This past Sunday, the 59th Primetime Emmys arrived with all the pageantry and hoopla typically reserved for a 12-year-old’s birthday party. Odds are that unless you watched much television over the past week and a half, you didn’t really know about the Emmys. Even if you did know, you probably didn’t care—early ratings numbers peg this year’s awards as one of the least-watched ever.
Despite efforts to make the show snazzier than in past years —including a “theatre-in-the-round” style stage—the Emmys were rather long and tedious. Hosted by American Idol emcee Ryan Seacrest, the Emmys ran head-long into their single biggest problem: There are far too many awards to hand out on a three-hour show, resulting in either the presenters rushing through the presentation of nearly 30 awards or the broadcast dragging late into the night. The simplest solution would be to move the awards for made-for-TV movies and miniseries to the preceding weekend’s non-televised Creative Arts awards ceremony, especially when you consider the networks that air the Emmys rarely broadcast made-for-TV movies or miniseries and that very few viewers have seen Prime Suspect or Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
Ignoring the vast number of awards handed out, this year’s Emmys were an exercise in near-masturbatory self-indulgence on the part of the television community. Whether it was Ryan Seacrest making ill-advised age-of-consent jokes to Heroes star Hayden Panettiere, an excessively long monologue by Ray
Romano or a reunion between Daily Show host Jon Stewart and alums Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell, everyone involved with the show seemed to bend over backwards to pat themselves on the back. The tone of the broadcast seemed out-of-place given the Oscars’ latest string of tongue-in-cheek efforts, particularly the one hosted by Stewart himself two years ago. That said, Stewart and Colbert making fun of Al Gore was hilarious.
Worse yet, the new-fangled balloting system adopted by the Emmys—equally weighing the nomination committee and the general member vote—resulted in a lot of upset winners. Most surprising was that the final season of The Sopranos lost in most categories, quite a departure from the outgoing Everybody Loves Raymond winning just about every award imaginable two years ago. The biggest head-scratcher may have been Boston Legal’s James Spader upsetting Sopranos star James Gandolfini for the Lead Actor in a Drama statue or Grey’s Anaomy’s
Katherine Heigl besting both Sopranos gals Lorraine Bracco and Aida Turturro in the Supporting Actress race. A three-hour awards show can be made bearable by a storyline emerging throughout the night—as it did at the Oscars in 2004 when the last Lord of the Rings film won everything—but the lack of any internal coherence made the Emmys a hodgepodge of bad jokes, long speeches and plugs for shows that will be off-the-air by Thanksgiving. At least it was better than
the MTV Video Music Awards.