60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards

After hitting a creative and ratings low point in 2007, the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards bowed a new home, the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, and a new approach — a hosting team comprised of the five nominees from the nascent reality show host category.

After hitting a creative and ratings low point in 2007, the 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards bowed a new home, the Nokia Theater in downtown Los Angeles, and a new approach — a hosting team comprised of the five nominees from the nascent reality show host category. Reaction from the outset — remember, the majority of the audience members still rely on scripted fare for their bread and butter — was something akin to “How many hosts does it take to screw up a kudocast?” All this effort amounted to nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.

Last year, the final one for the Emmys at the Shrine Auditorium, the producers tried an ill-advised theater-in-the-round approach, leaving half the audience staring at backsides for three hours; taut and toned backsides, but backsides nonetheless. This year the Nokia provided more traditional seating except for the small number of seats on the left and right sides of the stage. Seats are more comfortable and sightlines better than in the Shrine.

While acknowledging the current state of television by giving reality center stage, the producers also did one thing very right by recognizing the medium’s history with plenty of clips from classic TV and sets from favorite old shows.

The clip package of one-lines from TV history that opened the show only proved to everyone inhouse how unmemorable today’s series are. Does anyone really think anyone’s going to look back with fondness on lines such as “the tribe has spoken”?

It seems less and less likely that ATAS will ever be able to match the creative peak of the twice-delayed 2001 event, hosted by Ellen Degeneres. With the exception of that very strange year, there has always been a struggle to entertain the TV audience on this, the year’s biggest celebration of smallscreen fare. And, with one exception, that trend continued with this year’s production numbers.

Worst was the “Laugh-In” skit that fell flat, even for those old enough to remember the show.

The best number was Josh Groban’s medley of 30 of TV’s most memorable theme songs, from “The Jeffersons” to “The Carol Burnett Show”; Groban had great fun with it, reception in the house was enthusiastic. Bit was significantly more entertaining than the odd-couple collection of theme song duets from the kudocast three years ago. Anyone remember Donald Trump pairing up with Megan Mullally to warble “Green Acres”? Those in the theater had to see it again during a commercial break.

The clips shown to the Nokia audience during commercial breaks were, with rare exception, dull.

Comedy highlights included Don Rickles poking fun at the show; presenter Ricky Gervais riffing on Steve Carell; and Jimmy Kimmel presenting the reality show host award. Perhaps one of these comedians could host next year?

Election year and voting were mentioned frequently, but when “John Adams” scribe Kirk Ellis began to get critical of the current administration in his acceptance speech, he was quickly cut off by the orchestra, which didn’t go over well in the theater.

As always, surprise wins, such as supporting drama actor Zeljko Ivanek gave a much-needed jolt to the industry crowd.

Critically heralded series “30 Rock” and “Mad Men” seemed to be the sentimental favorites in this audience, based on the wild applause that greeted the readings of nominees and winners. It felt as if half of “Mad Men’s” 1.5 million loyal weekly viewers were populating the Nokia on Sunday night.

From the Nokia Theatre: The 60th annual Primetime Emmy Awards

Nokia Theater; Los Angeles; 6,700 seats; invitation only

Production

An Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and ABC-TV production, produced by Ken Erlich. Running time: 3 HOURS
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more