Katherine Heigl and Kevin Dillon by John Shearer/WireImage.com
And some people worried that getting Ryan Seacrest to host this year's Emmy telecast was going to be the producers' worst idea. That's before we got a look at the set, an unwieldy and unappealing theater-in-the-round setup that looked more suitable for the new
revival than for an awards show. The nominees, half of whom saw only the backs of the various presenters and performers, had a deer-in-the-headlights look every time Seacrest approached them or the cameras awkwardly cut to them. They appeared to be sitting in penalty boxes, not deluxe auditorium seats.
Honestly, though, we poor schnooks at home were the ones suffering the penalty here: as in, confronted with one of the worst Emmy telecasts I can remember. As Emmy years go, I'm actually at peace with the majority of the winners, given who was and wasn't nominated (and we've been over that frustrating ground plenty of times since the July nominations). Learning who won was a lot more satisfying in most cases than the experience of actually watching the show meant to celebrate these winners.
Seacrest's ineffectual hosting aside, the show was flabbily and shoddily produced, inexcusably running over three hours. Many of the winners weren't allowed to take a breath and complete a thought before the music urged them off the stage (although the eternally classy Helen Mirren scored points by urging the music to interrupt her), but we had time for a dreadfully unfunny plug for
Don't Forget the Lyrics
? Even a halfway decent idea, like having a company of
, was marred by bad editing that did no honor to the
clips being shown. (And was I the only one who noticed how the Frankie Valli character began crooning "I love you baby" just after they showed Adriana getting whacked?)
In the laugh department, I was surprisingly underwhelmed by Ray Romano's stand-up set (one of two times during the night that the Fox censors got busy), but loved Lewis Black's rant against the promotional bugs that invade the TV screen, interrupting a show already in progress to alert us to what's coming on next. (I can't tell you how many letters I get from readers who hate this practice.) And the satirical shtick between Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, mocking Hollywood and the Emmys "going green," did give us this howler from Colbert: "If entertainers stop publicly congratulating each other, then the Earth wins!" Every year, you can count on the comedy bits introducing the writing nominees in the late-night category to make you howl. This year's was no exception (Bill Maher's gag in the bathroom stalls a special highlight, along with Alberto Gonzales being unable to remember the names of any of the
But one thing the current structure of the Emmy show can't help, and which sinks it every year, is the inordinate amount of time given to rewarding actors, writers and directors of TV movies and miniseries almost no one has seen. I guess it's ironic that this genre is now so obsolete, a fact ignored in Queen Latifah's 30th-anniversary tribute to the groundbreaking
. (When she was reciting the numbers, I flashed back to my 18th birthday, which coincided with the final night of
in an era before VCRs. Guess what I did that night?) Not to diminish the work done in this arena, or in the field of musical specials (rightly dominated this year by NBC's fabulous
Tony Bennett: An American Classic
), but maybe a few of these could be handed out before the show begins and announced during the telecast. Anything to streamline matters.
Enough about the show, which I'm sure nearly everyone has already forgotten. What really matters in the long run is who won. And for the most part, I'm OK with what happened in the major races. (The exception: James Spader's absurd third win for
, which should have gone to either James Gandolfini or the still-Emmyless Hugh Laurie. To his credit, he looked and sounded embarrassed: "I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the mob." No one I know would disagree with this sentiment.)
' best-drama win was a foregone conclusion, and its wins for writing and directing just reinforced that. It wasn't the show's finest season, but it had many strong, memorable moments, and given the weak competition (with no
Lost, Friday Night Lights
in the mix), losing was unthinkable. A much bigger surprise, though not an unpleasant won, was NBC underdog
's best-comedy win, reminiscent of
winning after its first season. I was shocked that Alec Baldwin lost, but for Ricky Gervais to win for his inspired work on HBO's
is OK by me. Still a shocker to think Steve Carell has yet to win for
In the supporting categories, I love the fact that Terry O'Quinn's win for
and Jaime Pressly's for
My Name Is Earl
helped cushion the snubs their terrific shows otherwise endured. Robert Duvall's win for AMC's majestic
almost makes up for the fact that he was refused an Emmy for his iconic work on the all-time classic
back in 1989. I'm all about the first-timers, so congratulations as well to America Ferrera and Katherine Heigl (though in the latter's category I would have preferred Lorraine Bracco, who stepped up in
' final season with some marvelous work and finally submitted herself in the proper category).
Emmy darling Sally Field may not be new to the podium, but her win this year is a great boon for the underappreciated
Brothers & Sisters
, which could use the promotional boost. Her speech was censored when, after some nervous stumbling, she attempted to include an anti-war sentiment with an apparent profanity in her tribute to mothers. These same censors apparently were cool with Brad Garrett's raunchy jokes about Joely Fisher's cleavage. Don't you just love this culture?
There's a reason the Emmy show never wins Emmys. This year, there are more reasons than I could possibly count.