It’s Emmy night, and rather than sit in a stuffy press tent listening to winners talk about how surprised and thankful they are before telling us what kind of shoes they’re wearing, we — that’d be your faithful Zap2it bloggers Rick Porter and Daniel Fienberg — decided to watch the show like everyone else: from our couches. (Another bonus: Stars talking about how excited and surprised they are and what shoes they’re wearing don’t interrupt the feed of the show, forcing us to wear balky radio headphones to hear what’s happening on stage.)
So, here it is folks: the 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards. Rick will be your cruise director for the first half of the show.
7:55 p.m. We haven’t officially started yet, but I’m curious to see how the theater-in-the-round stage setup plays. American Idol does something similar, so maybe they’re hoping to make host Ryan Seacrest comfortable?
8:02 p.m. We were threatened with a Seacrest song-and-dance at the top of the show, so I guess Stewie and Brian Griffin from Family Guy is not such a bad alternative. And for those of you keeping score at home, that’s three minutes into the show before our first Sopranos blank-screen reference.
8:05 p.m. Smart move by whoever’s writing for Seacrest to lead with self-deprecating jokes, including a Teri Hatcher reference. And, thank goodness, he keeps it good and short, and does not sing.
8:09 p.m. Where’d the picture go? What was Ray Romano saying about Frasier?
8:12 p.m. Ah, so this is how it’s going. Seacrest lets the professional comic take the joke-telling reins, and he does a good couple minutes on bieng outa work. He eventually gets around to presenting the night’s first award, best supporting actor in a comedy. Entourage‘s Jeremy Piven wins for the second year in a row, beating office favorite Neil Patrick Harris. We still love you, Barney.
8:14 p.m. Don’t know if you’ve heard, but America Ferrera, who plays Ugly Betty, isn’t ugly.
8:15 p.m. I might have gone for his Lost castmate Michael Emerson, but Terry O’Quinn did some darn fine work on the show this past season. And he delivered a darn fine and funny speech too.
8:22 p.m. Seacrest: "Weeds — great show, amazing after-party. Isn’t that right, Paula [Abdul]?" Nice.
8:24 p.m. Jaime Pressly probably deserved her Emmy last year for her standout work on My Name Is Earl. But in a really strong field this year, it wouldn’t have been a real injustice to give it to any of them (yes, even the two women from Two and a Half Men). So, while Jenna Fischer, just getting over a broken back, was our sentimental favorite, this was a pretty good makeup call by the Academy.
8:28 p.m. I don’t understand what Thomas Haden Church was saying about his pants. But he wins me back with his dedication to David Angell — the Wings producer who died in one of the 9/11 planes — and his wife, Lynn.
8:36 p.m. Could we have just had the Tom Snyder tribute without the one-liner montage? Just sayin’.
8:37 p.m. The cast of Entourage plus Eva Longoria. I’m sure this looked cute on paper, but on stage? Not so much. But they are introducing another fantastic category, best supporting actress in a drama. In something of an upset, it’s Katherine
Hi-jel Heigl. That also makes The Sopranos 0-for-2 in tonight’s awards. I really, really, really, really hope this is not the start of a trend.
8:42 p.m. Most underrated part of every Emmy ceremony? The clips for the variety-show writing teams. Based on those alone, I’d give it to the foot-tapping folks from Real Time with Bill Maher, but the folks from Late Night with Conan O’Brien win instead. And folks, that breaks the Conan Curse: O’Brien and his show had been nominated 20 previous times before getting their first win tonight. So the answer to that trivia question is still Newhart, 25 noms without a win.
8:52 p.m. One of the great — or trivial, whichever — mysteries of last season may be solved: In singing a duet with Tony Bennett, Christina Aguilera fingers the mike like she’s playing a trumpet or something. On the Search for the Next Doll show last spring, eventual winner Asia — she’s pursuing a solo career now, by the way — did that all the time, to our unceasing puzzlement. Maybe that’s where she got it?
8:56 p.m. That’s two wins for AMC’s Broken Trail tonight — with Robert Duvall joining Thomas Haden Church in taking movie/miniseries acting honors — on top of one at last week’s Creative Arts awards. So, (admittedly very well-made) western on AMC three, landscape-changing show about mobsters on HBO zero.
9:03 p.m. Nice little tribute to Roots, which is 30 years old this year. It holds up remarkably well, and it’s kind of a shame to think how bloody hard it would be to get something like that on network TV these days.
