It was undoubtedly a night of television about television at Sunday’s 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards. The Emmys have kept with the tradition of remaining uneventful and unnecessarily long, but it was obvious producers felt the show needed a facelift. While the majority of attendees would concur that plastic surgery is the key to reviving a faltering career, the same may not be true for awards shows.
The event got off to an awkward start with an upbeat performance by Earth, Wind & Fire with assistance from the Black Eyed Peas. Under other circumstances, this musical pairing might have been worth watching, but the appeal vanished as they proceeded to rap about The Amazing Race and Everybody Loves Raymond. Their lyrical tribute to the night’s honorees was accompanied by a well-timed series of TV show clips that came together to create one of the most baffling moments of the entire evening. This opening act was meant to lighten the mood in the midst of difficult times, but watching Doris Roberts dance vigorously with Taboo of the Black Eyed Peas may not have been the best way to lift viewers’ spirits.
Emmy mayhem continued with another attempt to liven the mood – the very first “Emmy Idols.” In the spirit of American Idol, four of the most popular TV theme songs of all time were performed and then voted on by the viewing audience. The theme songs of Star Trek, The Jeffersons and Fame were all revisited and performed by several celebrities, but nobody could have predicted how a little show called Green Acres could go so wrong. With Megan Mullally (Will & Grace) by his side, Donald Trump made his debut in overalls, squashing the rumor that he had his business suit permanently adhered to his body. After that display, it is no surprise that the pair took the crown for their rendition of the Green Acres theme song, no doubt due to Trump’s shameless self-promotion in time for the new season of The Apprentice. It is evident that “Emmy Idols” served the sole purpose of filling time, but maybe producers could have made it less obvious.
The Emmys succeeded in giving credit where it was due by honoring those most deserving of television’s greatest accolade. Yes, Everybody Loves Raymond won the title of Best Comedy and Felicity Huffman of Desperate Houswives triumphed as Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, but the real stars of the show were not nominated.
The Emmys paid tribute to the incomparable Johnny Carson and the dream team of network anchors, including Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and the late Peter Jennings. The extraordinary respect shown towards these television pioneers reminded viewers that great television is about more than a single housewife cohabitating with her plumber or a group of survivors eating bark on a deserted island. A genuine sadness reverberated through this segment of the program, for the true heroes of the small screen have gone and left us with the likes of Laguna Beach and Being Bobby Brown.Ellen DeGeneres did an adequate job as host, but was uncharacteristically absent for most of the show. Her unique brand of physical comedy and wacky humor was a positive addition to the night’s theme of unpredictable amusement; she even managed to speed the show along in just short of three hours. Now that is a truly remarkable feat.
The Emmy Awards remain the annual battleground event for TV’s most powerful networks. Despite this reality, the traditional predictability and monotony of the Emmys proves comforting amidst the envelope-pushing tendencies of competing broadcasts. The absence of celebrity antics and wardrobe malfunctions gives the show a unique legitimacy that has disappeared from awards shows in recent years. If the Emmys can withstand a singing New York executive with a pitchfork, the show must be doing something right.