The great Sheryl Lee Ralph won the first Emmy — nay, first major award — of her distinguished career, and became the first Black woman to take home Supporting Actress in a Comedy in 35 years (hat-tip to the brilliant Jackee Harry in 227). She was so moved that she sat still for a minute, then gathered herself and went on stage and belted out the opening bars of the EQUALLY brilliant Dianne Reeves’ “Endangered Species”:
“I am an endangered species
But I sing no victim’s song
I am a woman I am an artist
And I know where my voice belongs.”
It was fantastic and emotional, and she followed it with some raw words of inspiration, and I LOVED IT. The Emmys asked nominees ahead of time for some names and words to run on-screen if they won, which they hoped would shorten speeches. But as I noted on Twitter, this is misguided for a number of reasons, not least: THE SPEECHES ARE THE GOLD. Whether they’re long, short, boring, tight, hilarious, moving, or just regular, they are the core of the night. We want to see people in their moment of victory, and other than dissing production decisions, they are generally the thing we talk about the next day. An awards show is an industry’s night of self-congratulation, and they want to cut off the actual congratulatory part? Do better, all of you.
Mercifully they did not play off Sheryl, but Quinta Brunson — only the second Black woman to win for comedy writing EVER, for Abbott Elementary — had to sit through a gag with Will Arnett and Jimmy Kimmel that ate time before she won, only to get the orchestra up in her face when she tried to thank her parents. Look, I can watch a montage anytime I want. If I crave a weird dance number, I’ll watch the VMAs. I can watch Kimmel on his own show. I’d even be willing to leave the hosts and monologues on Saturday Night Live. But I, and I think a lot of other people, watch award shows for two things: the dead people, and the feelings. And the producers who think chopping the heart out of the show is going to save their ratings are missing the point. You have a core audience that will come no matter what you do, and that core wants to see the exact stuff you’re bungling. Stop trying to please the fly-bys and start serving the artists and viewers who actually WANT to be there.
Anyway, here is Queen Sheryl, plus everyone else who picked basic black for their outfit. And, I should have embedded this sooner perhaps, but what a note on which to leave you; Sheryl wins at 4:10: