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The Emmys telecast: Monday morning quarterback

Actress Jane Lynch hosted the 2011 Emmy Awards

Actress Jane Lynch hosted the 2011 Emmy Awards in Hollywood. (Sept. 18, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

How bad was last night's Emmy's telecast -- the 63rd?

There's a word for it somewhere in between "dreadul" and "bad."  It's just escaping me at the moment.

'The problems were elemental (my dear Watson) and avoidable. The overall tone, especially early on, tended to be playfully sarcastic and almost dismissive - - a reflection of the TV industry's chief awards show's deep-seated insecurity and to a certain extent the industry itself.

The opening number, meanwhile, wasn't necessarily awful as it was simply off-putting, as Jane Lynch waltzed and sang through a dozen shows with no conceivable connection other than the fact that they were TV shows. Her voice, as one of the first jokes established, was auto-tuned, but just how autotuned was left to the live half of the opening number to establish.

She sang loudly and discordantly, and the jokey effect of the number, and pretty much the rest of the night, was set.

How was Lynch overall? Look, there are any number of theories about awards' show hosts and the benefits they bring.

Billy Crystal is now considered the de facto standard by which others are measured because he can take a scalpel to an industry's bloated self-worth and delusions, and yet still somehow honor it in the process.

Lynch is new to the game, but someone probably should've advised her to stay away from self-referential gay jokes - confusing, doubtless, to most viewers who just think she's basically Sue Sylvester -- and absolutely stayed away from material demonstrably unfunny. Someone thought the skit about "Jersey Shore," for example, was funny, but it wasn't to anyone in the viewing audience.

Overall, she needed better material and needed to serve it up in a way that was smart and effortless. And that just didn't happen.

Example? Just a quick one: Just before Charlie Sheen comes on as a presenter, she jokes that she was his therapist. . . Ha ha, we know where this is coming from . . . on "Two and a Half Men." . . . Ha ha, oh yeah, we know the punchline, don't we?

"And I must've sucked."

Ohhhh, pfffsstttt.

Not funny, not clever, not anything -- and the one line that just about everyone will remember the next day. And just to reinforce the badness of the joke, out comes the new, improved, drained-of-tiger-blood Charlie, who "from the bottom of my heart" hoped the new cast of "2.5 Men" has a great season. Maybe as a therapist she wasn't so bad after all. Or maybe someone should've told Charlie that he was getting a setup joke and that he may as well prepare something that he can knock out of the park. Which, as you now know, he did not.

The pace? Brisk. And we all love brisk, don't we? In fact, this train was moving so fast -- in fact, blowing right by stations -- that it could've ended everything by 10 (when all major categories, save best drama and comedy) were known.

But why so fast? Possible answer: Because Fox knows that most viewers will bail long before eleven, and by stuffing the major winners before 10 p.m., it can boost the 8 to 10 p.m. ratings which will boost Fox's overall Sunday 8 to 10 numbers. Or maybe the reasoning was simply, let's boost the 8 to 10 numbers by stuffing the first couple of hours with the big draws, and then string the few remaining viewers through the less compelling categories (movies/ miniseries) until they get to best drama and comedy.

Whatever the reason, the odd structure left the broadcast feeling uneven and oddly deflated. By ten, there really wasn't much of anything left to say, and some of the night's biggest winners -- like Julianna Margulies -- or losers, like Steve Carell -- zipped by so quickly that no one could savor just how important those moments were, or exactly what they meant. In other words, the inherent drama of both the win and the loss was completely sapped.

So what are we left with? A discordant, uneven broadcast that tended to reflect poorly on the industry it is specifically designed to celebrate. Like I said, there's a word to describe this, and I'll get back to you as soon as I think of it. . .


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