Not only was Homeland’s Outstanding Drama Series victory a surprise in light of Mad Men’s dominance, but, as its executive producer Alex Gansa mentioned, the evening marked Showtime’s first-ever “best series” win. (He also thanked “all the wives,” which made us and much of Twitter cringe.)
Michael J. Fox gets a standing ovation
We’d rather not think about the sad truth no other sitcom, no matter how brilliant, will win an Outstanding Comedy Series as long as Modern Family is around. Instead, let’s end this by celebrating a heart-warming appearance by Michael J. Fox, and the roaring crowd that stood to honor him.