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A Least It Ended On Time

I assume that Kirk Ellis, who won a writing award for HBO’s John Adams miniseries at the Emmy’s last night, must have said something politically incendiary. Either that or he swore.

Ellis appeared to be in the middle of one of many political analogies that peppered the broadcast, saying that in Adams’ time men articulated complex thoughts articulately. But he did not get to finish articulating his thought because he appeared to be cut off and the show suddenly cut to a promo for an upcoming award.

I could have been wrong, but I think somebody must have been on that delay button at ABC, now in use by networks not wanting to get slammed by the FCC.

That was one of many disappointments on the night. Another was Stephen Colbert losing again, this time to Don Rickles, although Colbert did share a writing award and the Rickles loss will, I’m sure, be fodder for much Colbert comedy, or at least some of it. Colbert’s director even lost his award to the director of the Emmy show, though it was for his direction of another awards show, the Oscars.

Then there was the idea of having the reality host nominees host the show. Bad move (see below).

Politics dominated the show, if mostly as an undercurrent. The Adams miniseries, about presidents and political intrigue, was nominated for 23 awards. Laura Linney, collecting the best actress in a mini award for her turn as Abigail Adams, pointed out that it was a time when "community organizers" founded the country, a reference to Sarah Palin’s diss of Barack Obama’s resume.

Tom Hanks, also collecting an award for Adams for best mini, pointed out that during elections of that day, the campaigns were filled with inuendo and disinformation, saying, with tongue in cheek, how much things had changed since then.

John McCain was the brunt of a couple of age jokes, the subtlest and most damning by Colbert, who ate prunes from a bag while commenting on one of the fruits: "This dried up old prune has the experience we need."

Also collecting a number of awards was HBO’s made-for, Recount, about the 2000 election.

Those acceptance speeches were opportunities for urging folks to vote and to monitor their local officials.

Brought on for a voting PSA of sorts was Martin Sheen, everybody’s favorite TV president, Josiah Bartlett of West Wing. He pointed out he had never won an Emmy for the role, decisions which I have always thought deserved a recount of their own.

But putting the exclamation point of the politics of the evening was the Emmy given to Tommy Smothers. According to Steve Martin, who once worked as a writer on the show, Smothers withheld his name from a writing credit for fear his politics could affect the voting. The show won the Emmy and the Academy decided this year to give Smothers the Emmy he never got.

Smothers, whose show was taken off the air in part because of its strong stand against the Vietnam war, took aim at those who say that peace is only attainable through war. Nothing is more scary than watching ignorance in action, he said.

And now, to the elephant in the room. Who decided that the five reality hosts should come out at the beginning of the show and do nothing. There was an attempt to defend it by putting a couple of them on a recreation of the diner in Seinfeld and point out that that show was about nothing. But, of course, that show wasn’t really.

Tom Bergeron redeemed what he could, but the concept was terrible and the execution was painful to watch.

Sadly, the best part of the show was probably some of the old clips from M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, and Seinfeld, or maybe even the classy Macy’s ad early on that featured references to the store from TV shows and movies. Josh Groban was a good sport, but his medley of TV themes was probably better in concept than execution. And I liked the way they did the reality host award, making them all wait until after the commercial break to find out who had won.

The show did end on time, which was something. But all in all an unimpressive event from this side of the tube.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.