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Emmy Awards 2017 was pitch-perfect

LiveMint logoLiveMint 18-09-2017 Rajyasree Sen

It started with Sean Spicer and ended with Margaret Atwood. Which could well be a portent of the times to come. Emmys 2017 was everything you expected it to be and a little more.

So first off, I am truly gob-smacked by the range of talent that US talk show hosts and actors and actresses seem to possess. Stephen Colbert, the host of this year’s Emmy’s, stayed true to form and sang the opening segment of the show, without missing a key. And somewhere, my heart broke a little, because even our singers lip sync while singing at awards shows, forget about our actors doing so.

Now with Colbert hosting the show, and with Donald Trump as Emmy loser and president of the US who likes tweeting about not winning for Celebrity Apprentice, you knew the show was going to be political. Like most other award shows in the US. Yet, when Sean Spicer came on as himself as part of the opening act and was referred to as the wizard of lies (an allusion to the nominated show starring Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer), you couldn’t not laugh out loud. Much like Mellisa McCarthy who plays Spicey on SNL, did.

What you do get while watching the awards, which are thankfully just an hour-and-a-half long, is that the producers do manage to keep parts of it under wraps. Which was apparent from the audience reaction to Spicer. And I must say it was quite brave of him to make an appearance going by the general mood of un-love for Trump. But there he was.

The digs at Trump were fast and furious. As Colbert said, “Unlike the presidency, the Emmys go to the winner of the popular vote”. There were mentions of how wonderful it would be “if your president was not beloved by Nazis”. Vladimir Putin and Trump’s collusion, the US healthcare fiasco, Ted Cruz’s fascination for porn. John Lithgow who won for The Crown thanked Churchill for showing what courage and leadership looks like, especially in these times. When Churchill is held up as a statesman par excellence, you know the times are bleak.

But humour aside, what stands out at each of these award shows is the entertainment industry’s courage to stand up and speak for what they believe in. Without fear or favour. Not one winner or presenter passed up an opportunity to make a political statement— whether it be on women’s rights, domestic violence, racial diversity or Trump. I’m sure, much like with our celebrities, even the ones in Hollywood would like to be on the right side of the ruling party. But to denounce what you feel is vile and abhorrent—even if that be your own President—shows great spine and gumption. As Jane Fonda said it, while presenting an award with Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton, “Back in 1986 we refused to be controlled by a sexist, hypocritical, lying bigot. And in 2017 we still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, hypocritical, lying bigot.”

But it wasn’t all Trump bashing. There were many other firsts also. It was a big win for diversity—and one mustn’t ignore that Priyanka Chopra was the sole Indian face presenting an award. And thankfully didn’t give a speech on her understanding of insurgency-torn regions of India. This was by far the most diverse group of nominees in Emmy history. Till now, Archie Panjabi is the only actor of Asian descent to win an Emmy in the award’s 68-year history. Aziz Ansari won this time for co-writing Master Of None. Donald Glover became the first black director to win best director for a comedy series, for Atlanta. Lena Waithe became the first African-American woman to win for writing. Riz Ahmed won for Best Actor in a leading role for Night Of. And Alec Baldwin won for playing a big orange man.

This was what an awards show should be. Fun, pertinent, irreverent, political, entertaining and full of good-and not-so good looking famous people. The cherry on the cake though, was when The Handmaids Tale won for Best Drama Series and Margaret Atwood made an appearance with the cast and writers on stage. Which could mean that we should keep hoping that autocratic patriarchal systems will soon fall apart, or that we—and especially the Americans—are doomed to live in a dystopia which would put Atwood’s imagination to shame.

Rarely do you get to watch a show where there’s nothing to wrinkle your nose at. Either the host mucks up, or the show is simply too white or too blah, but I have to give it to the Emmys this time. It was pitch-perfect. And hey, you had Oprah, Robert De Niro, Riz Ahmed, Aziz Ansari, Michelle Pfeiffer & Nicole Kidman in the front row. Pretty and diverse and funny and talented—summing up all that TV entertainment should be.

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