Ken Ehrlich, the last-minute replacement for the “American Idol” braintrust that bowed out of producing this year’s Emmycast, decided to keep things simple and gimmick-free — and make very sparing use of the inoffensive, near-invisible Ryan Seacrest. The moves resulted in a fast-moving and relatively painless broadcast that nobody will remember in a few weeks…but at least watercoolers won’t be buzzing about yet another dreadfully dull awards show.
Recognizing that comedy isn’t Seacrest’s strong suit, Ehrlich wisely let Ray Romano and other real comedians interject humor throughout the broadcast. For the most part, it worked. Romano’s best line of the night — “from what I hear, Frasier is screwing my wife,” referring to Kelsey Grammer’s upcoming sitcom with Patricia Heaton — was cut by Fox. The network was right to do so: Romano’s remarks came during a monologue early in the evening and award shows should be family-friendly.
While Romano’s bits were OK, Lewis Black was winning with a rant against TV’s overuse of on-screen promo messages. Wayne Brady made a strong case that he should host a future Emmys with a fun bit involving Kanye West, Rainn Wilson and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics!”
But by far, the biggest laughs Sunday came near the end of the show, thanks to an impromptu “Daily Show” reunion. When Ricky Gervais failed to show for his best comedy actor win, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert called up Steve Carell, and the trio did a happy dance that’s sure to make future Emmycast highlight reels.
As for Seacrest, the fact that there’s very little to say about his perf reps a victory for the omnipresent host of multiple TV shows.
His opening few jokes were lame but brief (and included just a quick “American Idol” mention). He poked fun at rumors about his sexuality (appearing in Tudor dress, he quipped, “This didn’t look that gay on the rack”) and his alleged romance with Teri Hatcher (she didn’t seem to appreciate it).
If anything, Seacrest was perhaps a bit too low-key, popping up once every half-hour at most. But while that meant he didn’t add much to the show, he also didn’t make the night about him — and that’s a good thing. He even demonstrated admirable self-deprecatory skills, joking that just about everyone else in the room had turned down an offer to host the Emmys (not far from the truth).
Kudoscast got off to a swell start with “If You Want It, You Can Find it On TV,” a funny musical number from “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane (voicing Stewie and Brian the Dog). Biting remarks about “Scrubs,” “Two and a Half Men” and “Desperate Housewives” skirted the line between funny and tasteless, but ultimately came down on the “funny” side. Its egregious error, however, was that it took no potshots at Fox or its programs.
Early on in the show, the fact that Emmy voters honored a sizable number of newcomers aided in the delivery of moments fueled by genuine emotion.
Katherine Heigl let her ego slip when she complained about an announcer mispronouncing her name, but she recovered with an elegant, emotional acceptance speech. Terry O’Quinn joked about the disparity in salaries between actors on “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.” And “30 Rock” creator Tina Fey followed a shout-out to former NBC programming boss Kevin Reilly with an advance thank-you to new boss Ben Silverman.
Then there was Conan O’Brien (who should be named permanent Emmy host). He was truly stunned when his show finally won a much-deserved award for writing, and his face showed it.
And while not quite the same as her “you like me” Oscar speech, Sally Field put some political passion into the night by declaring that, if mothers were in charge, “there would be no goddamned wars in the first place.”
Look of Sunday’s kudoscast, like the show itself, was simple and spare. Theater-in-the-round presentation made for some striking shots and camera angles (though not for half the crowd, which had to watch backsides all night long).