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What we need is an Emmy alternative

It was a clean sweep, I tell you, at the Emmys on Sunday. Almost nothing I watch regularly won anything.

But then I didn't expect them to. I know better. I didn't even root, therefore, for Kyra Sedgwick in "The Closer" or Holly Hunter in "Saving Grace" because I knew that Glenn Close had it all sewn up for "Damages."

And I'm fine with that. Really.

When she lost an Oscar for one of the most remarkable performances I've ever seen in movies -- in Adrian Lyne's "Fatal Attraction" -- I knew I was going to be delighted ever afterward with every award that managed to cadge, no matter how full of unconvincing patrician noblesse oblige her acceptance speeches turned out to be.

Your tastes are just not going to be on Emmy track if you climbed into TV's wagon years ago and began to watch crime shows by the barrel, along with a generous helping of middling reality show trash (I am, Lord help me, a continuing fan of "Big Brother's" caged-rat approach to human behavior in close quarters. And the new "Survivor: Samoa" has me overjoyed at one of the contestants -- a rich Texas oil guy named Russell Hantz -- may have just set the all-time show record for misanthropy. I'm telling you if this guy plays his hand right and continues his sneering contempt, he may yet be vice president some day.)

In other words, I tend to watch television, not the 21st century version of prestige television. I'm not yet at that point where I'm a living illustration of precable TV programming genius Paul Klein's theory that people don't watch programs, they watch television. But I can tell when an award show is getting its standards from other arts and media and not from television's own native virtues.

When, for instance, you've got authentic stage legend Cherry Jones winning an Emmy (and addressing her colleagues archly as "kiddoes") and "Mad Men" cleaning up, you're a very long way from the kind of award show that, for instance, is going to recognize anyone on "Rescue Me," much less "Sons of Anarchy."

Let me just say, then, that it all seemed to me, once again, the high anxiety Emmys -- worried to death about all the "New Media" and getting its heroes and heroines from other older arts and media: movies and the stage.

As I watched the thing, it occurred to me how much the Emmys cry out for the Anti-Emmys (and don't tell me the People's Choice and Golden Globes or cable Ace awards qualify either.)

What we need, it seems to me, is a kind of enlightened couch potato equivalent of Emmy night.

So when Jon Cryer gets up there and says that his "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen really ought to get an Emmy one day for making something hard look so easy, there might actually be a receptive audience for it.

And when Hugh Laurie's name comes up as a possible awardee, everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- instantly agrees that no matter what garbage his writers put him through, his performance is one of the great ones in the entire history of television.

We need an award show that would recognize how much William Petersen's finicky dweebiness as Grissom on those first seasons of "CSI" was responsible not just for that show's success but the whole inundation of "CSI" and pseudo-"CSI" numbers to come. As pure performance goes, Petersen's now-gone subtlety, too, is for all time. (Stay tuned, though, for Jorja Fox's brief return to the show this week.)

Don't get me wrong. Bless all Sunday's Emmy winners, great and small. They were loaded with talent.

The time has come, though, for the Alt-Emmys.

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