2023 Emmys: Best and Worst Moments From the Awards Show

The 2023 Emmys finally happened. In 2024.

Delayed from September by the dual strike of Hollywood’s actors and writers, the belated ceremony, hosted by Anthony Anderson, took place on Monday night at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles. On an evening in which the broadcast competed with coverage of the Iowa caucuses and an N.F.L. playoff game — and just a week after the Golden Globes honored many of the same shows — the Emmys made for pleasant, if rarely necessary, viewing.

Most of the awards went to favored artists and shows, with “Succession,” “The Bear,” “Beef” and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” dominating. (“Better Call Saul,” nominated for 53 Emmys over its six seasons, failed to earn even one statue.) Still, the show did have a few surprises.

There was Niecy Nash-Betts’s impassioned speech, Elton John’s newly minted EGOT status and the presenter Joan Collins’s timeless smolder. Kieran Culkin, a winner for “Succession,” used his speech to petition his wife for another child. Ebon Moss-Bachrach celebrated the best comedy win for “The Bear” by planting a long kiss on his co-star Matty Matheson. And Anderson’s mother, Doris Bowman, killed as the evening’s shadow co-host, heckling winners who took too long with their speeches.

Here are some of the evenings high and lowlights. — Alexis Soloski

Most of them, anyway. It’s nice when an awards show allows for a little envelope-opening suspense. This year, the Emmys had nearly none. With a very few exceptions, three shows swept the awards: “Succession” for drama (six Emmys); “The Bear” for comedy (six Emmys); and “Beef” for limited or anthology series or movie (five Emmys). Throw in two for “Late Night With John Oliver” — the eighth consecutive time it has won Emmys in a variety series category and for variety writing — and that was pretty much the winners list.

Largely, these awards felt deserved. Who could fail to honor a devastating episode like “Connor’s Wedding,” from “Succession”? Who would overlook Ali Wong? And those “Bear” actors deserve something nice — that show is stressful! But with every minute and every award, the outcomes felt more assured. This Emmys awarded the first season of “The Bear,” and a second — that, in many ways, improves on the first — has already aired. But with “Succession” having ended and “Beef” being a limited series, the next Emmys may offer a few more surprises. — Alexis Soloski

The rechristened best talk series category was wide open this year after the Television Academy moved John Oliver over into best scripted variety series. (Which he won, naturally.) Most expected Oliver’s former “Daily Show” colleague Stephen Colbert, whose “Late Show” has been the most-watched late-night show for several years, to claim the trophy. But it was “The Daily Show” itself that won. The Comedy Central standby dominated this category during Jon Stewart’s tenure, but it had never won while Trevor Noah was its host. And it still hasn’t, in a way: Even though it was Noah who accepted the award and gave the speech, he left the show in 2022. (Roy Wood, the former “Daily Show” correspondent, mouthed “Please hire a host” on the stage as Noah gave his speech.) It was yet another example of the weird time warps that made these delayed Emmy Awards even more confusing than usual. — Jeremy Egner

Christina Applegate (“Dead to Me,” “Married With Children”) has made few public appearances since disclosing a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Her turn at the Emmys, presenting the award for supporting actress in a comedy series, reaffirmed why she is much missed. Leaning on a handsome escort and a cane, she teared up at the standing ovation the audience gave her, then sliced through the emotion saying, “You’re totally shaming me with disability by standing up.” Spiky, sardonic, lemon-tart, even through tears, she was as funny and complicated as any of the characters she has played. She may not have won for “Dead to Me,” but her presence was a win for the ceremony. — Alexis Soloski

Niecy Nash-Betts is regularly among the best performers in any program she appears in, and the Emmys was no exception. Accepting for “Dahmer,” Nash-Betts gave a blazing speech in which she dedicated her victory to the struggles of “unheard, yet overpoliced” Black and brown women, “like Glenda Cleveland, like Sandra Bland, like Breonna Taylor.” She continued: “As an artist, my job is to speak truth to power. And, baby, I’ma do it till the day I die.” She also said what you have to imagine has gone through the head of many a past award winner: “And you know who I want to thank? I want to thank me, for believing in me and doing what they said I could not do.” Monday night, she did it. — James Poniewozik

