Low moment ... Jon Cryer wins Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Two and a Half Men. Photo: Getty
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After a telecast that left the audience scratching their heads in disbelief, it is a small comfort to know that even the producers of the 64th annual Emmy Awards knew they had a turkey on their hands.
Even Cryer looked mortified as he took the stage and tried to find the words that still elude the rest of us.
The show was barely over the halfway point before they gave host Jimmy Kimmel his own "in memoriam" segment.
Emmy Awards 2012
"I don't really believe in judging art but I showed up just in case ... it turned out alright" - Homeland's Damian Lewis. Photo: Getty
It was a prescient moment: because if you hadn't already declared him dead, then Kimmel, lumbered with mediocre gags, and an almost terminally slow show pace, was certainly dying before your eyes.
OK, a television awards night is the most unnatural thing on television. In a medium that craves both brevity and speed, they tend to have neither, and in that regard the 64th annual Emmy Awards did not disappoint.
After a seemingly never-ending red carpet package packed with celebrities groaning under the weight of borrowed clothes and moaning about the Los Angeles heat, it shuffled towards a three-hour telecast finish line with all the grace of a woolly mammoth.
Claire Danes and Damian Lewis scooped Emmys for their roles in Homeland. Photo: Reuters
But it was brutally crippled from the outset. The opening monologue was stale and obvious. "Are any of you voting for Mitt Romney?" Even Hollywood, a room where a left-wing political gag is a no-brainer, couldn't rustle a laugh for that one.
Kimmel followed that with: "Being a Republican in Hollywood is like being a Chick-Fil-A sandwich on the snack table on the set of Glee." That won him a few snickers from around the fringes, assuming you know that Chick-Fil-A is an anti-gay fast food, and Glee is a very, very gay TV show. Get it? Ergh.
Things didn't get any better from there. We can live with Eric Stonestreet winning best supporting actor in a comedy over Max Greenfield, even if Greenfield was the best thing in the category. And Julie Bowen over Mayim Bialik in best supporting actress in a comedy, even if Bialik is sublimely geeky.
But Jon Cryer as outstanding actor in a comedy for his work in Two and a Half Men? Over 30 Rock's Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., the brilliant Don Cheadle, the legendary Larry David and Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons? Even Cryer looked mortified as he took the stage and tried to find the words that still elude the rest of us.
Remember, this is the category whose past winners include Ricky Gervais, Kelsey Grammer, Alan Alda and Dick Van Dyke. (Side note: yes, Burt Reynolds won in 1991, but that was a rare moment of insanity.)
So, once the honour roll was rolled out, it was clear it was Modern Family's year. And Homeland's. Sexy period drama, and past Emmy favourite, Mad Men didn't get its hoped-for record-setting fifth consecutive win as outstanding drama. In fact, it didn't win anything at all.
In summary, TV's best drama, in its best season, went home empty-handed. If the Emmys teach us anything, they teach us that excellence is its own reward. Because the Emmys will give you zip. Perhaps we will have better luck at the Golden Globes.
And Homeland's Damian Lewis swiped Mad Men's Jon Hamm for outstanding actor in a drama, giving us one of the night's few acceptance speech highlights: "I don't really believe in judging art, but I thought I'd show up just in case. Turned out all right."
Kimmel even gave Philo Farnsworth - the "inventor" of television - a nod. Say what? Didn't John Logie Baird invent television? Isn't that why we have the Logies? Not content to bury one awards night, was Kimmel determined to bury two?
A cursory check of that august online resource Wicklypedia suggests they both invented television, though as Farnsworth was a farmer and Baird was an engineer, the smart money is on Baird. Memo to TV Week: Phew. The Logies are in the clear. Next year's 1st annual Farnsworths can be spiked.
The last word surely goes to Kimmel, who joked that quality television is "the only American product the Chinese haven't figured out how to make".
If the Emmy Awards are any measure, it's something the Americans haven't mastered either.