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Emmy wins award for putting emphasis on entertainment

If this was the "last official year of network television," as dryly and humorously predicted by presenter Julia Louis-Dreyfus, at least it went out with a fast-paced, funny and entertaining Emmy Awards show on CBS Sunday night.

The show's high entertainment value was much more surprising than the repeat wins of NBC's "30 Rock" and AMC's "Mad Men" as best comedy and best drama, respectively.

But at least the wins by "30 Rock" and several network TV stars illustrated that network TV isn't dead yet -- with almost all the wins worthy of cheering.

The show's self-mocking tone was established before host Neil Patrick Harris said a word as highlights of a shot by NBA star LeBron James, Aretha Franklin singing at President Obama's inauguration and, yes, a scene from "Wipeout," were played to illustrate the power of TV.

Dressed in a white tuxedo jacket, Harris had as good a day as Bills running back Fred Jackson. He was relaxed from his opening song number about TV programs and stars.

Harris even made the first of a few obligatory Kanye West jokes funny. Noting it was his job to make sure the show went smoothly, Harris added he hoped Kanye loves "30 Rock." Harris also had some winning, light criticism of the continuing decline of the length of theme music.

The show also benefited from some sarcastic humor from an off-camera commentator, John Hodgman of "The Daily Show" and the "I'm a PC" ads. Hodgman gave funny details about winners who started their show business careers as NBC pages or making sandwiches. At times, it wasn't clear if his jokes were made up. However, I doubt anyone believed "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" has won 900 Emmys or supporting dramatic actress winner Cherry Jones of "24" really is a leading candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

The show's quick pace through several TV genres left little time for long speeches. Maybe that's another reason why the show was so much fun.

The show was smart to begin with comedy awards since that's an area of broadcast television where many of the nominees may actually be recognized by more than 5 percent of the audience. But two early comedy winners were surprises from little-watched shows.

Kristin Chenoweth of the canceled "Pushing Daisies" cracked after winning as supporting comedy actress that she was unemployed and put in a plea to be cast in "Mad Men," "The Office" and "24."

The other early surprise winner was Australian Toni Collette of Showtime's little-watched series "The United States of Tara." But since the show is about a woman with multiple personality disorder, she obviously got to show her acting ability.

It's hard to argue with the repeat wins of Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock" as best comic actor, Glenn Close of "Damages" as best dramatic actress and Bryan Cranston of "Breaking Bad."

Jon Cryer of "Two and Half Men" was a deserving winner as best supporting actor if only because you figure the most-watched comedy on television should get one acting win.

The show moved on from comedy to reality, which probably has done more to diminish network television than anything. Thankfully, the reality portion only lasted long enough to give "The Amazing Race" another award for best competition show. The award should be called "The Amazing Race Award."

HBO's "Grey Gardens" earned all the movie awards it received. Ken Howard, the acting veteran who won a supporting actor award for his role in "Grey Gardens," had a few good lines, including the one standby: "This is very encouraging."

Similarly, there will be no demand for a recount after the variety win by "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," which was fortunate to have the 2008 election for material last season.

As far as the final category -- drama -- cheers for the supporting wins by "Lost" star Michael Emerson (Benjamin Linus) and Cherry Jones as President Taylor on "24." I would have voted for both but didn't see them winning.

All in all, from host Harris to the selection of the winners, this Emmy show was "very encouraging."

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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