Emmy Awards

Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File

Lorne Michaels Seeks Viewership Turnaround For Emmy Awards Monday Night

September 17, 2018 - 6:20 pm

LOS ANGELES (WCBS 880/AP) -- As Emmy Award nominees nervously wait to hear their name called, or not, there's more on the line at Monday night's ceremony than personal glory.

"Saturday Night Live" creator Lorne Michaels, producing his second Emmy telecast in 30 years, as tasked with turning viewership around after the 2017 show's audience of 11.4 million narrowly avoided the embarrassment of setting a new low.

The 8 p.m. ceremony on NBC clearly bears his stamp, with "SNL" faux news anchors Michael Che and Colin Jost as hosts and familiar "SNL" faces, including Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin, as presenters and nominees.

The Emmys began with a song whose chorus was "We Solved It," a comic ode to the diversity of nominees — and Hollywood self-satisfaction.

"Saturday Night Live" stars and Emmy nominees McKinnon and Kenan Thompson started the song, pointing out that Sandra Oh could become the first woman of Asian descent to win an Emmy.

The comedians sang: "There were none, now there's one, so we're done."

They were joined by Tituss Burgess, Kristen Bell, Sterling K. Brown and Ricky Martin, who declared the song "too white" and gave it a Latin turn.

Andy Samberg showed up to ask in song if there was a place for a straight white male in the song before being sent off. Martin and Samberg were met with loud cheers inside Microsoft Theater.

The group gave way to the night's hosts Che and Jost, who continued to riff on Hollywood diversity and the sexual misconduct scandal that has roiled the industry.

After the ceremony began, Bill Hader won the best actor in a television comedy Emmy Award for his role in "Barry."

It was the first time Hader has won an Emmy for his acting. He's been nominated four times for his performances on "Saturday Night Live" and won his only previous Emmy as a producer of South Park in 2009.

He plays the HBO show's title character, an elite hitman who takes an interesting in acting after wandering into a class. Hader was also up for three more Emmys Monday night, for his writing, directing and executive producer on "Barry." The writing and directing awards were awarded Amy Sherman-Palladino.

Rachel Brosnahan was the winner of the best actor in a television comedy Emmy Award for her role in "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

It was the first Emmy for Brosnahan, and comes in the first season of her first leading role on television. She plays Miriam "Midge" Maisel, a housewife in New York in the 1950s who finds she has a knacke for stand-up comedy.

She won a Golden Globe for the role earlier this year. Hers is the latest win for the Amazon series, which has also won a supporting actress Emmy Award for Alex Borstein and Emmys for best writing and directing.

In her acceptance speech, Brosnahan said the show is "about a woman who is finding her voice anew" like so many women in the country right now.

Meanwhile, "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel's" Alex Borstein was the winner of the Emmy Award for best supporting actor in a comedy series.

It's the second 2018 Emmy for Borstein, who already won best character voice-over performance for her longtime role of Lois Griffin on "Family Guy."

She plays Susie Myerson on Amazon's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

As to viewership, the pressure was on Michaels because NBC and other broadcasters are increasingly reliant on awards and other live events to draw viewers distracted by streaming and more 21st- century options. The networks, which air the Emmy telecast on a rotating basis, are so eager for the ad dollars it generates and its promotional value for fall shows that they endure online competitors sharing the stage.

It's Hulu's "The Handmaid's Tale" that's the defending best drama series champ, with HBO's two-time previous winner "Game of Thrones" the top rival. NBC's "This Is Us" is the only network nominee in the category. On the comedy side, the front-runners are FX's "Atlanta" and Amazon Prime Video's "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," with ABC's "black-ish" the only network show in contention.

Netflix this year received the most nominations at 112, breaking HBO’s 17-year streak.

“The world of television is changing… for a while, it was terrestrial TV, if you’re old enough just to remember just terrestrial TV – I’ll admit I am. Then came, of course, cable, HBO. Now we have the streaming services – Netflix, Amazon, others – and those are the ones that seem to be doing the groundbreaking series; the series that sort of get people’s attention,” said CBS News Correspondent Steve Futterman.

Futterman noted the transition from three networks – CBS, NBC, and ABC – followed by Fox and then cable and streaming services. He said this is a “golden age of television right now, if you really look at it.”

“Speaking of someone who has sort of spanned both (eras), Henry Winkler. He was nominated for three times for Fonzie in ‘Happy Days’ oh so many years ago,” he said. “That was an ABC show when it was just terrestrial TV. He has never won. He is a nominee tonight for his role in ‘Barry,’ and ‘Barry,’ of course, is on HBO.”

This time, Winkler won. He got the Emmy for best supporting actor in a comedy series.

Winkler got a standing ovation for his win. 

He started his speech by saying, "I wrote this 43 years ago."

He ended it by telling his adult children to go to bed.

The telecast was also expected see a number of record nominations for people of color converted into awards, some historic.

Oh has the chance to become the first performer of Asian descent to win a lead drama actress trophy for the BBC America's spy thriller "Killing Eve." Oh, who's Korean-Canadian, previously received five supporting actress nods for "Grey's Anatomy."

Issa Rae of HBO's "Insecure" or ABC's "black-ish" star Tracee Ellis Ross could become the second African-American to win as best comedy actress, following Isabel Sanford (1981, "The Jeffersons") by 37 years. The field, including Rachel Brosnahan of "Mrs. Maisel," is wide open, with six-time Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her HBO series, "Veep," sitting these Emmys out for scheduling reasons.

Yeardley Smith, an Emmy winner for voicing Lisa on "The Simpsons," said she doesn't object when winners use the spotlight to say more than "thank you."

"I don't think it's inappropriate," Smith said. "I think that you do need to strike a balance. I think if you're truly passionate about something, anything, that if you have a platform, you almost have a moral obligation to speak up."

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)