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Analysis: Winners Make for Confusing Emmy Night

(Posted September 19, 2005 by Leah Yoakum)

LOS ANGELES ( The Emmys had a banner year in 2004. The outstanding drama trophy went to television's best drama ("The Sopranos") and the outstanding comedy prize went to the best comedy ("Arrested Development"). For reasons that may never be adequately explained, nearly every category went to the most deserving candidate and harmony reigned in TV land.

Worried about getting complacent in their recognition of general excellence, Emmy voters got a little wacky again for Sunday (Sept. 18) night's 57th annual ceremony. The evening's results were as inconsistent as they were occasionally unfathomable. On one hand, Sweet Lady Emmy showed a reliable taste for old favorites, a preference that either stemmed from laziness or obvious nostalgia.

Sure, voters needed to celebrate "Everybody Loves Raymond," an old-fashioned sitcom with a level of professionalism that may not be seen again in the near future. It's hard to know which viewers would say it's a better show than "Arrested Development" or "Scrubs," but "Development" won that year (and failed to get any ratings bump as a result) and "Scrubs" isn't on NBC's fall schedule and probably was honored just to be recognized after so many years of neglect.

But Doris Roberts? Again? And Brad Garrett? Again? With five previous "Raymond" Emmys between them, both actors have been well compensated -- in trophy terms -- for their time on the CBS show. Jessica Walters and Conchata Ferrell would have been fresher choices among the nominated actresses and wins for Jeremy Piven and Jeffrey Tambor would have given welcome boosts to their shows. Heck, if Emmy selectors needed to salute a "Raymond" actor, why couldn't Peter Boyle have finally gotten his? The old guy would have been so happy.

"Desperate Housewives" isn't really a comedy, so its loss in the category isn't that shocking, but how to explain Felicity Huffman's outstanding actress win? She's the most talented of the "Housewives" women, but despite her gifts, she was often the most underused member of the cast and her role was certain the one played for the fewest laughs. All year long, Teri Hatcher's regular humiliation and pratfalls were rewarded with awards, but Emmy wanted more pathos. And the category is, after all, "outstanding actress in a comedy series" and not "outstanding comedic actress in a comedy series." It was worth it just to see Huffman's husband, William H. Macy, crying.

Despite an occasional reticence to share narrative information, ABC's "Lost" had a superior season and helped chance the face of both its own network and of network television in general. Whether or not it was actually better than "Deadwood" or the perpetually unnominated "The Wire" is a matter for debate, but the J.J. Abrams-directed pilot was certainly one of the year's very best television moments.

But James Spader? Again? And William Shatner? Again? Against somewhat different competition last year, both were interesting and pleasant surprise winners. They also helped rejuvenate a flagging "Practice," an impressive achievement. In the up-and-down first "Boston Legal" season, both were fine, but offered few new shadings to their characters. Spader, in particular, is a confusing choice against the universally adored Hugh Laurie of "House" -- Bravo to the voters for saluting David Shore's "Three Stories" script -- and Ian McShane of "Deadwood." Perhaps those two first-time nominees split the vote somehow?

And tomorrow morning, all over America, people will be wondering what on earth "Huff" is and what Blythe Danner does on it. Say what you will about the paltry audience for "Arrested Development," but it's gigantic compared to the number of people who tuned in to "Huff" in its first season. It's an unexpected pick, but celebrating Danner is always a worthy idea.

There are always plenty of details to quibble with. Probably the producers of "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers" will want to know how the combination of best actor Geoffrey Rush, best director Stephen Hopkins and best writer Christopher Markus didn't also add up to a best movie-for-television win. And somebody at HBO will be frustrated that despite winning everything else under the telefilm sun, "The Lost Prince," on PBS of all places, was the year's best miniseries. And given the kind of year NBC had, it was odd to see Patricia Arquette -- quite excellent on "Medium" -- even nominated and her win cost the crowd the chance to see the very pregnant Jennifer Garner take the stage

In the end, it's probably best to salute Emmy for the correct decisions and hope that next year will be another 2004, another year where everything went right.

Source: Zap2it

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