7:09pm PT by Daniel Fienberg
Critic's Notebook: Tepid "We Solved It" Musical Number Upstages Weak Emmys Monologue
Hey, you know how people weren't quite sure that Emmys hosts Michael Che and Colin Jost were ready for a gig of this size in general or for the particular responsibilities of hosting this year's telecast amid a politically divided nation and a town still rocked from one #MeToo-based scandal after another?
Well, the producers of the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards found an interesting strategy to confront the uncertainty. Specifically, they upstaged their hosts completely, making Che and Jost into uncomfortable, unfunny afterthoughts.
Instead of letting Che and Jost attempt to kick off the show and make the best (or worst) of the opportunity, the first introduced performers were Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, a gesture practically guaranteed to make 100 percent of the viewers at home tweet/Facebook/Instagram/Snap/Mastodon, "Why the heck weren't they just hosting in the first place?"
McKinnon and Thompson, both nominees, were there because Jost and Che probably weren't going to be able to pull off the musical number "We Solved It!" for several reasons.
The song referenced the most diverse slate of Emmy nominees in history or, as Thompson put it, "Yes, indeedie. One step closer to a Black Sheldon."
"So diversity is not a problem a Hollywood anymore?" McKinnon inquired.
Then a song ensued, marred by minor technical difficulties wherein I'm pretty sure nobody could hear the backing music.
The song was … not awful? Sandra Oh played along wonderfully with her declaration, "It's an honor just to be Asian," celebrating her status as the first lead actress nominee of Asian descent. "There were none. Now there's one," Thompson sang. "So we're done," McKinnon agreed.
Tituss Burgess and Kristen Bell joined in, followed by Sterling K. Brown and Ricky Martin, who jumped in with, "You haven't solved it. This song is way too white" and to add a little Latin flair. A very little.
After an appearance by the welcomely energetically diverse One of Each Dancers, Thompson fielded a very special call, "Oh. We did not solve it? Long way to go? Cart before the horse? Spiking the ball at the 50-yard-line?"
And then they introduced Che and Jost to response that was, to put it kindly, tepid.
They rewarded the greeting with a monologue that was also tepid and generally uncomfortably delivered, as the two comics who normally interact sitting across from each other at a desk tried to find a rapport that was natural without any real luck. Maybe they should have been sitting up in the balcony somewhere, Statler and Waldorf-style?
They made the right references, but with far less #MeToo teeth than Seth Meyers exhibited when he hosted the Golden Globes back in January under much tenser circumstances.
We're honoring all the creative and talented people in Hollywood "who haven't been caught yet." Heh?
They're allowed to drink in the crowd tonight. "The one thing Hollywood needs right now is people losing their inhibitions at a work function." Heh?
It's not that these aren't fair topics. They're mandatory topics. This was just not good writing.
Large chunks of Che and Jost's monologue just felt canned from a different generation.
"Our network, NBC, has the most nominations of any broadcast network, which is kinda like being the sexiest person on life support," Che joked, before they later went on to talk about such hip, relevant NBC shows as ER and Cheers.
More timely were the Roseanne Barr jokes, of which there were several.
"Brooklyn Nine-Nine was canceled by Fox and picked up by NBC. Last Man Standing was canceled by ABC and picked up by Fox. Roseanne was canceled by herself, but picked up by white nationalists," Jost said, perhaps his only laugh line in the monologue.
Che added that Roseanne was thinking of moving to Israel: "How messed up is your life when you have to go to the Middle East just to get peace of mind?"
Although he had to admit that his mother wouldn't be watching the Emmys because not enough people thank Jesus, Che was in much better form than Jost. Or at least he had the funnier lines, like after introducing Black-ish as a nominee and deadpanning, "'Black-ish' is also how I've been asked to behave tonight."
If there's one line anybody's likely to be praising tomorrow morning as scathing, it's probably the observation regarding The Handmaid's Tale's darkness that, "It's what black people call history. It's Roots for white women."
I guess when they sang about having "solved it," that means that it's now totally OK to marginalize one formerly disenfranchised group's struggle in favor of another's? I mean, Handmaid's Tale is about historic/future/present repression of women. So Handmaid's Tale is what women call history, too! Intersectionality is a good thing. Marginalizing it is not.
I guess I chuckled at the white reboot of Atlanta or 15 Miles Outside of Atlanta. And … that's basically it.
"I think we can keep television going for another five, six years tops," Jost said toward the end of the monologue.
Let's hope future celebrations of TV's best are able to find better hosting options (or write better material for them).
Back in a few hours with highlights and lowlights from the show itself. I already know from being constantly distracted during my writing that the rest of the show got significantly better.