The first Emmy Awards ceremony of the #MeToo era was remarkable in one regard: It was absolutely toothless.
It’s been 10 days since Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, was forced to step down after multiple reports of sexual assault and harassment. He was disinvited from the event less than 24 hours before it started. News broke on Page Six — during the ceremony — that his wife, Julie Chen, left her job as co-host of CBS’s “The Talk.”
Soon-Yi Previn granted her very first interview to New York magazine, in a piece that went live on Sunday night, emphatically defending Woody Allen. His career has very recently been ended by the #MeToo movement.
Not a word. And network television wonders why it’s sliding into irrelevancy.
Moonves was to network television what Harvey Weinstein was to independent film. Yet Moonves, #MeToo, and the whole plague of sexual abuse in Hollywood was almost completely ignored — a decision defended by Colin Jost, co-hosting with his “Saturday Night Live” castmate Michael Che.
That two men were chosen as the faces of this year’s ceremony was also tone deaf.
Jost told Vanity Fair last month that the plan was to depoliticize this year’s ceremony — and indeed, there was next to no Trump-bashing. But Jost seriously miscalculated the climate, joking that by the time the Emmys rolled around, “People are going to be desperate to give men a chance, finally. It’ll possibly be #HeToo by then.”
The ceremony itself had an air of forced nostalgia. “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a sweet show set in 1950s New York, swept the comedy categories with wins for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Lead Actress, Best Actress, Guest Actress, Casting, Comedy Writing and Directing.
Henry Winkler won the sentimental vote for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, his only win since his first nomination in 1976. Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series went, as usual, to a show that refuses to modernize and is a slog to sit through — the Oscars.
Betty White, 96 and the eternal sweetheart of American television, was honored, and as she spoke, it was hard not to think: How many horror stories does she have to tell?
During the opening monologue, the co-hosts touched on Hollywood’s intractable disease lightly. “It is an honor to be here sharing this night with the many, many talented and creative people in Hollywood who haven’t been caught yet,” said Che.
Tina Fey, who infamously destroyed Bill Cosby during her 2015 co-hosting gig with Amy Poehler, was deployed this year for the “In Memoriam” segment — and this was not a farewell to the rapists, bullies and career-killers we have come to know. Our smartest, most scathing female comedian was sent out to deliver sentiment.
Dave Chappelle, heir to Richard Pryor and George Carlin, said this before presenting: “This is a beautiful business, we make millions of dollars, and we get trophies from time to time.” He didn’t even say it with a wink.
Accepting his Emmy for Best Variety Talk Series, John Oliver, that ultimate truth teller and slayer of sacred cows, said nothing of import. When a group of young Hollywood interns was brought onstage, the impulse was not to feel hope but to yell at the screen, “Get out!”
Instead, the academy sought to move the goalposts, choosing diversity as the evening’s theme, acknowledging there’s a long way to go. As The Atlantic reported, as of 2016, 90 percent of showrunners were white and 80 percent were male.
It is a problem. But an even larger one is an industry that, on its biggest night, refuses to acknowledge the misery it has wrought and thinks everyone watching at home is still naive enough to believe the lie.