9:07 p.m. Make that Broken Trail 4, Sopranos 0, as the former wins for best miniseries. And FOX: You do not play Robert Duvall off the stage. At least they didn’t cut to a blogger this time.
9:12 p.m. An hour and 12 minutes into the show, we have our first Sopranos win of the night. Alan Taylor wins for the exceptionally well-done "Kennedy and Heidi" episode, in which [spoiler alert!] Christopher dies.
9:14 p.m. It’s no surprise that David Chase wins the drama writing award for the Sopranos finale, but let’s take a moment to admire the quality of this ridiculously stacked category. Two other episodes from that show — "Kennedy and Heidi" and "The Second Coming" — plus the Lost finale and the two-part Battlestar Galactica premiere from last season. That is some damn good stuff.
9:23 p.m. Awww … Former Daily Show correspondent Steve Carell gets to present Jon Stewart and the show with the best variety show Emmy. In his speech, Stewart raises a good point. It seems like there’s only one micrphone stand on the stage. If you’re doing a show in the round, shouldn’t you be playing to all parts of the room? Maybe they are and it’s just hard to tell on TV. But Stewart’s "What a great show … this part of the audience has seen tonight" crack makes me wonder.
9:29 p.m. Following the lead of Judy Davis, who wins for best supporting actress in a movie or miniseries, but is absent from the ceremony (someone really shoulda told Marcia Cross where she was; is it me, or has the production been a little slipshod tonight?), Academy chairman Dick Askin keeps his remarks short. So that’s good.
9:36 p.m. Big applause for the over-40 women lead actresses on cable. Maybe someday we can get one on network TV too.
9:37 p.m. Those over-40 women — Mary-Louise Parker, Glenn Close and Kyra Sedgwick — present the award for best made-for-TV movie to HBO’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Exec producer Dick Wolf is very gracious in his acceptance speech, but he’s more fun when he’s prickly and contentious at press tours.
9:41 p.m. The Jersey Boys tribute to The Sopranos is just about exactly as cheesy as a lot of people feared. This isn’t Rob Lowe and Snow White bad — the performers are talented, at least — but if they’re going for ironic underscoring of the clip montage, it’s just not working.
9:44 p.m. But if the Academy wants to trot out the entire cast fo teh show for a well-deserved standing O, then that’s quite all right. I just hope they get to collect another one when the best drama trophy gets handed out later.
9:45 p.m. And now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Daniel Fienberg, who’ll take you through the rest of the show.
9:48 p.m. Thanks Rick. Because it’s not like I wanted to be watching the Red Sox or Patriots games. If this is the lowest-rated Emmy telecast ever, it isn’t because of Seacrest or the nominated shows. It’s because there are better things on. Anywho…
9:50 p.m. There’s a bylaw somewhere that Helen Mirren has to win everything. She isn’t just the queen. She’s all queens ever. A winner for the fourth time and second year in a row (this time for something "Prime Suspect"-y), she vows to keep talking until she gets played off. "You Americans are wonderfully generous people…" she says, before adding that we’re some less savory things as well. She actually runs out of things to say and has to beg to be played off.
9:52 p.m. Who gets to follow Dame Mirren? Lewis Black, naturally. As you might imagine, he’s a little bit angry about something, in this case, little network chyrons telling viewers what’s on next ("Have you forgotten what your job is? It’s to tell story… It’s not to tell us in the middle of a story what show is coming on next, or which one is premiering two weeks from now."). He’s also ticked off by TV news, both its overall quality and its annoying informational crawls.
9:59 p.m. It’s the "Prime Suspect" programming block at the Emmys as Phillip Martin and Frank Deasy win for directing and writing the latest Mirren opus. After so much adulation for "Broken Trail" and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" already tonight, these wins have to be considered a minor surprise. Not the Mirren win. Nobody’s surprised there.
10:02 p.m. Awkward moment as Seacrest goes to Tony Sirico and says, "Mr. Walnuts, the ushers have asked that you stop shanking seat-fillers." Nobody laughs. Particularly Sirico.
10:04 p.m. An entire audience of Hollywood celebrities rise to give a standing ovation to the man behind CurrentTV even though 99.99 percent of them don’t know if they get CurrentTV. It helps that he looks a lot like Al Gore. If he didn’t look like Al Gore, I somehow doubt that we’d be hearing anything about CurrentTV on the live primetime telecast.
10:07 p.m. In the finest piece of promotion for ‘Til Death since FOX put it after American Idol, stars Brad Garrett and Joely Fisher come out and make one joke after another about her breasts ("I think you just made Charlie Sheen’s to-do list." "It’s nothing like the very real threat of nipple to keep the audience tuned in.").
