64th-Annual-Primetime-Emmy-Awards-2012Most years, I take a look at the Emmy nominees and make some educated guesses. This year, between work and family obligations (and an unexpected fender bender), I didn’t get a chance to do that. It’s probably a good thing. In fact, it’s a particularly good thing that I didn’t have any spare money to send to a Vegas bookie.

I’d be broke now.

There were lots of surprises when The 65th Annual Emmy Awards aired Sunday night. The show was indeed surprising. And sad. And more than a little strange.

It began with the decision to hire that host among hosts, Neil Patrick Harris. Hosting a major awards show is no easy task. It’s hard work, and you’re setting yourself up for criticism on a monumental scale. Nevertheless, NPH has proven himself a fantastic host: funny, smart, with the best combination of self-deprecation and good-natured ribbing. The thing is, though, he’s already made a name for himself as a four-time host of Broadway’s Tony Awards. For me (an ad agency marketer when I’m not writing for WVFC), this seemed like a blurring of brands.

I like my different awards shows to be, well, different.

Of course, all of the major award shows tend to include an “In Memory Of” segment. This year’s Emmy Awards took that tradition one step (or five steps) further with spotlights dedicated to five of the year’s beloved casualties. Jonathan Winters, Jean Stapleton, Corey Monteith, James Gandolfini, and writer/producer Gary David Goldberg were remembered by close (often teary-eyed) colleagues.

As a colleague of my own remarked this morning, “File it under ‘Seemed like a good idea at the time.’”

My issues with the new approach were twofold. First of all, as one of my fellow WVFC writers pointed out in our live blog, why didn’t they show a clip of each person’s work? Yes, hearing Rob Reiner remember his TV mother-in-law was moving, but I would rather have seen a minute or two of Stapleton’s wonderful Edith Bunker. Second, by selecting just five people to salute, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences placed arbitrary—and in at least one case, unwarranted—importance on each of them. Yes, it was sad that a promising young star died last summer of a senseless drug overdose. But does anyone really believe that Corey Monteith (a one-hit wonder, sorry) contributed more to the art and business of television than a Jack Klugman or a Larry Hagman?

Or, more likely, did The Emmy Awards pander to a desirable demographic?

The recent trend of awarding certain awards before the awards ceremony was in evidence the other night as well. It’s nice that after 7 nominations over a 52-year career, Bob Newhart finally won an Emmy. But we didn’t get to see it because it was awarded at the so-called Creative Arts pre-show. He did nevertheless get a much-deserved standing ovation Sunday night.

(If it were up to me, I’d pull all those technical and creative awards back into the main show. All they’d have to do is cut some of [most of] the ubiquitous skits and dance numbers. His immense talent and likeability aside, did we really need so much Neil Patrick Harris? There was the TV show montage, the confrontation with past presenters, the intervention from his How I Met Your Mother costars, the musical number in the middle of the show, the interpretive choreography . . . I finally lost track. But you get my point.)

The award upsets included the rather baffling choice of Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom) over frontrunner Kevin Spacey (House of Cards), critical favorite Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and overdue Jon Hamm (Mad Men). I joked in our blog that he’s become the Susan Lucci of primetime.

The show did have some highlights though, and several, I’m happy to report, were the work of some of television’s impressive and talented women.

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were by far the funniest bit of a tired opening sequence. (Why not simplify the whole awards show conundrum and let them host everything? I wish they would host my next business meeting!) Fey was also recognized with an Emmy for comedy writing.

Nurse Jackie’s Merritt Wever gave one of the briefest acceptance speeches ever. Despite a laundry list of people she wanted to thank, the stunned Supporting Actress winner lost her nerve and simply said, “Thank you so much. Um, I gotta go. Bye.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus won her fourth Emmy for the lead role in Veep, comically bringing her assistant “Gary” onstage to feed her lines. (Veep costar Tony Hale didn’t seem to mind; he had just won an Emmy himself.)

Other winning women included Claire Danes again this year for the drama Homeland. Anna Gunn was recognized for Breaking Bad. And Laura Linney, unable to attend, won for The Big C.

The show ran a little long (as usual) and was a little uneven (as usual). But there were plenty of smart, talented (very nicely dressed) women to watch. My favorite moment was this: Ellen Burstyn, magnificent and gracious, as she accepted her Emmy for the miniseries Political Animals. She jokingly, but pointedly, thanked the creative team for “the wisdom to write a woman over 65 who still had a lot of juice.”

Takes one to know one, n’est-ce pas?