Emmy host network NBC--whose flagging ratings fortunes were roasted by host Conan O'Brien in a snappy opening--proceeded to win the first two awards, then went on to collect a shelf-ful of biggies.
In fact, NBC and HBO were the biggest winners of the night, NBC for comedies, HBO for dramas. Fox also picked up some big awards. ABC and CBS were relatively quiet on the night.
The tale of the tape for the prime time Emmys handed out Sunday night was HBO, 9; NBC, 6; Fox, 3; CBS, 2; Comedy Central, 2; ABC and PBS, 1 apiece; FX, USA Network, Showtime, 1 apiece. Additional Emmys in creative arts categories were handed out last week.
Mariska Hargitay won for best actress in a drama in her third successive nomination for NBC's Law & Order.
Lead actress in a comedy series went to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for her CBS series, the New Adventures of Old Christine, breaking the Seinfeld curse big time. She said she didn't believe in curses, following that with: "Curse this, baby," in triumph.
NBC's The Office was named best comedy series, while 24 was named best drama. Lead actor in a drama went to 24's Keifer Sutherland, who won his first Emmy after nine nominations.
The first statues of the night went to three shows that ended their runs this season.
Alan Alda won best supporting actor in a drama series for NBC's West Wing in a strong field that included Oliver Platt from Huff, Michael Imperioli from The Sopranos, and William Shatner form Boston Legal.
Megan Mullally won in the best supporting actress in a comedy series for NBC's Will & Grace.
Best Supporting Actress in a Drama series went to Blythe Danner, her second consecutive, win, for Huff. She said she guesssed she had to thank Showtime, even though they had canceled the show.
Outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series went to Jeremy Piven for HBO's Entourage, who Billy Bush had predicted during the pre-show "Red Carpet" special would win the award.
Jon Stewart's Daily Show beat Steven Colbert's The Colbert Report, essentially a Daily Show spin-off, for best Variety, Music or Comedy series. In a nod to TV's future, the nominees were shown being viewed on various portable devices including an ipod and Blackberry.
Stewart said he thought the academy had made a mistake, almost certainly referring to the fact that Colbert's show hadn't won. Stewart's show also won for best writing, where Stewart gave a shout-out to the Colbert crew, which went 0 for 4 on the night.
Simon Cowell got booed good-naturedly on his appearance to introduce a Dick Clark salute. Clark, who had a stroke, got a standing ovation and acquitted himself admirably and poigniantly, saying he had been truly blessed, then threw it to Barry Manilow.
Despite the nods to new tech, with the salute to Clark by Manilow and a tribute to the late Aaron Spelling, plus the first three winners being exiting shows, the telecast had a definite sense of looking backward, when it wasn't plugging NBC shows or stars or Web sites, which it was with a vengeance.
Manilow even re-took the stage soon after his performance to collect an Emmy for best performance in a vaiery or music program for a PBS taping of his Vegas show, beating Colbert among others. "This goes into the operating room with me tomorrow morning," said Manilow, who is scheduled for surgery on his hip.
But the show also had a wry sense of humor to carry it forward, from the smart Conan "Trouble" opening to the gimmick of sticking Bob Newhart in glass booth (see below).
In the awards handed out at the Creative Arts Prime Time Emmys last week, Cloris Leachman won a record-setting eight Emmy (for guest actress in a comedy series) for Fox's Malcom in the Middle. Leslie Jordan won best guest actor in a comedy for Will & Grace. Best guest actors in a drama went to Christian Clemenson for his turn as an odd attorney on Boston Legal, while Patricia Clarkson won for HBO's Six Feet Under.
Best directing in a drama series went to John Cassar for Fox's 24, specifically for the episode "7:00-8:00 p.m." Cassar told his audience: "We're working in the new golden age of television. Let's enjoy it." Best writing went to Terence Winter for HBO's The Sopranos.
