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Emmys: Watch Billy Crystal's tribute to Robin Williams

Billy Crystal paid tribute to the late Robin

(Credit: MCT / Robert Gauthier)

If NBC's 66th telecast of the Primetime Emmys do in fact manage to have become a major ratings success, some if not most credit is due this tribute to Robin Williams, which millions were anticipating Monday night -- and which NBC even promoted in advance, with an on-screen bumper promising the "In Memoriam" within 16 minutes, than 10 minutes and so on. 

Yes, very unusual. And Bill Crystal's tribute did not disappoint.

Moving, emotional and deeply personal, it turned a lighthearted broadcast into a somber tribute to a beloved actor who changed culture, and television.

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"He made us laugh, every time you saw him on TV, movies, nightclubs, arenas, hospitals, homeless shelters," Crystal said of a friend he made nearly 40 years ago, working comedy clubs on both coasts.

He spoke of the "many happy hours" spent with Williams.

"He was the greatest friend you could ever imagine. Supportive, protective, loving. It's very hard to talk about him in the past because he was so present in all of our lives, for almost 40 years the brightest star in the comedy galaxy."

(App users click the link above to view the clip.)

Emmys ratings: The risky move to a Monday telecast draws solid 15.6 million

Sofia Vergara and Television Academy CEO Bruce Rosenblum

(Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Well, it does appear as though we have a final national number for the 66th annual Primetime Emmys ... and it's not an ugly one at all: 15.6 million.

That's only about two points below last year's football-fed telecast on CBS, so NBC has to be thrilled with this. Fact is, the move to Monday was a risk: Viewers could have ignored the big show, but there was certainly a groundswell of interest in the Robin Williams tribute. (NBC even promoted Billy Crystal's tribute with in-program teases -- highly unusual, but a key indicator that millions were coming for that, and the network knew it). That alone may have made the difference.

On the negative side of the ledger, this is only about two million more viewers than the middling averages the Emmys had been posting in prior years, or before last year's CBS telecast. The hard fact remains: While many of us love the Emmys -- and I certainly count myself among the devotees -- the vast majority of us don't. They remain an awards show without the enormous appeal of the Grammys or the Oscars. And for an industry that is in the midst of a golden age, that is a strange paradox indeed. 

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But 15.6 million is nothing to sneeze at; how about a Monday in the dead of August next year, too?


Emmys: Why did 'True Detective,' Matthew McConaughey get shut out?

Woody Harrelson, left, and Matthew McConaughey in HBO's

(Credit: HBO / Jim Bridges)

What the heck happened to “True Detective” and Matthew McConaughey last night?

Five Emmys for the show -- but not one of the huge ones. Matthew McConaughey, the surest bet for anything last night -- outstanding actor/drama would have done, nicely, I'm sure he and HBO think -- was just another beautiful face in the crowd, as it turns out.

Unfair, maybe, but Bryan Cranston did win, and there's certainly nothing unfair about that.

PHOTOS: The winners | Red carpet, ceremony highlights | Verne Gay's Ultimate Emmys

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Nevertheless, this is a puzzle and puzzles demand solutions, particularly as HBO put its vast marketing muscle behind "Detective" and its worthy leads. Naturally, I have theories as opposed to solutions. Maybe one of them is even the right one:

Each of these applies mostly to the show, which wasn't considered a lock for best drama, and to McConaughey as well.

1.) HBO overreached. "Detective" stood a better chance in the miniseries category as opposed to the insanely competitive best drama one, where each nominee had entrenched interests among Emmy voters -- interests not about to be shaken by this arriviste. Mc, likewise, would have been a cinch for the mini/movie award.

2.) Voters just weren't sure -- and when in doubt, vote for the incumbent.

3.) "Bad" deserved this win and so did Cranston. Hey, that's novel! No it's not. The Emmys do get this right now and then.

4.) The so-called plagiarism charges stuck. Arriving in the middle of the voting process, as they did, some voters were doubtful. "Why vote for a plagiarist?!" some may have thought, thoughtlessly. In fact, the charges were unfair, and "Detective" writer Nic Pizzolatto had said that he had been inspired by Thomas Ligotti for the Rust Cohle character. Nothing wrong with that. But doubt -- even when it's grossly unfair -- has a way of seeding.

5.) The poorly-drawn-female characters charge stuck. This was first raised, I believe, in the pages of the New Yorker, and is cited whenever or wherever the merits of "Detective" are raised. PIzzolatto was angered by them -- but all the anger in the world can't dissipate an argument, and in fact often has the opposite effect.

6.) Emmys hate buzz. Remember how Lou Grant "hates spunk?" Emmys hate buzz. They hate it with all of their fiber -- for Emmy voters are traditionalists to the core, who eschew the vagaries of popular taste, as it ebbs and flows according to the dictates of a hundred million fandudes, with their Twitter accounts, blogs, Facebook pages, Instagrams and other assorted means to express their passion. Or at least voters like to think that -- that their role is to separate the chaff from the proverbial wheat stalk, and to bestow the One True Award on the One True Show.

Mostly, they like to think this isn't the People's Choice Awards. THEY are the pros. What does the riff raff know? Buzz shows that go into the Emmys with a head of steam -- often a projection of TV writers, who are fans themselves -- can oftentimes find themselves beheaded by the end of the night.

7.) "Detective" and McConaughey were too much of a sure bet. This is a subset of 6.) with some variations. Sure Bets very often are Sure Bets with the Emmys -- but brand-new buzz-worthy shows that are deemed Sure Bets usually aren't.

