LOS ANGELES — For most award shows, the acceptance speeches are the worst part. Laundry lists of names get checked off, and there are casual nods to fellow nominees and occasionally breathless exclamations. They’ve become so deadly that awards show producers have instituted even stricter limits on how long these speeches can last.
Still, this hasn’t made the speeches more interesting, so instead, the voting members of the TV academy came up with an ingenious new approach. Instead of voting along popular conventional wisdom, make a series of wackadoo voting choices and sit back as flabbergasted performer after flabbergasted performer comes to the stage to accept his or her award.
For the 65th Emmys show, that tactic seems to have gone a long way to redeeming what was otherwise a show of lackluster comedy bits and awkwardly staged “In Memoriam” tributes.
So here, for the perusal of future awards show winners (we’re looking at you, Oscar hopefuls) are some of the best acceptance speech moments from the 2013 Emmy awards:
• Very short, very sweet: “Nurse Jackie’s” Merritt Wever clearly wasn’t ready to be the night’s first award recipient. Her win for supporting actress in a comedy series came as a shock to the audience, and to her as well. Her speech, in its entirety: “Thank you so much! Um … I gotta go. Bye.” A speech so great, not even Sorkin or Mamet would have thought to try it.
• Bring the characters to the stage: Singers usually perform their nominated song at the Oscars, so why shouldn’t actors show off a little of their skill at these award shows? Julia Louis-Dreyfus clearly got the message. She came to the stage to accept the award for lead actress in a comedy series and carried along a little bit of her “Veep” character, Selina Meyer. Co-star Tony Hale (himself an Emmy winner), became her aide, just like on the show, standing just behind her, carrying her clutch and whispering reminders about her speech into her ear. That’s a way to win an award.
• Real emotion, as opposed to the other stuff: We’ve all seen actors and actresses get up there and gush and blubber and we have to wonder if it’s all a little bit affected. And then there’s Sarah Bromell, widow of the late “Homeland” writer Henry Bromell, who won an award for one of his teleplays. She said, with palpable emotion, “I accept this award on behalf of Henry with deep appreciation for the Academy. Thank you so much.” Simple and powerful.
• A guy you want to get a beer with: “Boardwalk Empire’s” Bobby Cannavale seemed shocked to beat out Aaron Paul and Mandy Patinkin for the supporting actor in a drama series Emmy. Of Patinkin, he gushed: “Mandy Patinkin is the first person I ever saw on stage, and he’s, like, my favorite person.” Of series executive producer Martin Scorsese, Cannavale was even more aw shucks, telling the audience what they already knew, “You know, he’s great!”
• Don’t swallow the gum: Having some kind of business to do on stage makes you a more interesting performer. Jeff Daniels must know that in his bones, since he refused to swallow his gum after coming to the stage to accept the Emmy for lead actor in a drama series, an award that was favored for Jon Hamm or Bryan Cranston or even Kevin Spacey. Anyone, really, but Daniels. Chomping on the gum like mid-’80s Burt Reynolds, Daniels checked out the hardware and uttered, “Well, crap! I didn’t expect this.” He went on, “The last thing I won … was the best actor over 50 from the AARP.”n If all else fails, sex jokes work: Michael Douglas couldn’t resist the double entendres when he picked up the Emmy for lead actor in a miniseries or movie for playing flamboyant Vegas performer Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra.”