Rarely has the opening of an awards show felt as inauspicious as the first 10 minutes or so of Monday night's Emmy Awards. An opening number called "We Solved It," making light of the idea that Hollywood's meager progress toward greater diversity constitutes a meaningful resolution to the issue, featured a number of appealing TV personalities: Saturday Night Live's Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, Tituss Burgess of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kristen Bell of The Good Place, RuPaul, Sterling K. Brown of This Is Us, and Ricky Martin. It even included what they called the One Of Each Dancers, a group that, taken together, supposedly checked every demographic box. It worked better in theory than in execution: the song wasn't great, and the number seemed a little sloppy, like they'd all just learned it. Regrettably, it got worse before it got better.
Because what came after that was the introduction of the hosts, Colin Jost and Michael Che, both of SNL's Weekend Update segment. They seemed awkward, miserable, unfunny, and cursed with mostly weak jokes. Devoid of charisma and struggling to get the audience on their side, they plodded on, looking like two dads forced to emcee a school assembly where they didn't particularly want to be there, but someone had prevailed upon them to help out. Equally grim were Fred Armisen and Maya Rudolph, not helping their new Amazon series Forever by appearing together in a series of resolutely dull and (here's that word again) awkward scenes in which the joke seemed to be that there was no joke.
Especially in the first half of the show, a pall hung over the ceremony as if much of the crowd had been heavily sedated. Jeff Daniels rambled about his horse and people chuckled politely. Aidy Bryant and Bob Odenkirk — both known to be funny people! — haltingly executed a bit of scripted patter about doing scripted patter, a gambit that's been taking down presenters for ages. (This never works. Stop doing this.) Speech after speech seemed dragged down by the energy around it. It's not that there were no successes at all among the presenters; Michael Douglas was very funny talking about the deep resentment he believes in carrying around about the awards you've lost.