Since the award show format is so rigid, few innovations are possible; thus, kudocasts are remembered for moments of spontaneity, emotion or gaffes, and Sunday night’s offered a few of the latter, but too few of the former.
The unintentional highlights included hosts Cybill Shepherd and Alexander entering with a camp tango, followed by a quick cut to Jon Voight and Barbra Streisand in the audience, looking extraordinarily unamused.
The hosts then jumped into the audience to serve hors d’oeuvres, and Shepherd ventured outside to the bleachers for a routine that may have been hilarious, but her mike wasn’t working.
When Raul Julia was named for lead actor in a mini or vidpic, co-presenter Anthony Edwards stated, “We were all saddened by the death of Raul Julia,” squinting as he read off the teleprompter in a monotone. But the moment was redeemed by the acceptance speech of the actor’s widow, who was charmingly poised and eloquent.
Unsurprisingly, this Emmycast carried on the tradition of showing five nominees awaiting the unveiling of the winner; unfortunately, all the nominees carried on the tradition of looking delighted when someone else was announced.
The sole, welcome exception was the charming nominee Shepherd, who was back stage drinking from a bottle when shown; when Candice Bergen was announced as winner, Shepherd, feigning disappointment, threw her head back with an even bigger swig.
The first winner was announced eight minutes into the broadcast, and last was announced eight minutes before the scheduled three-hour finish. In between was mostly a laundry list of acknowledgements to families, co-workers and agents.
Julianna Margulies thanked “my incredible cast,” Kathy Baker thanked “my lovely crew,””Frasier” producer Peter Casey thanked “the fans,””NYPD Blue” producer Steven Bochco thanked 26 individuals, plus the TV Academy, the cast and the Gotham police department, and Kelsey Grammer rattled off a few names, then admitted, “I can’t remember everybody’s name right now.”
A few took the opportunity to look at a bigger picture.
There was a brief, eloquent plea for respect of artists from Shirley Knight — who’d won Saturday as guest actress in a drama series, and picked up another on Sunday as supporting actress in mini or vidpic (tying with Judy Davis). Glenn Close, lead actress winner in the latter category, spoke on behalf of human rights.
The fun stuff included presenter Ellen DeGeneres’ quick rundown of the backstage excitement (including David Hasselhoff’s brave rescue of an Olsen twin who’d fallen in the punchbowl) and a series of clips, introduced by TV Academy president Rich Frank, of moments from the past season’s vidpics, series and docus.
The show aired live on the East Coast and was tape-delayed here.
Director Louis J. Horvitz performed his chores with polish and the writing seemed OK, given the limitations of the format.
The production team did what it could. However, the evening reminds of the continual dilemma of whether this is an entertainment show to dazzle home viewers, or an evening in which award winners get their proper due. By trying to do both, everyone gets shortchanged.
Winning as supporting actor in a drama series, Ray Walston summed it up when he exulted, “I have 30 seconds to tell you I’ve been waiting 60 years to get up on this stage.”
The Emmycast is television’s night to shine, to salute its best, to remind the world of the good work that the medium is capable of. But it seems time for a major revamp in the presentation of award shows on TV, and the Emmys seem the logical place to start.