The Voice wins reality competition Emmy, which actually qualifies as an upset

NBC’s The Voice won the Emmy for outstanding reality competition series, unseating CBS’ The Amazing Race for the second upset in the category’s 11-year history. Before last night, nine of the 10 years the Emmys have awarded a statute to Amazing Race as the best reality competition series; after being dethroned by Top Chef in 2010, it won again two years in a row.

Meanwhile, the Emmy for choreography was presented for the first time during the prime-time telecast, following a number choreographed by the nominees. The Emmy, presented by reality show host Emmy winners Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, went to Dancing with the Stars‘ Derek Hough, the only non-So You Think You Can Dance nominee.

As to the competition award, I don’t think a single one of the nominated shows had a particularly Emmy-worthy season last year, and some, like So You Think You Can Dance and Top Chef, were particularly weak when compared to their own earlier seasons. And while The Voice smartly reinvented the singing competitions series, it quickly found its own rut, and I wonder if its popularity, rather than its quality, is what got voters’ attention.

Executive producer Mark Burnett accepted the award after charging the stage without his crew and taking the statue while admonishing them to hurry up (“come on, guys”). However, like he did when he accepted the outstanding reality program award from the TV Critics Association this summer for Shark Tank, Burnett did credit his crew, even if he took the microphone.

Specifically, Burnett cited “our incredible production team: our incredible production team, our showrunners, Audrey Morrissey, Lee Metzger, Stijn Bakkers. John de Mol for the great format, NBC for take the risk, Meredith Ahr and Paul Telegdy.” While Burnett did cite “our great host” Carson Daly by name, he did not name the coaches except to say “our great coaches.” And then he put in a plug: “keep supporting–we’re back on Monday, keep us number one.”

The show’s win was one of many upsets (Breaking Bad, The Colbert Reporter, Tony Hale and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep) among the predictable awards (Modern Family again? Sigh.) during a telecast that had great moments but a lot of awfulness.

The Emmys may exist to acknowledge outstanding television, but they certainly do not always produce it, completely wasting Neil Patrick Harris during a flat opening bit that was nearly as bad as the reality hosts’ attempt, never mind the inclusion of insanely awkward segments with Shemar Moore backstage, where stars stood next to him while he attempted to read lines. It was also, as Steven Levitan said, “the saddest Emmys of all time,” thanks to genuinely moving but badly slotted segments featuring people talking about someone they knew who died last year.

But then there was Merritt Wever’s amazing acceptance speech (“Thank you so much. I gotta go. Bye.”) and this hilarious moment, though it turned out to be a comedian and writer for the show. Still, it was funnier than any of the bits or jokes the rest of the show delivered.

The Emmys could learn a lot from reality TV. If only its voters would start watching it.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.