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Monday September 17, 2007 9:35 am

The 59th Annual Primetime Emmys: In Review

EmmyIt was an evening of firsts at the 59th annual primetime Emmys. The first time the awards show was on . The first time Ryan Seacrest (resident FOX golden boy) hosted. The first time green concerns were proudly touted. And the first time I didn’t laugh at the Emmy host – not even once. FOX unabashedly promoted their own stars and shows all night long, though there were precious few wins for the network. Brian and Stewie from Family Guy provided some animated laughs, Lewis Black ranted and raved and performed a bit in the middle of the whole thing, and I found myself largely confused throughout the three hour-plus broadcast. Toward the end, Seacrest actually walked out on stage in a Henry VIII costume and told a gay joke – I couldn’t make this up if I tried, this actually happened. TV’s elite looked on in a mixture of horror and worry. Seacrest, unsurprisingly, acted and spoke exactly as he does while on American Idol. The strange, round stage provoked a lot of funny comments, and for a rare awards show change it was the acceptance speeches that became the saving grace of the FOX broadcast.

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The highly-touted “Steppin’ Out” performance duet by Christina Aguilera and Tony Bennett was, in a word, disappointing. The two styles of the singers didn’t mesh at all, and Bennett spent most of the evening looking lost and confused whether he was on stage or not. Alec Baldwin, a nominee, stumbled through his solo presentation, and Robert Duvall got cut off by the Emmy music – twice – while accepting awards for AMC’s Broken Trail. Queen Latifah led a 30-year look back at Roots, gorgeous in low-cut ruby red, giving a very sincere and beautiful presentation for the famous mini-series, the third most watched show in TV history (falling behind the finale of M*A*S*H and the “Who Shot JR?” episode of Dallas). Hayden Panettiere looked strange in an empress-cut, peach-like gown with a too-big skirt, smiling politely as Neil Patrick Harris made suggestive comments about the newly-18 TV star. Steve Carell gave a very funny solo presentation, then stole the show when Jon Stewart jokingly gave Ricky Gervais’s Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series award to him. Stephen Colbert and Stewart jointly presented the award amid a funny-yet-topical back-and-forth on environmental issues. Though Jon beat out Colbert in the Emmy race this year, the two shared a friendly hug before Stewart made his way to the podium. The Jersey Brothers performed a Four Seasons rendition that started out great but carried on way too long – especially in light of the fact that most winners had their speeches cut off. Sally Field was in the middle of a carefully-prepared speech when the music swept in on her; but an onstage hissy put FOX back in its place. She did at least look beautiful in pale, strapless red. Helen Mirren was pretty in purple as she accepted her award for PBS’s Prime Suspect. Al Gore received a standing ovation when he and his partner were presented with the Creative Achievement in Interactive TV award for Current: Interactive Network, though in truth I’ve seen Gore look much, much better. Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher were among the extravaganza of FOX presenters, which included Wayne Brady doing a spoof on his own FOX show, Don’t Forget the Lyrics. All in all, it was a night filled with FOX’s usual BS, with a little celebrity thrown in.

The night’s big winners include The Sopranos, who filled the stage with a full-on mob of people; Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera (who looked great in royal blue and delivered a heartfelt thank-you); James Spader (who surprisingly won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama series over Gandolfini and then went on to joke that he felt as if he’d stolen a big pile of money from the mob); 30 Rock, which celebrated the win with a funny Fey speech; and Robert Duvall, who snagged his first-ever Emmy. Fashion-wise, there were a lot of hits, including Kate Walsh in a sexy dark red number; Debra Messing in crisp white with black trim; Felicity Huffman in a stunning backless, plunging vee gown; Ali Larter in strapless red; and pretty Katherine Heigl in white. Jennifer Love Hewitt’s black gown and flat hair made a different impression, as did Kyra Sedgewick’s basic black number (especially when she was put together with Mary Louise Parker in beautiful, bold red and Glenn Close in lovely, tailored evening attire).

The broadcast ran long, Seacrest fell flat, and most of the actors and actresses were no doubt insulted by the constant need to “hurry up, hurry up” through a broadcast that was filled with far too many extras. Seriously…what was Lewis Black even doing there, and performing his bit, no less? Ratings-wise, it wouldn’t be hard for FOX to nab big numbers, as competing networks busied themselves with re-runs. And honestly, everyone’s just biding their time until the Oscars anyway. There is at least some aspect of reality programming that FOX can’t do well, and my vote is that we discontinue award shows altogether. Anything’s better than Seacrest dressed up like an English king.

Gallery: The 59th Annual Primetime Emmys: In Review

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