If it weren't for Lost, you might never have known what year was being honored at Sunday's Emmy Awards.
James Spader and William Shatner— didn't they win last year? A Raymond sweep — haven't we seen that before? Tony Shalhoub winning again? Wake me when it's over.
I think Felicity Huffman (prior to her own surprise, but not undeserved, win) summed it up best when she muttered, "Clunk."
She was referring to some lame banter during a joint presentation by the five main Desperate Housewives, but she could have been talking about the night itself. Poor Ellen DeGeneres did her droll best to keep this bloated show afloat, but not even the second coming of Johnny Carson (who was paid generous, if solemn, tribute by David Letterman) could have rescued this long, unsatisfying evening.
Few awards are as capricious and as maddening as the Emmys. Even when you study the episodes submitted by the nominees in the main categories, it's a crapshoot to guess if and when the voters will reward what's fresh and new or go with what's familiar and safe. And even if the safe choice is not necessarily the wrong choice, it almost always feels like a letdown if you were rooting for someone new — which, given the nature of a season that had so many breakthroughs, was the case in nearly every category.
The biggest shocker: Patricia Arquette for Medium. She was new, all right, but not by a long shot the expected choice. I'm betting not even real-life psychic Allison DuBois saw this one coming. She was a surprise nominee, for crying out loud. For her to win was completely out of left field — and I actually like her offbeat work. I just wouldn't classify it as Emmy bait. (I was sure Glenn Close would win, and would have settled for Mariska Hargitay.)
The biggest groaner: All those Everybody Loves Raymond wins. Don't get me wrong; I was a cheerleader for this show to the very end and thought its final season was filled with home runs. It's so rare for a long-running show to exit with its creative juices intact. But you could feel the air go out of the room when it won best comedy over Desperate Housewives. And when Brad Garrett stole the award from Entourage's inspired Jeremy Piven (and, for that matter, from Peter Boyle, the only Barone not to win an Emmy). And even when the fabulous Doris Roberts won yet again, depriving Arrested Development's Jessica Walters. It's not that Raymond wasn't deserving, it was just such a traditional choice when Housewives, Development and the currently MIA Scrubs were in the mix.
The right calls: Yes, there were a few. Lost, for best drama and for the direction of the astonishing pilot episode. PBS' haunting The Lost Prince beating HBO's dreadfully dull Empire Falls. S. Epatha Merkerson's win for Lackawanna Blues — and how charming was her embarrassment at having her speech fall down her dress to a place she couldn't reach? No-brainers like Geoffrey Rush's performance as Peter Sellers, the moving Warm Springs as best movie and The Amazing Race making it three in a row as best reality-competition series. Also can't argue with the writing awards for House and Arrested Development (although Marc Cherry's Housewives pilot was brilliant).
Few predicted Felicity Huffman would be the housewife to win the comedy actress category, but her genuine surprise and unexpected delight (mirrored by her adoring husband, William H. Macy) made it all OK. Plus, it's no secret she's the all-around most seasoned actress in the cast, even if her role is rarely the showiest. (And loved her for thanking Aaron Sorkin for casting her in Sports Night.)
From the Emmy show itself, the comic highlight was Jon Stewart's censored-by-editors rant, and the low point were those "Emmy Idol" musical numbers that flirted dangerously close to Rob Lowe-Snow White memories of Oscar-style production-number fiascos.
Otherwise, the show was downright forgettable. And with a few exceptions, I'd prefer simply to forget most of who made it into the winners' circle this year.
For a complete list of Emmy winners and for backstage coverage, click here.