6:45pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
Critic's Notebook: Lame Pre-Taped Intro Ate Into Jimmy Kimmel's Fine Emmys Monologue
When did the Emmys start feeling like they needed an opening gimmick? Sure, we all know that the Oscars required Billy Crystal, when he was hosting the movies awards show, singing or getting digitally inserted into the nominees to keep viewers' attention, but lately the Emmys have started kicking off the telecasts with pre-taped bits and … I'm not sure it's worth it.
There's too much TV and too much TV being honored for this to be worthwhile, and even if Andy Samberg's song — making the "too much TV" point in a far more amusing way — was pretty good last year, I didn't think it had to become an every-year thing.
Jimmy Kimmel's filmed introduction opening the 2016 Emmys was elaborate and, despite a few, brief funny moments, not worth the trouble. Opening with Malcolm-Jamal Warner kinda playing A.C. Cowlings and driving Kimmel in a white Ford Bronco, a reference to multiple nominee The People v. O.J. Simpson, wasn't bad, but the "Now Jimmy needs a ride to the Emmys" schtick was sluggish and soft.
I don't care if the show is on ABC, who needed a stale Modern Family gag involving the Dunphys? ABC only has five family sitcoms that are newer, currently better and could have benefited from the exposure. And it's not like Black-ish or The Goldbergs are unpopular, so it's not like they wanted to avoid using an obscure reference. From there, there was some so-so Wham/"Carpool Karaoke" humor with James Corden, an appearance from Veep's Selina Meyer and a Jeb Bush cameo for no particular reason or particular mirth. Like, who's making Jeb Bush jokes anymore? Who even remembers who Jeb Bush was? Was he the only one of Donald Trump's vanquished foes willing to appear? The thing about Jeb Bush is that he's funnier and looser than you expect him to be, but that doesn't mean he's actually funny.
The intro ended with a thing with Ryan Seacrest getting incinerated by one of the Game of Thrones dragons. Ryan Seacrest is a good sport about these things, but he also wasn't even covering the Emmys red carpet for E! this year, so ... Oh, whatever. I'm quibbling about reality in a sketch in which Ryan Seacrest gets torched by a flying CGI dragon. Never mind.
Also, I'm saying negative things about Kimmel's filmed intro mostly because Kimmel's monologue was so solid and I'd have preferred five more minutes of Kimmel digging deeply into the year's TV in stand-up form, rather than whatever was happening with the Dunphys and their car.
Or maybe I just thought the start of the show became O.J.-heavy, because while the Bronco intro wasn't effective, Kimmel's opening salvo of O.J. jokes was great, particular chiding Sarah Paulson with, "Everyone in L.A. knows, if you want to win, sit next to Marcia Clark" and then asking Clark if she's rooting for O.J. this time.
After the Oscars, which saw Chris Rock dedicate his entire monologue to the lack of diversity, Kimmel was able to bury his diversity celebration in the middle of his monologue, accurately assessing, "Here in Hollywood, the only thing we value more than diversity is congratulating ourselves on how much we value diversity" and cracking, "The Emmys are so diverse this year the Oscars are telling people we're one of their closest friends. We're not." Kimmel closed a tight diversity riff by telling the inclusive crowd to find a white person and hug them for their bravery.
A joke about how Mark Burnett was responsible for Donald Trump being the Republican presidential candidate was mostly funny because of how little Mark Burnett was insulted by the intended insult.
The only way that could have been topped was if Kimmel's long joke about "The Maggie Smith Rule," saying that you can only win an Emmy if you're there to accept it, had been followed by a cut-away to Maggie Smith in England reading a book or doing literally anything else to show how little she cares about what TV voters think about her.
"Why do we keep nominating this woman? She's treating us like the People's Choice Awards," he closed after claiming that Smith was at a Sunday ceramics class.
The biggest problem with the Kimmel monologue was that it was too short because of the lackluster filmed opening.
I'm going to review the whole telecast when this thing is over, but Kimmel has been doing well since the show has been going — his joke that Transparent "was born a drama, but it identifies as a comedy" was superb — so maybe I'll just end up looking at the intro as this show's only demerit.