The Modern Family juggernaut swept up the first four awards in the show, virtually ensuring that all that sweet goodwill for the show would pretty much be gone by the first commercial break.
But hey, there was still plenty of good times to come: Cameo-crazy songs, Michael Bolton-busting dances and whatever was going to happen when Charlie Sheen addressed the Two and a Half Men cast.
Look, we’re just happy to see Jon Hamm on TV again. Even doing finger pistols.
So let’s get to it:
Best Opening: Sure, Jane Lynch goes for the easy lip-sync, Auto-Tune and Star Trek references early—a little worrying, yes—before she unleashed a delightful opening number that crammed in a Tivo’s worth of inside television references and more cameos than a Love Boat episode.
Best Opening Cameo: The cast of Mad Men encountering Lynch reminded us how much we missed that show, though we can only hope that Roger Sterling one day has a reason to try to watch a movie on a rotary phone.
Worst Sound Effects: The Jimmy Fallon–Jimmy Kimmel bit was really funny, but the sound was a mess. Thankfully, two men wrestling on the floor pretty much close-captions itself.
Most Dramatic: Charlie Sheen‘s slow, creeping…creepy words of support for his former colleagues on Two and a Half Men had us on the edge of our seat.
Best Moment of Female Empowerment: Amy Poehler led the women nominated for the lead actress in a comedy award up on stage for a moment that was hilarious and inspired and Melissa McCarthy‘s win was totally better than anything we’ve ever seen at a real beauty pageant.
Least Amazing Win: Imagine a reality series in which the same person won every time? You can’t? Just watch The Amazing Race win yet another reality show win.
Best Use of Editing: Ricky Gervais‘ heavily tweaked intro to the Comedy Directing award not only had us laughing, but actually had us thinking they should do this more often on the less compelling speeches.
Worst Use of Time: The late-night comedy writers only got 15 seconds to do their always-funny intros for their nominations. We could watch a whole season’s worth of that stuff.
Best Save: Sure, we think The Colbert Report has been getting robbed for years by the also-excellent The Daily Show, but the barely literate speech by the show’s writers showed they could bring the funny even without Jon Stewart onstage.
Of Course…Soon enough, Jon Stewart was on stage to pick the award for the whole show. You know, Oprah Winfrey eventually stopped nominating herself to give other people a chance. Think about it, Stewart.
Least Commonly Heard Complaint in 2011: During one gag, Mad Men‘s Slattery groused about having to give a fur to every woman he sleeps with, “What am I, made of furs?” (Interestingly, this was also a line of dialogue from Game of Thrones!)
Best Couple of Winners: The terrific Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen both picked up awards for their comedy duet. Still, watching Steven Levitan and his wife riffing during one of his acceptance speeches made us think the actors perhaps ought to share those things with the originals. (That said, Burrell’s speech was especially good.)
Nicest Surprise: Host Lynch kept things funny through the whole show, from her riff on the oil-changing gay agenda to revealing that all of Hollywood pretty much enjoys a camera-free orgy once the show ends. (We knew it!) Great job, Jane. Does someone smell a 2012 Emmy? (Or who knows, it could be an old 2010 one, because it really smells bad.)
EGOT Alert: While plenty of movie people picked up Emmys—thus increasing their chances for an Emmy-Grammy-Oscar-Tony sweep—we say keep your eye on the Emmytones, the vocal group with Joel McHale, Colbie Smulders and more. Total Grammy bait.
Most Winning Moment: When Margo Martindale, the supporting actress winner, struggled to get up the stairs, Modern Family‘s Ed O’Neill bolted out of his front-row chair to try to help her before Ashton Kutcher got there to get her onstage. O’Neill, you are a total gentleman. Kutcher, as we all know, is just half of one.
Best TV Moment: When noted TV director Martin Scorsese won for Boardwalk Empire. OK, seriously, we totally bow to Scorsese’s skillz but how about honoring a real TV guy, like Tim Van Patten, who has directed a ton of great TV (including Boardwalk and nearly every other great HBO show).
Don’t Hate the Player—or the Game! We were stoked the Game of Throne‘s Tyrion Peter Dinklage won for his great performance of George R.R. Martin’s character. Surprised that he remembered his fellow nominees? A Lannister always pays his debts.
Too Late! In the midst of an extremely literate and tasteful speech Downton Abbey‘s mastermind Julian Fellowes said, “At the risk of being grandiloquent”…Which was totally, you know, not.
Yay!…What? If Friday Night Lights‘ Kyle Chandler looked a little stunned when he won, we’re guessing that was partly because it was impossible to understand whose name the cast of Charlie Angel‘s was shouting as the winner. (But considering Angel Minka Kelly used to be Chandler’s costar on the show, he probably figured it out pretty fast.)
The In Memorium Moment: Did we miss Jeff Conaway? And hey, we love Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah” as much as anyone, but even Cohen said recently that the song deserves a rest. That said, lots of people thought the singers wonderful and the moment touching.
Dirty Flirting Award: Winner Guy Pearce offered some sexy talk about Mildred Pierce Kate Winslet, before getting all romantic toward his wife. (Dude, that’s totally our move!)
Best Finish: Well, it finished on time. That’s good. And can’t argue with Mad Men and Modern Family winning the top awards. So, all in all, we give this one a thumbs up. How about you?