Suppose they gave an awards show and no one knew the nominees?
Along with the famous names and star power, Sunday’s red carpet arrivals at the Emmys did in fact offer up a crowd of relatively anonymous contenders.
“They tell us it’s ‘The Amazing Race’ cast,” said photog Roger Karnbad. “Who knows the names? Who can recognize these people? You got 20 people in a picture no one can use.”
Showtime topper Matt Blank said: “I haven’t seen anyone famous yet, but I think I saw Donald Trump’s hair — so he should be here soon.”
The flood of the unknown meant the TV crews were desperate to get someone recognizable in front of the cameras…like William Shatner, Tom Selleck and Jim Belushi.
“But they still call me John, or Bill Murray,” said Belushi with a shrug.
The chaos of photographers, TV interviewers and celebrity wranglers trying to find, identify and cull the new reality “stars” added to an arrival experience “Angels In America” writer Tony Kushner described as “feeling wonderful and incredibly silly.”
Feeling less wonderful were the guests who had “valet” parking passes that gave them the privilege of parking at the Coliseum and then being shuttled to the Shrine.
“They told me it was ‘self-parking valet,’ ” said one exasperated guest. “What’s that?”
Another said the shuttle ride made it feel like “we were all going to some kind of company picnic.”
Rich Frank, who came by limo, said he had that kind of parking pass last year and smiled when he said: “I learned.”
To hear the chatter on the red carpet, Emmy night’s big match-up should have been the Bada Bing vs. the White House: “The Sopranos” against “The West Wing” for best drama.
“It’s a big night for cable,” said Time Warner topper Dick Parsons. “They didn’t set it up that way, but that’s the way it worked out.”
HBO Films’ Colin Calendar noted his “Angels in America” miniseries had 21 noms, which makes it “the front runner and I’d rather be here as a dark horse — but I still want to win.”
As for the show being a case of the networks promoting cable, Viacom’s Leslie Moonves said: “It’s a three-hour commercial for television. HBO dominates and that’s totally fine. They do quality work.”
This year’s Emmys were also the swan song for three much-nominated comedy series — “Sex and the City,” “Frasier” and “Friends” — that ended this past season.
“This is last bah-bah,” said “Sex and the City” exec producer Michael Patrick King, with a musical note in his voice. “This is the last time you’ll see those four stars jumping out of a limo together and waving to the crowd.”
Though host Garry Shandling was not on the red carpet, last year’s emcee Conan O’Brien said he looked back on the experience as “one of my favorite nights in show business. It’s like a ride. When you’re doing it, it’s fun; it’s the ramp-up that’s scary.”
He could have been talking about the red carpet arrivals.