Highlights from variety special nominees

Road to the Emmys 2012: Variey, Music or Comedy

“Betty White’s 90th Birthday: A Tribute to America’s Golden Girl”
• President Obama’s lame but topical birth certificate joke shows. White is beloved enough to get a White House cameo — and that she’s got a sharper wit and better timing at 90 than most politicians half her age.
• Carol Burnett’s own zinger-filled appearance on the show prompted the kind of enthralled applause usually reserved only for White herself.
• Watching today’s established comedy actresses and writers pay tribute to White’s bawdy, ballsy work over the years just demonstrated how many doors this ninetysomething performer pushed open for them.

Kathy Griffin: Tired Hooker”
• Disagreeing with Ashton Kutcher’s statement that marriage is one of the most difficult things in the world, Griffin offers substitute answers like fighting cancer or “me running into Oprah in a hallway.”
• After admitting she owns four pairs, Griffin impersonates an enthusiastic Pajama Jeans spokesperson, “Have you ever woken up in your pajamas and thought ‘I wish I could go horseback riding?’ Well, now you can.”
• Griffin proves that even her A-list friends aren’t safe when she assumes her best Cher voice and recounts the famous singer stating, “I’m Cher. I don’t know how to order a fucking pizza!”

“The Kennedy Center Honors”
• An audience filled with formally attired luminaries rises in unison and sings Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” led by Smokey Robinson.
• Meryl Streep’s “The Devil Wears Prada” co-stars Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt perform a rendition “She’s Me Pal” — a twist on “He’s Me Pal,” which Streep sang in “Ironweed.” Number includes Hathaway in a full-blown split.
• Audra McDonald’s belts out a beautiful rendition of “Till There Was You” in honor of Barbara Cook.

“Mel Brooks and Dick Cavett Together Again”
• The art of conversation is never more alive than during the exchange between Brooks and colleague Carl Reiner on the genesis of their co-creation of the “2,000-Year-Old Man”
• Gifted raconteur Cavett recounts Chico Marx’s crude proposal to patrician Tallulah Bankhead, who responded, “And so you shall, you old-fashioned boy.”
• Brooks reenacts his most embarrassing moment when he imitated gameshow host Bill Cullen’s walk as the polio patient crossed the stage to greet him — not realizing until too late that Cullen was really disabled.

“Tony Bennett: Duets II (Great Performances)”
• Bennett’s “Body and Soul” duet with Amy Winehouse drew attention because it was her likely last recorded performance, but their duet stands out from the others due to Bennett and Winehouse’s sheer artistry as jazz singers.
• Lady Gaga had turquoise hair and vamped it up, but her solid vocals and improvisational skills knocked out viewers, listeners and Bennett himself. The fun they had recording “The Lady Is a Tramp” comes through the screen — especially when Bennett gets the giggles.
• The interviews with Bennett and his duet partners underscore the tremendous impact he’s had on generations of performers spanning all musical genres, and reflects Bennett’s admiration of his fellow artists, young and old.

Road to the Emmys 2012: Variety, Music or Comedy
Correspondents cool | Can anyone dethrone ‘Daily?’
And the nominees are:
Series | Specials