And the award for Outstanding First-time Emmy host goes to . . . Jimmy Fallon!
Jimmy did very well Sunday night in his first outing as Emmy emcee. He did exactly what a host is supposed to do – set a light-hearted tone at the outset of the telecast, and then return intermittently to tell a joke, introduce a pair of presenters or star in a sketch.
The L.A. Times felt Jimmy played his role perfectly. “As a white-tuxedoed, wandering minstrel, Fallon played perfect host in the traditional sense of the compliment,” wrote the Times’ Mary McNamara. “He did not dominate so much as facilitate, making the category transitions lightly and cleanly, introducing presenters with humor and an insider’s ease, and remaining infectiously happy to be there without drawing too much attention to himself.”
Indeed, Jimmy was relaxed, nimble and fast on his feet. Did you notice how quickly he changed into his black tux after performing in bluejeans and T-shirt as Bruce Springsteen in the Emmy-cast’s big opening number? Before you knew it, Jimmy was back on-stage in what seemed like half-a-minute (and a little bit winded) decked out in black-tie. How’d he do that?
Later, about two-thirds into the three-hour telecast on NBC, he traded in the black formalwear for a white jacket, perhaps in preparation for his comical embrace of Tom Selleck near the show’s conclusion. Selleck, who Jimmy proclaimed was his long lost dad, happened to be wearing the same outfit.
But it’s with the opening sequences that televised awards shows are won or lost. And the Emmy opener was a winner (though nitpickers might wonder what the Springsteen song “Born to Run” had to do with the Emmys in particular or TV in general).
One such nitpicker was The Wrap, the showbiz Web site, which described the opening as “an extravagant opening number in which Jimmy Fallon managed the peppiest version of ‘Born to Run’ in history, while the likes of Jon Hamm, Tina Fey, Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch tried to pretend that a Springsteen chorus line makes a lick of sense.”
Still, the sequence, which began with Jimmy running into a group of ‘Glee’ co-stars and then recruiting a gaggle of other stars to join them in a production number, was cleverly produced, with surprises awaiting viewers at every turn – from Jane Lynch suddenly materializing to splash Jimmy and Tina Fey with Slurpees to ‘Dancing with the Stars’ castoff Kate Gosselin turning up and being hilariously turned down when she asked to participate in the dance number.
Other participants in the elaborate sketch included Jon Hamm (taking dirty-dancing lessons from TV’s most tireless 88-year-old, Betty White), ‘Lost’s Hurley (Jorge Garcia), Joel McHale of ‘Community,’ ‘American Idol’s Randy Jackson (a bass player who nevertheless played Clarence Clemons to Jimmy’s Bruce Springsteen), and even Tim Gunn, who gave Jimmy some timely help in transforming himself into The Boss.
See how Jimmy prepared for his hosting gig:
Some critics felt the opening number was the high point for Jimmy and the telecast. “Had [Fallon] waved goodbye when [the opening sequence] ended, he might have been the best Emmy host in history,” wrote David Hinckley of the New York Daily News.
“But then he had to stay around for another three hours of hosting and another half-dozen musical numbers, all somewhat anticlimactic,” Hinckley groused.
Jimmy’s funniest line came early – soon after the opening number, when the audience members had settled back in their chairs, and Jimmy, strumming a guitar, declared how happy he was to be in L.A. hosting the Emmys. “NBC asking the host of ‘Late Night’ to come to Los Angeles to host a different show,” Jimmy said. “What could possibly go wrong?”
He was joking about the Conan O’Brien/’Tonight Show’ fiasco, and just in case anyone missed that point, a camera immediately found the bearded Conan, who was seated in the audience, for a reaction shot. Conan’s ‘Tonight Show’ was nominated for several Emmys, including the all-important award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series. NBC, which happened to be airing the Emmys, dodged an embarrassing bullet when Conan’s ‘Tonight Show’ didn’t win (the winner was Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’) and Conan made no other appearance during the telecast.
Meanwhile, the Emmy producers had found a clever way to introduce clip retrospectives showcasing the year in comedy, drama, variety and reality television. They had Jimmy stroll the aisles of the theater duetting with various stars on improvised songs to introduce each category. Among those with whom he teamed: Kim Kardashian (for reality), Julianna Margulies of ‘The Good Wife’ (for drama) , and Stephen Colbert (variety).
Jimmy made one other notable reference to last season’s biggest story – NBC’s failed experiment with ‘The Jay Leno Show’ nightly at 10 p.m., whose cancellation led to Conan’s removal from ‘The Tonight Show.’ Introducing presenters Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni – co-stars on NBC’s ‘Law & Order: SVU’ – Jimmy said, “Earlier this year, these stars of ‘Law & Order: SVU’ teamed up to save the most special victim of all – the 10 p.m. timeslot on NBC!”
Jimmy was especially effective in his impersonations of three music stars and singing parodies of their songs that paid tribute to three beloved and long-running shows that ended their runs last season – ‘24’ (Elton John), ‘Law & Order’ (Boyz II Men) and ‘Lost’ (Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day).
It appeared to us that for Jimmy Fallon, the Emmys were a great performance, though not every critic agreed. USA Today’s Robert Bianco, who felt the entire production was too fast and frenzied, thought Jimmy looked “desperate.” “In the midst of all [the] frenzy stood – or sang – an equally desperate Jimmy Fallon, a host who lived and too often died by his guitar,” Bianco wrote. “It was appropriate and funny when he opened the show with a ‘Glee’-filled production number . . . It was far less funny when he kept singing all night, doing little strummed bits with stars in the audience that almost invariably fell flat.”
However, no less a critic than George Clooney declared himself a Fallon fan, when he met reporters backstage after receiving his own honor, the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award. “Jimmy Fallon is just killing it out there!” Clooney said.
New York magazine summed it up: “He’s no Hugh Jackman or Neil Patrick Harris,” wrote the mag’s Lane Brown, “but Jimmy Fallon made a pretty great Emmys host.”
How do you think Jimmy Fallon did as Emmy host? Should they ask him back next year?