Anthony Anderson opened the Emmys with an ode to the programs that animated his living room TV set growing up, kicking off a 75th anniversary ceremony that spent a lot of time looking back at the history of television. Walking onstage and hanging up his fur coat a la “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” Anderson took to the piano, starting with the theme song from “Good Times,” the 1970s Norman Lear sitcom that Anderson said taught him about “the importance of family, a dynamic catchphrase and spinoff money.” He added: “No ‘Good Times,’ no ‘black-ish,’ no ‘grown-ish,’ no ‘mixed-ish,’” referring to the sitcom he is best known for and the spinoffs that followed. He followed with the theme from “The Facts of Life” and — with an assist from Travis Barker on drums — a rendition of “In the Air Tonight,” which appeared in “Miami Vice.” The theatrical romp, though short, allowed Anderson to sidestep the kind of moments that plagued Jo Koy’s monologue last week at the Golden Globes, where an opening stand-up routine with jokes about celebrities in the room and the most nominated movies fell flat. — Julia Jacobs

Playing off winners who ramble in their acceptance speeches? Rude. Anthony Anderson having his mother scold the loquacious? Brilliant. Anderson, who often includes his mother, Doris Bowman, in his act — and in the game show “We Are Family,” which she co-hosts — recruited her as a “playoff mama,” a job she took seriously enough to rebuke her own son when his intro ran too long. “I want to go to the after party,” she said. “Hurry up.” She interrupted Jennifer Coolidge (who would dare?) and silenced John Oliver when he baited her by padding out his speech with Liverpool football players. Kieran Culkin kept his speech short. “I don’t want to be yelled at,” he said. When Anderson donned a latex gimp suit for an “American Horror Story” bit, she piped up to tell him to wash. Good advice and seemingly a great ad-lib. — Alexis Soloski

Usually, when awards shows “pay tribute” to a medium, it’s a momentum killer for the ceremony and a mildly depressing slog. But the cast reunion segments here were light on their feet — brief, and more important, integrated into the proceedings. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler reunite … to present an award! Hey, it’s some people from the cast of “Cheers” … here to present an award! Throw in a little dance number from some “Ally McBeal” alums for good measure. (Do I wonder how exactly the guest lists were assembled? I do.) The sets did a lot of the heavy lifting, so even the flatter segments still stirred fond memories. — Margaret Lyons

The Emmys are usually held in September; because of the Hollywood strikes, this ceremony came four months late. This meant delayed curtain calls for series like “Better Call Saul” and “Dead to Me,” which ended in 2022, as well as having to keep track of which seasons the night’s winners were actually being celebrated for. “The Bear” picked up several wins Monday night, for instance, just as it did at the Golden Globes a week earlier. But the Globes were for the show’s more recent Season 2, while the Emmys were for … Season 1, from summer 2022. Here’s hoping that by the fall, the TV space-time continuum will have been repaired. — James Poniewozik

For those of us watching at home, it was agony not knowing what filthy, provocative words we missed in so many of the speeches. Only people at Peacock Theater in Los Angeles heard just what Kieran Culkin did to Pedro Pascal’s shoulder, what obscenities Brett Goldstein unleashed and what RuPaul said that had him silenced for multiple seconds. Lip readers of the world — or any available attendees — please advise. — Alexis Soloski

Elton John secured an EGOT on Monday night, joining the select group who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony when he won an Emmy for outstanding variety special category for his televised farewell concert at Dodger Stadium. John has won five Grammys, a Tony Award for best original score for “Aida” and two Oscars for songs in “The Lion King” (“Can You Feel the Love Tonight”) and “Rocketman” (“(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again”). With his Emmy for “Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium,” which streamed on Disney+, John became the 19th person to gain a title that is totally unofficial yet an enduring source of fascination online. The rather elite club includes Audrey Hepburn, Rita Moreno, Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson and Viola Davis. John, 76, did not attend the Emmys ceremony. — Julia Jacobs

Seven seasons. Seven Emmy nominations for best drama series, and a whopping 53 nominations overall. And how many Emmy wins for “Better Call Saul”? Zero. I had to double check that a few times; it just didn’t seem possible. And yet, it is true. AMC’s prequel series to the much-Emmyed crime drama “Breaking Bad” had five more chances to win something on Monday night (it had already struck out on its two Creative Emmys nods earlier this month). Wins for Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn, for best actor and supporting actress, seemed at least plausible. Instead, the show holds the record for most Emmy nominations in history without a win. Slippin’ Jimmy’s final opportunity has thus slipped away. — Austin Considine

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