60th Annual Emmy Awards
Airdate: 5-8 p.m. (ABC)
Budding physicists would do well to study the broadcast of the 60th Emmy Awards. They would discover a new scientific principle: The closer a televised awards show gets toward its conclusion, the faster it goes.
Presenters and winners alike were virtually short of breath as they raced frantically not to run past the show's allotted three hours. Presentations were curtailed, speeches were cut off, and the shots of the nominees flew by with such rapidity that there was a danger of inducing seizures.
At the beginning of the evening, the pace was reasonably relaxed. There was an amusing montage of current television stars delivering iconic lines of dialogue from vintage shows. And in a surprise appearance, Oprah Winfrey showed up to deliver a benediction.
Things started to go awry with the appearance of the evening's hosts. Tom Bergeron, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, Heidi Klum and Ryan Seacrest may be expert in running their respective reality shows, but Mandel's repeated exhortation "We have nothing" proved all too accurate as they blathered on for what seemed like an eternity. Even the presumably surefire bit of ripping the statuesque Klum's tuxedo off to reveal a skimpy dress proved a bust.
Seeing the re-creations of old sets from such classic series as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The West Wing" might have been fun for the audience at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, but the results were underwhelming onscreen. And the vintage clips accompanying them ranged from the terrific ("Seinfeld") to the utterly superfluous (host broadcaster ABC's "Desperate Housewives").
Fortunately, several dependable funnymen were on hand to provide relief. Ricky Gervais killed with a routine in which he angrily demanded his Emmy back from a deadpan Steve Carell. Steve Martin applied his droll wit to an ultimately moving introduction of his former employer, Tommy Smothers (receiving a writing Emmy that he should have gotten decades earlier.) And Don Rickles, thankfully going off script, unleashed his id to hilarious effect. He got a huge laugh with a line about how his wife was sits on the sand with "her jewelry signaling ships." And while the reunion of "Laugh-In" stars wasn't quite as funny as it might have been, it did offer real sentimental value.
As usual, the writers of the nominated variety shows provided amusing videos to accompany the endless lists of names. And as even more usual, the accountants who tallied the results were trotted out onstage to the inevitable sarcastic comments.
Political passion was well in evidence, though the concept of free speech was somewhat nullified when the screenwriter of "John Adams" was abruptly cut off just as he was paying tribute to the Founding Fathers.
Josh Groban, displaying a surprising looseness, sang a fun medley of vintage TV show themes in which he demonstrated a real gift for mimicry in addition to his amazing voice.
Toward the end of the evening, the hosts did manage to redeem themselves when their own award was presented by Jimmy Kimmel in reality television style, complete with mock eliminations and the winner being announced after a commercial break.
In the interest of fairness, though, next year the producers may want to reconsider the format. Perhaps the Emmys aren't an awards show after all but rather a miniseries.
Production: AEG Erlich Ventures
Executive producer: Ken Erlich.
Producer: Renato Basile.
Director: Louis J. Horvitz.
Writers: David Wild, Jon Macks, Ken Erlich.
Co-producer: Danette Herman.
Production designer: John Shaffner, Joe Stewart.
Lighting designer: Bob Dickinson.
Hosts: Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst, Ryan Seacrest.