If only audience member Jack Kevorkian had stepped in to put it out of the 62nd annual Emmy Awards misery.
Of course, the Emmys are not the Grammys, with hours of extravagant performances, or the Oscars, with nominated songs and big dance numbers and armies of writers, or the Tonys, with nominees taking the stage to show you why they’re there.
The Emmys are more of a news story than a television show, with more than two dozen awards crammed into three commercial-laden hours, and not much room for anything else.
The notable exception, in this case? An extravagant opening number in which Jimmy Fallon managed the peppiest version of “Born to Run” in history, while the likes of Jon Hamm, Tina Fey, Chris Colfer and Jane Lynch tried to pretend that a Springsteen chorus line makes a lick of sense.
But in this era of “American Idol” and “Glee,” that’s what pop music has become on TV: songs you know performed by people other than the ones who wrote and sang them to begin with.
It wasn’t pretty – vocally, Fallon ran out of gas halfway down the Jersey Turnpike – but it was in keeping with the zeitgeist. And it gave the Emmys a shot of adrenaline that might have lasted through a few of those seemingly endless awards to come — if the subsequent award hadn’t been followed by the first of many commercial blocks that effectively kept the show from developing any kind of momentum.
With his rock ‘n’ roll sensibility and virtuoso mimicry, Fallon is a terrific host for some awards shows – but probably not for this one, where his acoustic guitar interludes fell flat and he hardly had any time for any extended bits.
On the other hand, Fallon’s tribute to the departed shows “Lost,” “24” and “Law & Order” as Elton John, Boyz II Men and Green Day was a kick, and showcased the comic’s true strengths.
(The more serious "In Memoriam" segment, though, was not helped by the fact that it was accompanied by a deadly dull song by Jewel.)
At any rate, there’s only so much any host can do with this format. The real impact of the Emmys show comes from water-cooler moments supplied by winners who are suitably emotional or funny or overcome; the pitfall that’s nearly impossible to avoid comes from long lists of thank-yous from those whose priority seems to be not leaving anybody out.
George Clooney fits into the first category, of course, though he was (perhaps appropriately) subdued accepting his Bob Hope Humanitarian Award. Among other winners, Jane Lynch was delightfully flustered, Bryan Cranston suitably humbled, Al Pacino charmingly rumpled and rambling.
But too many winners fell into to the agent/lawyer thank-you routine. (I’m talking to you, Kyra Sedgwick and Ryan Murphy.)
Face it, the Emmys may be TV’s biggest night, but it’s never TV’s best night – and the TV Academy’s rule that the Emmy show is not eligible for Emmy Awards is probably a wise one, not only to prevent a conflict of interest but to keep it from going up against shows that have a significant advantage when it comes to opportunities for entertainment.
Executive producer Don Mischer and director Glenn Weiss did what they could: They had a few de rigeur frisky Betty White moments, they fit a surprisingly large number of video segments (some of which were pretty funny) into the show, they let Ricky Gervais nibble a little at the hand that feeds him as he passed out beer to the crowd.
But they couldn't overcome the fact that the Emmys is really just a string of awards in between a string of commercials.
And as a TV show … well, it doesn't really matter.