Responding to last year’s laboriously slow-moving effort, the Primetime Emmy Awards zipped along faster than a “Seinfeld” episode on speed. Credit producer Don Mischer and helmer Louis J. Horvitz with a bright, fast-paced glance at TV’s annual tribute to itself.
Introduced by host Angela Lansbury, presenters dished out the statuettes with fewer gaffes, goofs and embarrassing moments than usual. As a result, the running time was down 32 minutes from 1992.
The show offered an unusually strong array of quality clips from sitcoms, hourlongs and special pics. Funny and alluring, the exposure should give Emmy-toting shows, especially the numerous cable winners, a boost as new viewers will likely tune in to see what they’re missing. That can’t be said about all Emmy shows. It’s ironic that this year’s positive promotional setpiece was boycotted by CBS, NBC and Fox.
The tone was light this year, with presenters and winners happily avoiding political tracts and long-winded speeches. But there were still a few moving moments, like Mary Tyler Moore’s teary first words after copping her seventh statue, tying her with Ed Asner for most Emmys: “Sorry about this, Ed.”
TV perennial Bob Hope, presenting an award with Lansbury, showed he could still grab laughs at 90, quipping, “You remember me. I’m the comedian without the talkshow.”
The show galloped out of the gate with a short Jay Leno monologue that was light years wittier than anything he’s done lately on “The Tonight Show.” Alluding to the bevy of hot feature pics based on old TV shows, Leno queried, “What’s next, ‘Full House, The Motion Picture’? ”
The producers wisely nabbed Chuck Workman, who won an Emmy last year for his Oscar film clip montage, to helm a nostalgic retrospective of tube’s greatest hits. The short pic resurrected quick-cut images of everything from “All in theFamily” to “Beavis and Butt-Head,” infusing the awards with a rich sense of its own history and reminding that TV has its share of magical moments.
Scripting by Billy Grundfest, Sara Lukinsin, Drake Sather, John Riggi, Robert Shrum and Russ Patrick was several notches higher than usual. Jokes were tighter and the show wasn’t above ribbing itself or the industry. As “Mad About You” star Helen Hunt sarcastically questioned whether anyone cares about tech awards, co-star Paul Reiser mused, “That’s always a good move, alienate the Teamsters.”
As for odd bits, Chevy Chase got knowing applause from an audience familiar with his talkshow woes.
And Daniel J. Travanti no doubt confused the same group and viewers at home with his cryptic statement, “Chicago and Kenosha, Wisconsin, we’ll be right back.”
The broadcast this year more than ever gave in to the self-reflective tone TV has taken the last few years to appeal to baby-boomers who grew up in front of the screen.
Garry Shandling scored with a wry pre-filmed bit about what goes into a sitcom, from the makeup session to the first reading. “We make up what we say,” he intoned. “I’m kidding.”
Paula Poundstone offered a breathless, screwball look at the backstage hysteria that dominates any awards broadcast. Pointing to a phalanx of photographers snapping away, Pound-stone lauded the winners for enduring the “hideous winners’ obstacle course” of backstage media.
Still, with “Seinfeld” taking top honors, it was only fitting that the sitcom’s exec producer and top writer, Larry David, came up with the pithiest acceptance speech.
“This is all very well and good,” he said. “But I’m still bald.”