Less than 15 minutes into the Emmy Awards last night the first negative review came in from one of Emmy's own winners.
Jeremy Piven may not have been gracious in dissing the awards show that gave him his third supporting comedy actor honor for "Entourage," but he expressed what some viewers were no doubt thinking: "What if I just kept talking for 12 minutes? What would happen? Oh wait, that was the opener."
Indeed it was.
After an enjoyable, brief series of clips of today's stars exclaiming some of TV's most famous dialogue, Oprah Winfrey offered a sincere but not overly serious tribute to the medium, and then the opening Piven was presumably referring to began.
Some producer thought the best way to celebrate Emmy's 60 years of recognizing the best of TV was to allow the five nominees for best reality show host to host the Emmys as a five-person team: Tom Bergeron ("Dancing with the Stars"), Heidi Klum ("Project Runway"), Howie Mandel ("Deal or No Deal"), Jeff Probst ("Survivor") and Ryan Seacrest ("American Idol").
They claimed to have nothing prepared in the way of introductory remarks. Mandel talked the most, even mentioning what some viewers might have been thinking about reality show representatives hosting the Emmys: "We're like the stepchildren of television."
And on they rambled, going nowhere fast but no doubt sending some viewers scurrying to change the channel to a program that might offer even the hint of entertainment value.
The hosts were a dud, but some presenters fared better, particularly the logical pairings (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler). But the telecast offered the promise of more TV cast appearances and reunions -- beginning with "Desperate Housewives" -- than it ultimately delivered.
The Emmys were semi-successful in showcasing TV nostalgia, but even this sometimes strayed into inert territory. A "Laugh-In" sketch went on far too long (and where was Goldie Hawn?). Josh Groban's performance of 30 TV show theme songs should have been rousing. Maybe it was in person, but on TV it, too, was pretty lifeless.
Among the winners, it was the usual mixed bag: Jean Smart winning for "Samantha Who?" was disappointing -- over Kristin Chenoweth for "Pushing Daisies"? Or Poehler for "Saturday Night Live"? -- but veteran actor Zeljko Ivanek's win for "Damages" was well-deserved.
Also worth noting:
Kimmel's pre-show: Jimmy Kimmel hosted the pre-Emmys "Jimmy Kimmel's Big Night of Stars," and although I only saw some of it while flipping around, what I saw cracked me up.
"You were born a baby, right?" Kimmel asked Salma Hayek in a mockery of a Barbara Walters interview special, complete with soft-focus lens and roaring fire in the background. "On a scale of uno to diez, how attractive do you find me?"
Then they broke into a full musical production number.
Know your audience: Emmy host Tom Bergeron told viewers at home the Emmy Awards were being held in the new Nokia Theatre at "L.A. live," and he shouted "LIVE!" at viewers, most of whom have no idea the name of the complex that houses the theater is called "L.A. Live."
What else would you expect? Some viewers may have been uncomfortable with Ricky Gervais' challenge to Steve Carell to hand over the Emmy Gervais won last year and that Carell ran off with, but that comedy-of-the-uncomfortable is what Gervais is known for and what made the original "The Office" a hit.
Worst political statement: On the E! pre-show, Brad Garrett (" 'Til Death") told Seacrest he met his current girlfriend at a party hosted by Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and dedicated to, um, the sale of self-gratification devices my editor won't let me mention by name.
Best political statements: Political statements -- and encouragement to viewers to vote -- popped up frequently in the Emmy telecast.
Honorary Emmy winner Tommy Smothers ("The Smothers Brothers") said, "It's hard for me to stay silent, when I keep hearing that peace is only attainable through war. And there is nothing more scary than watching ignorance in action."
And Emmy winner Laura Linney -- for playing Abigail Adams in HBO's "John Adams" -- took a swipe at Gov. Palin's Republican convention vice presidential nomination speech when she said she would remember her character and take time to be "thankful and grateful for the community organizers who helped found our country."