The Existential Dread of the Non-Funny Emmys

TV's Biggest NIght (hahaha) Abandons Even Resembling Entertainment as Ted Gets His Trophy. And, Class Pictures Returns: Making Hollywood White Again!

TV viewing, as we've noted, currently ranks fifth in young people's entertainment choices.

But likely first by a landslide in sanctimony and finger-wagging at the public for failing to share the values of the forward-looking Hollywood community; the same values of inclusion that gave us…what you would think would’ve been the most diverse line up of award winners since the invention of the trophy. So meet your 72nd class of Emmy winners!

Notice anything?

Hollywood leads the way once again…

So, back to the show. It could've been worse. 

It has been worse. Significantly worse. And recently, and often.

Sure nothing worked. Every single thing they tried to do differently plopped down with a thud and they managed to get through an entire night of television without landing a single joke – almost like watching a CBS sitcom minus the laugh track! 

Although when a show opens with Rita Wilson rapping, if you're still watching an hour later, you really have no one to blame but yourself.

But still, it wasn't a humiliating catastrophe. It just sort of kerplopped, on a telecast that certainly almost no one watched. Which given the current state of the awards sector, might be an improvement?

But in the book of life here, where the 72nd Emmy Awards were a line in a chapter entitled "The Death of Awards Show" in a section entitled "Hollywood Lost at Sea" this night kept that basic storyline well on track.

More to the point, how many of these things have to tank before Hollywood realizes there's a problem here bigger than the order of the trophies? If insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, the awards-industrial complex and all associated are well past the DSM-5 diagnosis for a lifetime stay in a 600-thread-count padded cell.  

But what does it say about a business that so consistently turns its back on its central mission to be entertaining? Is each one of these debacles a sign that the groundwater has been poisoned, the fish are dying and the swallows aren't coming back to San Juan?

As they say, let's look at the data:

The Good. First some positive. The event managed to shed the funereal tone of recent awards shows, in which the mission seemed to pivot between regretting the failures of Hollywood and scolding the audience for its political shortcomings. Crowd-pleasing fun!

The ambiance of the tent seemed festive and quasi-intimate, rather than the sinister, foreboding Eyes Wide Shut look favored by the Oscars. The winners seemed by and large, happy to be honored. The notes to inclusion (clearly ignored by most of Hollywood; see above) were of the inspiring variety rather than the-world-as-we-know-it-is-a-hellscape variety, with only those who bought a private ranch in New Zealand likely to survive.

If the comedy bits failed, as all of them did, at least they were recognizable as bits.

• That said, you'll have to travel a long way down the awards trail to come again to a moment as awkward as this, pointed out by an Ankler friend: 

Michaela Coel: "I'd like to dedicate this award to all victims of sexual assault." Announcer : "Coming up — more laughs! — with Cedric the Entertainer!"

Speech Defect. But I keep thinking about the speeches. Scott Frank's most notably, but there were plenty of others just as bad. Stephen Colbert also hit the double play-off for his recitation of Homer's catalog of ships.

First of all, look at the culture around you today. I'm not saying we should turn awards shows into a giant dance-step tutorial, but a bunch of old, non-famous people making speeches...I would say, what do you think this is, PBS? But PBS would reject this pilot if it landed on its desk.

I'll make it real simple for youse alls: awards shows as they are now are not going to be alive in 10 years – except in some niche so obscure that your Netflix algorithm refuses to even let you watch it. Probably not even five years.

• It’s really worth considering however whether this is just doomed; whether awards shows are a medium not meant for public consumption in the TikTok age. The overhaul camp favors turning the shows into more of a tribute to the magic of moviegoing and television storytelling. But honestly, an infomercial on movies and TV? Who the hell wants that either?

• You want to talk a little more about the bubble we're in? Stephen Colbert spends millions on writers, and in his most-watched moment of the year, comes up with a tortured California recall metaphor joke? And elsewhere in the show, hitting the cutting edge of water cooler zeitgeist: an entire taped bit about the 2020 Vice-Presidential debate! Just what the world has got on its mind today.

• Did anyone, apart from Seth Rogen, make any mention of COVID, and the thousands who continue to die? I mean, we can get on a lot of high horses about anti-vaxxers, but when we had the floor, was there not 30 seconds to spare to encourage people to get their shots? Or in the end, are we ourselves too afraid of offending the crazies to support the cause when it counts? Or worse, do we not care that people are dying and suffering east of the 5?

• Beyond that, what the hell is wrong with these people? Holding millions of people hostage so you can read a list of your co-workers? I know you're grateful but send them a fruit basket or Lulemon gift card tomorrow. 

And I know it's exciting and it's beautiful that the TV Academy takes time to recognize the work of our criminally underappreciated variety show directors, but this just isn't working On the other hand, a good percent of the writers who won are also actors so that made it less painful to have to listen to them.

• But we should consider, however, whether the problem isn't just the pomposity and self-absorption of awards shows, but whether the bloated pomposity of the entire industry.

• This, for instance, is supposedly the greatest moment of untrammeled creativity in Hollywood's history. You've got at least seven studios each spending more than any studio has ever spent on production. The ancient bugbear of network notes can't even keep up with the beast so desperate for new grist for the mill.

We can't even wrap our heads around how much is being shot now. There are shortages of everyone and everything from stages to crew members, but no shortage of self-congratulation.

And at this moment, the apex of production here are the shows nominated for Best Drama:

The Crown
The Boys
The Handmaid's Tale
Lovecraft Country
The Mandolorian
This Is Us

The waxing of the Golden Age you say? TV has never been so great? 
Looking back just five years, here were the nominees then:

Game of Thrones
The American
Better Call Saul
Downton Abbey
House of Cards
Mr. Robot

You might prefer a show or two on today's list over a show or two on the list of five years ago (Mandolorian for House of Cards), but does the difference strike you as an explosion in creativity? This is the golden age this infinite river of cash has unleashed?

And this isn't even going back to ancient times of Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, The Wire, Veep...

As for the comedy winner. Sure, Ted Lasso is fine. Nothing against it, but can we as a nation ever forgive the Christmas episode from Season Two?

• Last night, Netflix finally completed its epic goal of besting HBO on its own turf. It's not the trophy Video Ted really wants, but it will do for now.

You and I can mock these all we want, but for the people who have billions to spend, this is the contest. The most mundane interoffice trade show will go on, much as the World of Concrete will continue its trade fest in Las Vegas. If you're going to be in this game, and you're the sort of person at the top of this game, you can't just sit back and watch your peers win and take the glory to themselves.

Not to mention, there's a billion shows, and even a billion networks, yet it feels like there are only so many paths to get them attention. These Emmy campaigns might be fantastically expensive, but they are still a lot less than General Mills spends to introduce a breakfast cereal. Or more to the point, than Apple spends to introduce a new watch tag holder thingamabob. 

Tonight, all of Ted's peers saw him win at last. Do you imagine they enjoyed that? 

As thus the contest continues. Schedule your nap for 2022 now.

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