Emmys weave a tangled backstage webcast in addition to old school TV show
So how many of you watched and listened to at least some of the Emmy Awards' first live "Backstage" webcast in lieu of NBC's conventional three-hour TV presentation Sunday?
Or perhaps you multi-tasked, as your dogged correspondent did in an effort to contrast and compare.
The TV show initially was the place to be. It got off to a rousing start with a partly taped and then climactically live sendup of a Glee production number in which host Jimmy Fallon enlisted several cast members and the likes of Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Betty White, Joel McHale, Jorge Garcia and (urp) Kate Gosselin. Fallon, as pictured on the left, wound things up with his vigorous version of Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run." It prompted a deservedly big ovation from the big batch of nominees sitting front and center at Los Angeles' NOKIA Theatre. After that, though, the magic moments proved to be few and far between, particularly for the host network. Of the 26 trophies handed out, NBC won just one of them, for its coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics' opening ceremonies from Vancouver. And really, that shouldn't count.
Fallon's recitations of several Twitter-submitted introductions of presenters also fell flat. "I'd hit that," a twit of a tweeter said of 30 Rock's Fey. Her co-presenter, Glee star Matthew Morrison, was deemed to have a head that "looks like a brown little poodle." Castle star Nathan Fillion sustained Fallon's relay of a tweet that said, "This dude is straight off the meat rack, yo." No, ugh.
Meanwhile the webcast provided a voyeuristic mix of audio, visual and sometimes audio-visual snack items. The "Green Room" footage was mostly a silent movie, with redundant shots in the early going of Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and husband Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs watching the telecast on a TV monitor. They left after about an hour, and it's still not clear why they were there in the first place. Neither was a presenter.
Later, though, a webcast voyeur could witness Al Pacino cracking up at something said by Bob Hope Humanitarian Award winner George Clooney. That's quite a high-voltage pairing, even without accompanying audio. There also were recurring backstage shots of presenter Tom Selleck in his white tuxedo gabbing something or other to Ted Danson, Laurence Fishburne and January Jones among others.
The webcast's "Jimmy Cam," which fixated on the host, occasionally had clear sound to go with the visuals. At one point, Fallon rehearsed his introduction of presenter Matthew Perry. Then he went ahead and did the same routine a few minutes later on the TV telecast. Watching how the sausage is made can be interesting -- but only to a point.
Here's another thing. The Emmy TV show was equipped with a seven second delay in case someone said something deemed too risque. But the webcast aired au naturel in real time. And on numerous occasions, the easily heard piped-in audio from the stage allowed webcast viewers to learn the winner a full seven seconds before the TV audience did. In a rapid-fire information age, that can be akin to an eternity.
There also was a backstage "Thank You Cam" that for the most part was pretty pro forma and uneventful. But Jim Parsons of The Big Bang Theory did get a chance to do something of a make-good after what he described as a "rambling mess" of an acceptance speech. He also got a chance to show the good luck charm he took with him. It appeared to be a miniature penguin. All this plus far fewer commercials than the TV audience got.
The TV telecast proved to be short on juice after its big bang of an opener. But presenter Ricky Gervais, who's been invited back to host next year's Golden Globes, did manage to get off the line of the night after first saying he was "saving all the really offensive stuff" for that awards ceremony. "They're all drunk anyway," he reasoned.
Gervais then dropped Mel Gibson's name before adding, "No, c'mon. I'm not gonna have a go at him. He's been through a lot. Not as much as the Jews -- to be fair."
That easily drew the night's biggest laugh before Gervais prompted several waiters to serve beer to the front row swells. He also had a go of it with director Bucky Gunts, a nominee in the Variety, Music or Comedy Special category who ended up winning for his helming of the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.
"I hope it's Bucky Gunts," Gervais said beforehand. "Because I didn't know you could say that on television. Let's face it. We're all Bucky Gunts here."
Then came the opening of the envelope, with Gervais delightedly exclaiming, "Bucky Gunts! Yeah!" Perhaps the Emmys picked the wrong host. Let Gervais do 'em all.
Alas, nominee Conan O'Brien didn't win in the same category for his hosting of The Tonight Show. That might well have proved to be the night's highlight, given NBC's much-publicized late night meltdown earlier this year. Instead Comedy Central's The Daily Show won yet again, with host Jon Stewart a no-show this time.
The night's biggest upset arguably was Kyra Sedgwick of TNT's The Closer winning her first Emmy as best lead actress in a drama series. She beat the heavily favored Julianna Magulies for CBS' The Good Wife. And after seven straight wins, CBS' The Amazing Race finally lost for the first time in the reality-competition series category -- to Bravo's Top Chef.
HBO again led all networks with eight Emmys, five of them for the movie Temple Grandin. And AMC's four trophies -- two apiece for Mad Men and Breaking Bad -- also gave it more wins than any single broadcast network.
ABC wound up three Emmys, all of them for Modern Family. The first-year series' win as best comedy broke a three-year winning streak by NBC's 30 Rock. But Mad Men extended its streak to three years with another Emmy as best drama.
A complete list of winners can be found here.