NBC's My Name Is Earl cornered the comedy market on scripted comedy directing (Marc Buckland) and writing (Greg Garcia, for the pilot) Louis J. Horvitz, who was working the truck at the Emmys, won for best directing, comedy, variety or music show, directing his own acceptance speech including cuts to people in the audience he was thanking.
Helen Mirren won for best actress in a miniseries for HBO's Elizabeth I, as did Jeremy Irons for supporting actor. The show also won a best director nod for Tom Hooper and the prize for best miniseries. Perhaps becuase she is British, NBC let Helen Mirren say "ass over tits" talking about not falling when she took the stage for her award. Calista Flockhart repeated the phrase.
Andre Braugher, formerly on an NBC show (Homicide), won best lead actor in a miniseries for FX series, Thief.
Best supporting actress in a miniseries or made-for was Kelly MacDonald for HBO's The Girl in the Cafe, which also won for best made-for-TV movie and best writing (Richard Curtis).
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series went to Tony Shalhoub for USA Network's Monk, his third win, beating Charlie Sheen, for one. Shalhoub thanked the other "losers," uh nominees.
Joan Collins, Stephen Collins, and Heather Locklear, all looking very well-preserved, helped salute their former boss, the late Aaron Spelling. Collins called him "a struggling actor who was curiously confident."
The piece began with the Dallas-born Spelling seeming to narrate his own tribute, sounding quite a bit like Bob Schieffer. Following scads of clips, the stars of his 70's cult hit, Charlie's Angels, were reunited, with Kate Jackson leading off for the three, looking a lot like Marlo Thomas. Farrah Fawcett called him "sweet, supportive, brilliant, and energetic." Jaclyn Smith said: "He was on my side without conditions."
By a little after 10, Newhart's fate looked reasonably bright, with most of the speeches brief, though the comedy writer who listed the people he wasn't thanking--a teacher who had told him he wasn't funny, or an early boss who made him to scut work--seemed to get more time because he was funny than, say, Barry Manilow, who just seemed grateful.
Colbert and Stewart were co-presenters of the reality award, with Colbert saying: "good evening, godless Sodomites." Saying he was speaking to the "belly of the beast" crowd in Hollywood. "Kneel before your god babylon," said Colbert, of the "golden idol" that is Emmy. The godless Sodomite winner of the golden idol for reality show was CBS' The Amazing Race, its fourth in a row.
"I lost to Barry Manilow," whined Colbert.
Edie Falco, presenting the best miniseries awards, said that her thoughts and prayers were with the men and women overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Conan O'Brien's opening monologue was a deft, smart piece of television commentary, particularly the Music Man parody of NBC's flagging fortunes: "with a capital 'T' and that rhymes with G, and, gee, that means we're screwed." O'Brien devlishly sang that while this show was airing, young viewers were at Youtube watching a cat urinate in a toilet, a program that he noted more properly belonged on Fox. About the now ratings-challenged NBC, O'Brien warned that that meant "half way through the show, the Emmys will be cancelled."
The show also found a way to make the worst part of any awards show almost intereresting--the length. Early on, O'Brien wheeled out Bob Newhart in an airtight, phone-booth like cubicle and announced that the contraption had exactly three hours of air inside. If the Emmys go long, Newhart is a dead man. For his part, Newman, the master of the dead pan was, well, a master. The joke ended early, however, with Newhart let out to hand out the best comedy series award.
But it worked, the show ended at 10:57, with the credits rolling long for a change.
The pre-Emmy show had some very embarrassing moments with co-host Billy Bush. Bush, talking with 24's Kiefer Sutherland, credited the show with starting the "trend" of "binge-watching," which apparently was a reference to the series' ability to do well in DVD sales. Perhaps. He accosted Entourage star Jeremy Piven with a flurry of questions about whether he has seen Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's infant, Shiloh. Piven looked at Bush and just suggested a new line of questioning. "You have potential as a human being," Piven said, in a perfect and perfectly gentle, put-down.
The telecast will be repeated on NBC-owned Bravo.