Finally, the show went on. After two unprecedented postponements stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks, the 53rd annual Primetime Emmy Awards were held last night, and as expected, politics and patriotism both real (musical tributes, stirring speeches) and fictional (The West Wing's second-consecutive best drama series victory) played a major role. But did anyone watch?
With a nail-biter of a World Series finale airing opposite the kudocast on Fox, the consensus backstage in the Jade West restaurant-turned-press room was that the Yankees weren't the only ones headed for defeat Sunday. Even Emmy honcho Bryce Zabel struggled to put a positive spin on the potent counterprogramming. "That's the breaks," he sighed. "But on the other hand, the idea that there's a live baseball game going on at the same time as the Emmys really sends a powerful message to the rest of the world."
Well, the message it sent to many in attendance at Los Angeles's Shubert Theater especially those who call New York home was, "Find a TV showing the game!" That's exactly what Sex and the City's Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall did. "When we went back to present our category, we checked," Davis told TV Guide Online. "Sarah Jessica [Parker] is a diehard Yankee fan, so even just for her I wanted them to win."
Naturally, Davis was bummed when she learned while celebrating Sex's shocking best comedy triumph backstage that the Yanks were beaten 3-2 by the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 7. "I feel like [the Diamondbacks] didn't realize that they were supposed to let the Yankees win," she sassed. "What is wrong with them?!?
"The city is so alive and I feel like they need our support the whole country's support and they have it," she added, "but it would have been great if they had won."
Regarding her HBO comedy's upset victory, Davis conceded that it was "strange" that co-stars Parker and Cynthia Nixon weren't around to share in the excitement (theater commitments kept both of them Big Apple-bound). "But we called Sarah after we won," she said. "She was like stumbling over her words; she didn't know what to say. But she did comment on our outfits, and she approved. So, we were very relieved."
Yankee fan Richard Schiff (The West Wing) was so distraught that he went straight home after the ceremony or so his colleagues feared. "We haven't seen him since [the big loss]," conceded executive producer John Wells. WW co-star Bradley Whitford a best supporting actor winner quickly chimed in with a smirk: "Richard's effervescent smile went away."
New Yorker Edie Falco who picked up her second lead actress in a drama award for playing Sopranos mob wife Carmela was still mourning the fall of her hometown heroes. "It broke my heart," she told TV Guide Online as a publicist attempted to drag her away. "It actually broke my heart." (She also was crushed that her TV hubby, James Gandolfini, wasn't around to accept his best actor statue.)
Alas, baseball wasn't the only thing on Hollywood's mind Sunday night. Other topics generating Emmy buzz backstage included Ellen DeGeneres's tour-de-force performance as host, the unprecedented security that led to one-too-many jokes about frisking, and the last-minute recruitment of Barbra Streisand to close out the three-hour telecast with a performance of "You'll Never Walk Alone."
Incidentally, the question on everyone's mind was whether Streisand would ever actually make it on stage. (Rumor had it that the diva felt her pipes might not be up to the task talk that only intensified when she didn't accept her outstanding individual performance Emmy for her Fox Timeless special.) The historically stage-frightened singer confirmed to reporters that she was "very dry in the throat," but added that she felt less afraid singing live on the Emmys because "tonight actually had a purpose."
The hard-core liberal then exercised her right to free speech and lambasted the Bush administration. "It's good that our country allows us to dissent," she said. "I do not like what's going on with the economic stimulus package... It's the administration supporting big business over the working person, and it's hard to watch."
Will & Grace's Eric McCormack a winner for lead actor in a comedy avoided politics during his 10 minutes with the media. He insisted that being nominated alongside the likes of Frasier's Kelsey Grammer was a huge victory in and of itself. "This is like 45 pounds of gravy," he said, adding, however, that knowing his leading lady, Debra Messing, went home empty-handed took some of the joy out of his big night.
Later, the former Music Man told TV Guide Online that winning an Emmy was the only thing that seemed to go right on Sunday. "I've had trouble all night," he laughed. "My limo was 45 minutes late, and then after I got the award, they took it away from me and said I had to go to my seat. So afterwards, we got lost in this maze trying to find out where it went. Plus, I just found out that my mother and father's cable went out 20 minutes before my category, so they did not see this happen. So, it's been a complete comedy of errors."
Things were much smoother on-stage under the guidance of DeGeneres whose job as Emmy emcee made her a hero of sorts among her peers. "She had the hardest job in show business tonight and I think she was spectacular," gushed Whitford. Added Everybody Loves Raymond's repeat Emmy winner Patricia Heaton: "Ellen was the perfect choice. She has such a lovely, graceful, easy sense of humor. I thought she was terrific."
Heaton proved herself to be a trouper when she confessed to reporters that she would have gladly attended the first scheduled Emmys on Sept. 16 despite the fact that it would have been just five days after the terrorist attacks. "I was ready to go do it," she said. "It's important to keep moving forward."
The West Wing executive producer John Wells, meanwhile, put to rest rumors that the show's cast and crew were among the first to withdraw from the second scheduled Emmys last month when bombs started to fall on Afghanistan. "We expressed some concern, but no one ever said that we weren't going to come," he maintained.
There was also some sporadic chatter in the press room about how Sept. 11 would impact TV content. Sex and the City showrunner Michael Patrick King hinted that harsh reality may creep into the lives of the show's trend-setting socialites. "It has affected the city and we're waiting to see how it will affect the four girls," he said
Malcolm in the Middle's winning scribe, Alex Reid, revealed that a plot involving eldest son Francis encountering an insecure Unabomber-type character en route to Alaska as well as a story where the younger sibs attempt to order fireworks off the Internet from Iran have been scrapped. However, an upcoming West Wing story about an American mad cow outbreak which unintentionally parallels the nation's recent anthrax scares will not be excised, the drama's Emmy-winning director, Thomas Schlamme, said.
Finally, security was on the minds of many at the awardsfest. Allison Janney who picked up her second-consecutive outstanding supporting actress trophy for playing The West Wing's press secretary C.J. Cregg confessed backstage that the extra precautions were a bit disconcerting. "Coming in I saw sharpshooters [on the roof] across the street," she said. "And our limo got stopped three times to check for bombs."
Asked if he was scared to attend, Schlamme responded: "Honestly, I felt like there is more security here than when I drop my children off at school."Others may want to focus on their safety at home especially West Wing winner Whitford, whose wife, Malcolm and the Middle mom Jane Kaczmarek, lost the hotly contested lead comedy actress trophy to Heaton. Although he's not worried that his bride will take her frustration out on him, the actor does admit he was disappointed that she left the Shubert empty-handed. "I love Patricia Heaton, I think she's a great actress," he winked, "but I'm not sleeping with her."