The 59th Emmys: Saved by Stewart, Carell & Colbert

Let’s hope that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences puts Fox on ice until they learn to behave themselves.

Defamer oh-so-delicately called the Emmys "an exercise in show business self-gratification only marginally more entertaining than watching a Lassie stand-in lick its…"  (You can check Defamer for the quote.)

Someone should write Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Steven Carell a bonus check.  Their work on the Emmys last night snatched the ceremony from the jaws of disaster.

But the awards were overshadowed by Fox’s BSP (blatant self-promotion) and the censorship of Sally Field.

Of course, all the networks use the Emmys to promote their own stars and product, but when network choices undermine the event then clearly the Academy has a problem on their hands.

It’s difficult to understand how Ryan Seacrest has gotten so far in his career.  But Emmy hosting is clearly waaaaay beyond his minor-league abilities.  Fox’s decision to insert Seacrest was blatantly self-serving and there were moments - he chatted with The Sopranos Paulie "Walnuts," for instance - when Seacrest was embarrassingly inept.

Here’s one of those stiletto-through-the-screen snippets.

Seacrest tracked down Tony Sirico, who played the iconic Paulie "Walnuts" on The Sopranos.

Seacrest:  Mr.Walnuts, the ushers have asked that you to stop shanking the seat pillows.

Sirico (not particularly amused) shrugs:   Yeah, sure.

Seacrest trails off:  Thank you…(then turns to camera)  Is he smiling yet?  Seacrest turns back to Sirico: Why are you so pissed?  Oh! Now you’re smiling.  Okay, good!!

I was hoping that art would meet life and that Sirico would do us all a big favor and just whack Seacrest right there on live television. 

There should be a limit as to how much a network can exploit this ceremony.  While Seacrest sucked up precious air time, the winners were given mere nanoseconds on stage.  It  think David Chase got 60 seconds at most when he accepted the Emmy for The Sopranos "Made in America" finale.

Current TV’s Emmy for creative achievement in interactive television started out nicely with Heroes Masi Oka appropriately planted in front of an Apple Computer. But then the segment devolved onto a broadband feed featuring the President of NewsCorp-owned MySpace Tom Anderson.  The Anderson blurb introducing Current was completely superfluous.  Again, it was another worthless Fox moment that served not a single purpose except to plug MySpace.

I’ve already written about the censorship of Sally Field’s acceptance speech. Seacrest says "pissed;" Sally Field makes a little anti-war speech and says "god-dammed."  Fox silenced the last of her remarks.  

Along with ABC’s Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera’s triumph, Field’s win was an Emmy highlight.  Field has done great work on Brothers and Sisters.  The censorship of this fine actress should be reason enough for the Academy to put Fox on ice for the next few years.

And where’s the formal apology from Fox to Sally Field this morning?  She deserves it.

Nevertheless, the crew of Comedy Central managed to entertain. Stephen Colbert shows up on stage with a "green" leaf-blower that runs on "Al Gore’s tears.   He’s a cry baby. We’re soooo lucky he’s not our president."  When Stewart suggests to Colbert that they stop having award shows because of the impact on the environment,  Colbert responds indignantly, "WHAT!!???   Jon!  If entertainers stop publicly congratulating each other, then the earth wins!!"

Ricky Gervais wasn’t available to collect his Emmy for Extras so presenters Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert handed it off to Steven Carell who leaped on stage with hilarious results.  Watch it here.

The moment could have been improv’d by the trio. It was a breakout moment at the Emmys.

The Academy recognized cable’s commitment to female lead characters by highlighting Damages Glenn Close, The Closer’s Kyra Sedwick and Weeds Mary Louise Parker.  The trio presented the award for outstanding made for television movie.  But then the award went to Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.  Like, huh!?  It makes you wonder if Academy members even watch television.

The multi-talented Queen Latifah introduced the 30th anniversary celebration of Roots, the ground breaking Alex Haley adaptation about slavery and family that gave birth to the miniseries.  "She should have been hosting!" said my daughter. 

Roots, said the voice-over, earned a 44.9 rating, a 66% audience share, and became single most watched show in history.  The series still holds the third place spot, just behind the Mash finale and "Who Shot JR" episode of Dallas.

The entire cast of Roots took the stage - including Cicely Tyson, LeVar Burton and Ed Asner.  They were, in short,  awesome.  They spoke in sonorous, exquisitely trained tones and looked fabulous and classy, all dressed in black.

The Emmy’s felt breathlessly rushed, as if the network just couldn’t WAIT to get outta there.  The clips were very limited.  There were none for best female lead in a mini, for instance.  Helen Mirren won for Prime Suspect, her fourth Emmy.    Her acceptance speech was probably the classiest.  "You Americans are wonderfully generous people. You are a lot of other things as well — some good, some bad — but if I was to categorize your nature, it’s generosity above all," she said. (Thanks to Pittsburgh Gazette critic Rob Owen for the snippet.)

The cast of The Jersey Boys (the story of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons) sang a greatest hits medley in honor of The Sopranos.  It was really fun.  Then the huge cast of The Sopranos filled the stage end-to-end.  

Exclaimed my daughter (who doesn’t know that some cast members actually have a bit of criminal background), "boy, they all look really hard core!"  It was the last puff of The Sopranos.  It’s highly unlikely that such a large cast will ever gather together again and the Emmys were the true and final close of this landmark series.