The Emmys: ‘The Sopranos’ and ‘30 Rock’ Win, We Lose

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Last night's Emmy Awards telecast had its share of highlights and lowlights, as befitting a medium whose "In Memoriam" montage could comfortably accommodate both Beverly Sills and Larry "Bud" Melman. Among the lowlights was the misbegotten tribute to The Sopranos by the cast of Jersey Boys; after Broadway's ersatz Four Seasons woo-woo-wooed their way through a couple of questionably relevant songs, the entire cast of The Greatest Show Ever on TV came up onstage to be showered in applause. The tribute had presumably been planned just to cover the Emmys' collective asses in case of the unthinkable, The Sopranos losing Best Drama; luckily for everyone, that didn't happen, despite some scares when Edie Falco and James Gandolfini lost out in their acting categories. (Gandolfini lost to Boston Legal's James Spader, and even Spader acknowledged the ridiculousness of that choice, quipping, "I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the Mob.")

While David Chase's victory speech was off-key and awkward, Tina Fey — whose 30 Rock's win for Best Comedy was the biggest, and most welcome, surprise of the night — delivered a pitch-perfect speech. After thanking former NBC head Jeff Zucker for standing by the sitcom (and new NBC chief Ben Silverman for hopefully doing the same), she closed with a deadpan thanks to the show's "dozens and dozens of viewers." Wry and biting, it was the evening's speech most in tune with the spirit of the show it honored, and probably served as a better advertisement for 30 Rock than any of the lousy promos that NBC slaps together.

In the end, though, the show was just as boring as could be feared, a deadly mix of big-time celebrities giving awards nobody cares about (Alec Baldwin … announcing Best Director of a Variety, Comedy, or Music Series?) and semi-funny bits from actors who seemed to wish they were somewhere else. This year's host, Ryan Seacrest, was the affable and weightless presence we expected him to be, and in fact in his willingness to yield the spotlight might have been perfect; he never slowed down the show, which is the most we ever could have hoped for. The problems of the show have nothing to do with Seacrest and everything to do with Emmy producers who misjudge what viewers — even TV-loving, forgiving viewers like us — want from an awards show.

Sprinkled throughout the telecast were a few very funny gems, and it should be pointed out that several of them — the quite funny Family Guy introduction, the stars of The Office shit-talking Steve Carell, those little mini-films introducing the nominated talk-show writing staffs — were generated not by the Emmy producers but by the writers and creators who make TV. Which raises the questions: With the talents of every great writer, director, actor, and comedian in the medium at their disposal, why on earth can't the Emmys produce a better show? And would it have killed them to give us some damn "Dick in a Box"?