10:10 p.m. Stephen Colbert’s newest vendetta is against Tony Bennett, as the legendary crooner beats the fake pundit for outstanding individual performance in a music, variety or comedy thingie. The Colbert Nation can go back to not caring about Barry Manilow.
10:13 p.m. It doesn’t get much better than Elaine Stritch. Whether she’s yawning at Stanley Tucci’s teleprompter text, failing to follow her own lines or talking about how the reason she doesn’t do TV because she’s too expensive, she’s batty and brilliant. Tucci and Stritch give comedy writing and directing trophies to Greg Daniels (for the "Gay Witch Hunt" episode of The Office) and Richard Shepard for the Ugly Betty pilot.
10:21 p.m. Oooh! It’s time for "Things that looked good on paper." Up first is Seacrest pointlessly popping up in Henry the 8th garb. He makes a gay joke, passes the spotlight to Wayne Brady and exits. Brady is there because he hosts a FOX reality show and he sets up a parody of Don’t Forget the Lyrics! in which Rainn Wilson and Kanye West compete to present an Emmy. The category is "The Songs of Kanye West," but Wilson wins! Who ever could have seen that coming? I start ignoring the end of the bit to watch the wonder that is Mr. Randy Moss.
10:25 p.m. Well that just tears it. American Idol gave $70 million to charity. They resurrected Elvis to perform with Celine Dion. They brought back Akon over and over again. What more do you want, Emmy voters?!?!? Once again, the award for outstanding reality competition program goes to The Amazing Race, the Helen Mirren of this category.
10:35 p.m. Ignoring Derek Jeter.
10:37 p.m. In what has become a favorite Emmy staple, Stephen Colbert (with a loud leaf-blower [run on Al Gore’s tears]) and Jon Stewart take the stage ("There’s no leaves." "Not anymore."). They’re on to talk about the show’s claims of environmental-friendly Green-ness and their bit is less amusing than last year’s, though I love the line, "If entertainers stop publicly congratulating each other, the earth wins." After something about going online to by carbon offsets so that Peruvian boys can partially resod the Andes (Kevin Bacon? Not laughing), they present outstanding lead actor in a comedy series to…
10:41 p.m. Sally Field is a slightly surprising winner for lead actress in a drama series for Brothers & Sisters. Banal writers will observe that Emmy voters like her, they really really like her. Field gets flustered in the middle of a plea to bring our troops home and when she says that if mothers ruled the world there’d be no g*********** war, the Emmy censors cut out. I’d take the Emmy censors to task, but apparently Field said a word that can’t be published in this blog either, so all hail the censors.
10:47 p.m. Peter Boyle is the obvious winner of the "In Memoriam" necrology cheer-meter. "Bud" Melman gets more cheers than Glenn Ford.
10:53 p.m. Roaring along at breakneck speed, outstanding lead actress in a comedy series goes to America Ferrera. I’m contractually obligated to note that while she plays a character who’s called "ugly," she, um, isn’t. Several of my co-workers want me to point out that Ferrera loses cool points for mentioning NBC bigwig Ben Silverman in her speech.
10:55 p.m. Outstanding lead actor in a drama series goes to James… SPADER? Wait. You sure they read that right? Wasn’t it Gandolfini? "I feel like I just stole a pile of money from the mob," Spader says.
11:00 p.m. Even when the Emmys confuse me and leave me scratching my head, it beats the snot out of watching Eric Gagne. I love that they’re trying to get this show done as soon as possible, but I’d love to add pictures to this blog!
11:02 p.m. No time for clips. Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton present outstanding comedy series to 30 Rock, which is both wonderfully surprising and wonderfully deserving. Also no time for Tina Fey, though I preferred her way of thanking Silverman (in advance for keeping the show on for the next six years). She also thanks their dozens and dozens of viewers.
11:08 p.m. We love Helen Mirren. We love her so much that she gets to present outstanding drama series. While Galdolfini and Falco may have been uset, The Sopranos is not to be denied the night’s biggest award. The ovation is long and standing. David Chase thanks the primary members of the cast.
11:12 p.m. Somebody should tell the Emmy producers that the show is already 12 minutes over, so Chase shouldn’t be cut off. He ends his speech by vamping on Field’s, say, "If the world and this nation were run by gangsters… Maybe it is." Now back to see if the Sox have one more miracle in them.
So that’s your Emmys, folks.