Emmy's Secret Weapon: The Carrot-Topped Late Night Guy
Two previous weeks of overwork and family committments kept me from writing a live review of Sunday night's Emmy awards for today's paper. Still, I was moved enough by watching a TiVo-ed recording of the proceedings to blog five words I never expected to write in my entire TV critic career.
That's because, on an Emmy night where nearly every winner was the expected choice -- Tony Shaloub, Alan Alda, Megan Mullally, The Office, The Daily Show, 24, to name a few -- O'Brien had the testicular fortitude to bring it in a big way.
Who knew the wavy-haired goofball would offer an opening comedy bit where he'd poke fun at Emmy voters snubbing Lost, slide into Dateline NBC's online predator stings and land in South Park's twisted universe -- where a guy who looked suspiciously like Tom Cruise wouldn't come out of a bedroom closet?
A minute later, he's joking about how "Mel Gibson has a new show on Al Jazeera" and the irony of party hound Charlie Sheen finding success playing a guy who helps raise a young child -- three feet away from the guy! And a minute after that, he's singing a parody of the classic musical number "Ya Got Trouble" in reference to NBC's awful ratings, noting "the guy who passed on Lost/Was promoted instead of tossed/and now the peacock's getting it at both ends."
And there's the gag where he brought out comedy legend Bob Newhart in a plastic tube, saying the guy had three hours of air -- setting up the funniest running joke I've seen in an awards ceremony in a long time.
And this show needed everything Conan could muster. Sure, there were some unexpected turns -- Andre Braugher seemed as surprised as everyone else when he was named best actor in a miniseries and Helen Mirren's turn as Elizabeth I was an award everyone knew she earned, though few Emmy voters likely saw it.
Unfortunately, Emmy's surprises Sunday were almost all negative: robbing Martin Sheen's likely last chance at an emmy as a series star for Kiefer Sutherland's hyper kinetic action stuff? Passing up a last chance to honor Malcolm in the Middle's magnificent Jane Kaczmarek for Julia Louise Dreyfus' mediocre sitcom stuff? Snubbing Steve Carell's finely-tuned Office turn for yet another misplaced comedy trophy for Shaloub? Disregarding My Name is Earl's Jaime Pressly to hand another trophy to Mullally? Passing up three nominees from two of TV's most successful shows to honor Huff's Blythe Danner -- a woman in a discontinued show which no one saw in the first place?
There's room for lots of griping around the watercooler today, if anyone still cares about the Emmys anymore. Meanwhile, those of us who actually sat through it all can console ourselves in knowing at least one star was born Sunday night -- and when O'Brien takes his rightful place hosting the Oscars next, we can say we knew him when.
"I guess I have to thank Showtime, even though they canceled us." -- Huff's Blythe Danner.
"God -- I'm sure in some way you are responsible. But you took my hair, and man, that's not cool." Earl writer Greg Garcia.