In fact, it wasn't until the middle of the program's lazy first hour that E!'s mother-daughter team dug their claws into a flesh-and-blood Emmy nominee, Everybody Loves Raymond's Peter Boyle. Prior to that big catch, viewers had to bide their time with Shelley Morrison (who plays Will & Grace fourth banana Rosario), Rudy Boesch from Survivor (whose wife all but acknowledged that his 15 minutes were winding down), and some guy named Curtis, a Big Brother contestant who won his admission on the house-based reality series.
But then Emma Thompson showed up, followed by Woody Allen, Ed Harris, Kathy Bates, Rene Auberjonois and Anthony Hop... no, wait, those stellar sightings happened as I began impatiently surfing the channels in a quest for legitimate wattage. Sorry.
Other early stumbling blocks: Mom-to-be Melissa's interview with pregnant Frasier star Jane Leeves, immediately followed by Joan's banter with new mother Sheila Schiff (wife of The West Wing's Richard Schiff), threatened to turn the red carpet review into a Lifetime special. One also grimaced as Melissa trumpeted E!'s "multicamera coverage" as if she were Jonas Salk unveiling a vaccine for polio.
By the 45-minute mark, Team Rivers while never to be mistaken for Diane Sawyer and Jane Pauley began to cull some worthy sound bites. Nominee Kim Cattrall admitted that "It's fun to get away with a lot of the stuff" she does as Sex and the City sexpot Samantha, a role she initially turned down three times. Beefy nominee Brian Dennehy quipped that his tuxedo came from "the Ernest Borgnine Collection at Armani's Big Boy Shop" yet found himself perplexed when Joan errantly insisted that he has a recurring role on ER. (Oops.)
After getting oohed and ahhed by Joan (as does everyone at the actual procession, only to be selectively skewered on the Riverses' follow-up critique show), Camryn Manheim of The Practice leaving the Kevlar breastplate at home this year pointed to her bejeweled designer earrings and effused, "No more Target!"
The pre-event parade's most poignant moment came when perennial nominee Kelsey Grammer was asked if his new horseback riding hobby had Frasier bigwigs concerned for his safety. The recovering addict deftly replied, "The things I used to do before were much more dangerous."
Alas, such genuine star moments were few, far between and separated by way too many cast members from The Sopranos (seven middling and minor players interviewed) and Survivor (five former castaways in all) yet, conspicuously, not a single member of those Must-See Friends.
Looking back, the two-hour awards show preface served as adequate background noise for a meat loaf dinner, yet was nowhere near as satisfying. Then, eyeing the future, one cannot help but wonder which is a scarier thought: that Survivor truck driver Sue will be joining Joan and Melissa in their upcoming Emmy fashion review ("What? No Versace tankinis!?"), or that a third generation of Rivers mouthpieces is possibly en route to our screens.