8.) Emmy voters were simply too familiar with "True Detective" and Rust Cohle. I leave this theory to last because I think there's some counterintuitive logic to it.

Consider: Everyone in this industry watched "Detective" because they pretty much felt they had to, if only not to sound like a blithering idiot at their local watering hole or some cocktail party, where someone -- maybe their next employer -- was bound to ask them, "well, what did you think ...?" They didn't need the requisite single episode to make a judgment about "Detective" -- many were already intimately familiar with it.

But such familiarity doesn't always work to a nominee's favor, because voters are then as familiar with its faults as its virtues. An obvious example here -- the finale, which some viewers loved, others hated. (I was disappointed. Not this kind of ending ... again.) Or maybe some voters didn't like Rust's gaseous ruminations on the Meaning of Life in the 17-years-fast-forward scenes.

Who knows! Or perhaps HBO,"Detective" and McConaughey should turn to Ligotti for solace and guidance on this Emmy matter. Quoth he: 

“It has always seemed to me that my existence consisted purely and exclusively of nothing but the most outrageous nonsense.”

'True Blood' series finale: A muted farewell

Sunday night's muted farewell of "True Blood" was

(Credit: YouTube / trueblood )

Obviously there was a time when "True Blood" was HBO's most important series - a genre-busting exploration of vampires, racism, sex, sin, social taboos and a handful of other topics that weren't specifically vampirical in nature but in some not hard-to-define way, human. Obviously, "True Blood" -- which ended Sunday night -- has not approached any where near that stature in recent seasons.


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LIer Jesse Kinch wins ABC's 'Rising Star'

Jesse Kinch, of Seaford, among contestants on ABC's

(Credit: ABC / Craig Sjodin)

Jesse Kinch, a Seaford-based rocker who from the beginning of this ABC experiment called "Rising Star" appeared to be the chosen one, affirmed all assumptions on Sunday night's finale: He was chosen.

Above, his clinching "Love Reign O'er Me," which scored 76 percent of the audience vote, compared to runner-up Austin French's 61 percent. (No, this was not close.)

Congrats to the talented Kinch. (The future for "Star" is unclear, which is another way of saying this was probably the last season -- the numbers never materialized, or a little more than three million viewers over each edition of the past few weeks.) 


'Girls' Season 4 teased in shortest trailer ever

Comedic triple threat Lena Dunham is the creator,

(Credit: AP, Invision / Dan Steinberg)

"Girls" will be back one of these days, but not soon enough to explain the baffling teaser released Friday morning. Take a look and be baffled/teased.

A few things deduced from this: It was shot May 1, Lena Dunham needs to take bike riding lessons, and bike helmets are a very good idea.  



Nelly, Ali in BET documentary on Ferguson Friday

Rapper Nelly will appear in an Aug. 22

(Credit: Getty Images / Daniel Boczarski)

Rapper Nelly — who once lived in Ferguson, Missouri, near where 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police Aug. 9 — will be interviewed along with rapper Ali (of the Nelly-led rap group The St. Lunatics) in a BET documentary on the tragedy that airs Friday at 7. Clip above — and BET's Marc Lamont Hill is the correspondent. Here's the throughline, with details from BET: 


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Miley Cyrus at Sunday's VMAs (duh)

Miley Cyrus, touring on her "Bangerz" album, performs

(Credit: Chad Batka)

Get your twerk tweets tweaked, sports fans: Miley Cyrus will be at this Sunday's Video Music Awards ... MTV, which officially announced a little while ago (after first teasing the news to a few online columnists last night) said she would "attend" which of course is one of those loaded words that could mean anything. But for the fun of it, let's do assume that she will take the stage, maybe with...

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Julianne Hough joins judging panel on 'Dancing with the Stars'

Julianne Hough will become the fourth — that's right, one, two, three, four — judge on a show that has long lived and prospered with just three: "Dancing with the Stars."

The official announcement was made a little while ago, and statement below. 

The move's hardly a shocker — talks between both parties had been widely reported, while Hough is just one more (former) pro on the show...

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Billy Crystal to present Robin Williams tribute at Emmys

Robin Williams, left, and Billy Crystal arrive for

(Credit: AP / Louis Lanzano)

Billy Crystal, who had (at least) a 30-year association with Robin Williams, will present his tribute on Monday's telecast of the 66th Primetime Emmys.

The program's executive producer, Don Mischer, made the announcement Wednesday. Mischer said last week that the Academy was planning to mount "a proper and meaningful tribute," which will now fall to Crystal, who has long hosted Comic Relief USA with Williams and Whoopi Goldberg. (Crystal and Williams also co-starred in "Father's Day").

Williams presented the tribute to his personal comic icon, Jonathan Winters, at last year's show. 

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Indeed, Williams' and Crystal's close ties long predate Comic Relief, which they had co-hosted with Goldberg since 1986. Like so many A-list comics, they came up through the east coast/west coast comedy club circuit in the '70s, shared prominent managers (Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe) and at times even seemed to be one another's most visible cheerleader.

After Williams' 2009 heart surgery, for example, Crystal explained to The New York Times how that might impact his comedy going forward. "I think he needs the stand-up in a different way than he did before. It's still a safe place for him to be, but he can talk about things and make himself feel better, not just everybody else."

After Williams' death was reported last week, Crystal could muster only this, in a Tweet: "No words."

Musical accompaniment for the "In Memoriam" tribute will be performed by Sara Bareilles. She had dedicated her song, "Hercules," to Williams during a recent concert, but Mischer did not say what the music choices will be.

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