Monday, September 19, 2005

Wake me when the Emmys are over

Ah, the Emmys.

Almost always, the Emmys are the biggest snoozefest among the major entertainment awards shows, lacking the high drama of the Oscars and the goofy dinner-party atmosphere of the Golden Globes. Perhaps because of their strict television orientation, the Emmys always seem to aim for a bland, lowest-common-denominator approach that will offend almost no one and bore practically everyone.

Emmy 2005 was no different.

The ennui began with host Ellen DeGeneres, who holds for me all the appeal of lukewarm rice pudding. Has there ever been a comedian as prominent in the industry as Ellen who was consistently less funny? Okay... Jerry Seinfeld. But other than that? Ellen's dorky, deer-in-headlights stage persona simply turns me off, and last night, her comedic inserts into the broadcast seemed especially forced and desperate.

Then came a roster of presenters that couldn’t have been more poorly chosen — uniformly lifeless and ill at ease. At the Academy Awards, the folks handing out the statues may be nervous, even clumsy, but at least they seem a little awestruck by the spectacle. At the Golden Globes, most of the presenters have tossed back a libation or three by the time the show starts, so they come off more loosey-goosey and natural. Last night's Emmy-passer-outers all looked as though they might break into the Pepto-Bismol dance at any moment.

And whose misbegotten idea was that "Emmy Idol" business, which kept interrupting the show with god-awful renditions of TV theme songs performed by people who either had no business singing on stage (is there anyone in America who enjoyed having their eardrums subjected to Donald Trump and Megan Mullaly croaking out "Green Acres"?) or were clearly embarrassed by their assigned material (Gary Dourdan from CSI duetting "Movin" On Up" from The Jeffersons with Macy Gray — a song that had to be pitched so low to accommodate Dourdan's baritone tessitura that it was barely recognizable)? Frederica von Stade is one of the world's premier opera singers, but she had to be cursing the agent who got her the gig warbling the theme from Star Trek as William Shatner leered at (and practically drooled on) her.

But the Emmycast offered a handful of cool moments, too. Fr'instance:
  • Jon Stewart's crack about the writing staff of The Daily Show being "only 80 percent Ivy league-educated Jews." Easily the best joke of the night.

  • The bolt of lightning that galvanized Felicity Huffman when she won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She clearly thought one of her Desperate Housewives costars and conominees, Marcia Cross or Teri Hatcher, would get the nod. Huffman's an excellent actress who deserves more notice. She's also a striking woman-next-door standout among her overhyped glamour girl confederates on Housewives.

  • S. Epatha Merkerson from Law & Order losing her speech notes down the front of her evening gown. Merkerson, who won Outstanding Lead Actress in a Movie or Miniseries for Lackawanna Blues, is another fine actress who rarely gets the attention her talent warrants. Maybe they'll give her more to do on L&O this season now that she's won an Emmy.

  • James Spader repeating as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Has anyone ever before won back-to-back Emmys for playing the same character, but on two different series (The Practice and Boston Legal)? I doubt it. And for all his talent, is Spader the creepiest guy in Hollywood, or what? Give him another ten years, and he'll be a stocky Christopher Walken.

  • The classy tributes to the late Johnny Carson (delivered by a surprisingly subdued David Letterman — did they load him up with Valium before he took the stage?) and the triumvirate of network news anchors who left their desks this year — Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather due to retirement, Peter Jennings due to his death from lung cancer.

  • Knowing that Everybody Loves Raymond won't be around to win anything ever again.
(This article is cross-posted to my film/television blog at DVD Verdict.)

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