By RICK KUSHMAN
August 28, 2006
Actually, from the standpoint of watching TV, it was a good night. Conan O'Brien is a funny guy and made a slick host for a second time. From the standpoint of giving awards, it was, you know, the Emmys.
The 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles was the usual mishmash of deserving winners, how-did-that-happen awards and - an Emmy favorite - repeating winners.
It's nice to see consistency in the world, in whatever form. I guess.
There were, at least, a couple of right-on awards, starting with "The Office" for best comedy and "24" for best drama. Those are two shows as good as anything on TV.
It was also nice to see "24's" Kiefer Sutherland get best drama actor. He was the best of the nominees. And it was good to see the comic-timing-endowed Julia Louis-Dreyfus, of "The New Adventures of Old Christine," win for best comedy actress. In her speech, she showed how to deliver a line.
"Well, I'm not somebody who really believes in curses," she told the audience, "but curse this."
Among the other bull's-eyes were the Emmys to Andre Braugher for actor in a mini-series or movie, and to Jeremy Piven of "Entourage" - the single most you-can-not-pick-someone-else nominee - for supporting comedy actor.
Piven also produced a hall-of-fame moment on NBC's pre-show. For unknown reasons, Billy Bush, high-class interviewer that he is, asked Piven if he'd seen Tom Cruise's baby. Piven looked at Bush for a moment like he needed to be sure Bush actually asked that.
"I have better things to do than to go looking for celebrity babies," Piven said to Bush. "You need another job. You have potential as a human being. This may not be right for you."
Also not totally right were the wins by the over-the-top Megan Mullally from the over-the-top "Will & Grace" for supporting comedy actor, Blythe Danner of "Huff" for supporting drama actress, and "Monk's" Tony Shalhoub as best comedy actor - and I like Shalhoub a lot - but Steve Carell was the funniest man on TV this year.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences - motto: Don't Make Us Watch Television - couldn't cure the repeat voting in the reality show category, either. "The Amazing Race" won for the fourth time in a row. It's a good show and all, but this was the family edition.
Even with some good winners, like "Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit's" Mariska Hargitay for drama actress, or "The West Wing's" Alan Alda for supporting drama actor - two strong talents and likeable people - there were better candidates in each category, including a few who weren't even nominated.
On the clear plus side, it was a sleekly produced, fast-moving show. The presentations were light on the lame fake humor and the tributes to Dick Clark and the late Aaron Spelling were heartfelt but not maudlin. Mostly.
But the night's star was O'Brien. His opening montage inserted him into some of TV's best shows and it was sterling.
O'Brien crashed onto a desert island, went through a hatch into "The Office," tried to get help from "24's" Chloe and wouldn't come out of the closet on "South Park." He also sought help from Dr. House.
O'Brien kept poking at sore spots. He did a song about the ratings problem at NBC, which is also his own network, singing, "We got trouble, right here at NBC, with a capital T and that rhymes with G, as in 'Gee, we're screwed!'" His "Music Man" spoof included the line, "The guy who passed on 'Lost' was promoted instead of tossed." That "guy" is Jeff Zucker, now the big boss of NBC Universal.
O'Brien also worked to keep acceptance speeches short, complaining there's been no consequence for going long. "Until now," he said. "I have placed beloved TV icon Bob Newhart in an airtight container with exactly three hours worth of air."
Newhart and his container got rolled out, with Newhart waving. "It's very simple - if the Emmys run one second over," O'Brien said, "Bob Newhart dies."
O'Brien was steadfast all night, cracking wise, making fun of the presenters, fast-forwarding himself TiVo style. He even let Newhart out of the box near the end of the show to help present the best comedy award.
As good as O'Brien was, though, it may have been Jon Stewart who summed up this Emmy night best. His "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" won for writing and for best variety, music or comedy series.
"I think this year you actually made a terrible mistake," Stewart said. "But, thank you."
For the record, the show ended two minutes short of three hours. Even without O'Brien's help, Newhart would have lived.
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