Was it worth a three-hour wait to see "Arrested Development" win a much-deserved best comedy award at the Emmys on Sunday?
Kudos to the superb Fox show, but none of us who went the distance with the leaden ABC broadcast can get those three hours of our lives back.
Aside from three "Arrested Development" wins, including one for best comedy, the Emmys this year were brought to us by the Ghost of Emmy Past.
Kelsey Grammer won as best comedy actor in "Frasier"--again. And Allison Janney won as best actress in a drama--for the fourth time.
Host Garry Shandling seemed alternately sedated and irritable, and though much of HBO's programming certainly deserves to take home awards, given the cable network's staggering 124 nominations, the parade of wins for "Deadwood," "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City" and "Angels in America" wasn't exactly surprising. At all.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences created the Emmy awards to honor the top creative minds in scripted television, all of whom clearly feel under siege from the reality television invasion. But the Emmy awards' bid for relevance was not helped by giving a number of awards to shows that are gone ("Frasier"), past their prime ("The West Wing") or on their way out ("The Sopranos").
At least James Spader provided some much-needed drama when he won for his role on "The Practice." And, truth be told, wondering if any other non-HBO shows would win anything did provide at least a minor diversion through the long death-march of a show.
There was a strange schizophrenia about the broadcast, as it alternately played up to the creative types in the audience by bashing reality TV--then had various actors, TV execs and even Shandling star in painfully unfunny sketches meant to resemble scenes from an unscripted show.
Two random folks from who-knows-where were brought out on stage to help present the best reality show award. The deserving CBS show "The Amazing Race" won, but for a second time, so there wasn't much drama there.
Shandling came off as a grumpy uncle who couldn't understand this gosh-darn reality TV that the kids are so wild about. "It's to the point now [that] when a television commercial comes on I say, 'Thank god, professional actors in a story,' " he whined.
If Shandling's jabs at unscripted television came off as desperate, the rest of his opening routine came off as so much discarded stand-up material--Viagra jokes and Martha Stewart gags were the best he could do? Thank goodness for "Arrested Development" for giving the broadcast some welcome high points. Whoops of delight went up every time an award was won by the excellent Fox series, which nearly didn't make it to a second season.
"To the academy voters and the critics, thank you for keeping our show on the air," "Arrested" director Joe Russo said. Russo spoke truly; if the executives in the audience hadn't bowed to pressure from the press and from award-giving types, "Arrested" wouldn't be around any more.
A mid-ceremony tribute to shows that have left the air just cemented the feeling that what we were watching was a tribute to something that was gone--or at least only to be found in syndication. If the broadcast hadn't been stopped dead by lame jokes and worse "sketches," an inexplicable tribute to shows such as "Friends," "Frasier" and "Sex and the City" did the trick.
There wasn't even much good fashion on display to distract from the leaden broadcast. Note to Stockard Channing--nobody looks good in teal. Note to Patricia Heaton: Nobody looks good in a hallucinogenic spiral-patterned dress. Note to everyone else: Black is boring, no matter how many feathers are attached to your funereal gown.--tribune