review: emmy awards 2006

August 28, 2006

As if to make up for its lack of cameras inside Los Angeles’ Kodak Theater, entertainment channel E! devoted an entire day of airtime to its lead-up to the 2006 Emmy Awards. Coming in at the tail end of what must have been a profoundly shallow–even by E!’s standards–run of coverage, I found it easy to laugh at interviewer Ryan Seacrest’s jokey rapport with the handful of leading ladies he managed to snag on their way down the red carpet, to wince at The Office star Jenna Fischer’s showy display of a “$900,000 diamond ring,” to think once or twice about shutting the television off and going back to Proust. But wait, there’s Kiefer Sutherland (doesn’t he look smart!); and there’s Entourage nominee Jeremy Piven, his rakish charm making his ascot seem only half as ridiculous as it should be; and Virginia Madsen, with a voluminous chest overflowing from her deeply split gown! A few more like that, and it was time for the spectacle, the real one, to begin via NBC’s exclusive telecast.

Host Conan O’Brien’s introduction was endearingly silly, seeing the Late Show host inserted into the environs of a number of nominated shows (and Lost too) “on his way” to the ceremony. And who can forget his opening musical number, a wryly constructed adaptation of “Trouble” from Meredith Wilson’s The Music Man; it could easily have fallen flat, but O’Brien’s “limited musical ability,” as he called it, and ample comedic chops gave us something amusing, entertaining, and diverting. Unfortunately, things went mostly downhill from there.

As one of the most honored shows of the evening, the stars of NBC’s sitcom My Name is Earl had much to celebrate (and to talk about). I have never watched My Name Is Earl, and while I am sure that for some viewers it fills a mustache-shaped hole in their hearts, nothing I saw of it this evening proved remotely attractive. Certainly not star Jaime Pressly, whom the Academy in their wisdom made a presenter; her breathy whine betrays a staggering flooziness.

Simon Cowell’s open-shirt look did him no favors either, though I suspect that the booing that greeted his entrance to the stage was about something more than a flamboyant fashion faux pas. CBS’s competition-based reality program The Amazing Race won again, its fourth victory in as many years, beating out Cowell’s megahit American Idol (considered the favorite by pundits). The delivery of that award, however, was nothing less than delightful, as it was presented by the quintessentially lovable and entertaining comedy duo of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, both nominees as well for their respective Comedy Central programs.

In fact, Colbert and Stewart were quite possibly the best thing about the evening, though Piven and The Office’s Steve Carell (a former Daily Show correspondent himself) were also honored, and rightly so: Stewart’s heartfelt acceptance speech and tribute to close friend Colbert made the latter’s winless evening more bearable, and seeing Colbert plant a kiss on Stewart was a strangely fuzzy experience. Perhaps they could host the show next time (are you listening, Louis J. Horvitz?).

No matter who ends up piloting the ceremony in 2007, the Emmys are certainly in need of something, anything, to help eliminate that soulless and dull feeling that comes from the canned “humor” that presenters foist upon viewers (Howie Mandel’s Deal or No Deal shtick was an unqualified disaster, for one). Trimming or even eliminating the various tributes might also liven things up a bit, as would eliminating every trace of Barry Manilow, who had both a “why is he here?!” moment and a “how could he possibly win an Emmy!?” moment.  In short, a three-hour ceremony that habitually runs long should know better than to rush the ending awards in order to finish on time. Something has to give, and the awards list isn’t getting any shorter.

Relieving the tedium somewhat were Kiefer Sutherland and 24‘s wins in the Best Actor-Drama and Best Drama Series categories. Sutherland actually smiled for the occasion, a rare sight for fans of his hard-boiled federal agent/world savior character, and the on-stage lovefest for the series win was a joy to behold–at least until the reality of time constraints reared its ugly head. So it was, the Emmy Awards have come and gone with much fanfare and little to show for it and while the superfluity of these annual goings-on is undeniable, even expected, the predictability and lifelessness of this iteration were not. Proust beckons, so I must away.

–D. S. W.


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