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COMMENTARY

Alan Pergament: On-stage proposal saves an otherwise uninspiring Emmys

If I ever quit at halftime of an assignment, it probably will be watching the Emmy Awards.

They usually fumble the opportunity to be entertaining while celebrating television and make watching it seem longer than watching the classic miniseries “Winds of War.”

So halfway through Monday’s telecast of the 70th annual awards, I briefly contemplated pulling a Vontae Davis before deciding to finish the program.

Fortunately, that was about the exact time that Emmy-award winning director Glenn Weiss, who won for his work on the Oscars, saved the program with his acceptance speech.

Showing impeccable comic and serious timing with a speech that deserved a writing Emmy, Weiss made every man watching jealous with a marriage proposal for the ages. It was so beautiful, poignant and funny that the Emmy director even allowed Weiss to go well past the 45-second time limit all other winners had for their speeches.

So I guess my point is you should never leave at halftime even at a live, boring game or show because something terrific just may happen.

The proposal clearly was the highlight of the three-hour program, which appeared to have a few goals: Give out the awards quickly, get the darn thing over within three hours and stay away from giving President Trump a reason to tweet. I don’t think his name was mentioned once.

Co-hosts Colin Jost and Michael Che of “SNL’s Weekend Update" didn’t even mention the president by name in a pretty tame monologue that set the tone for the night.

They came out after a musical number with multiple stars, including “SNL’s" Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, celebrating the record diversity of the nominations by making fun of it in a song called “We Solved It.” Of course, they concluded that they hadn’t solved it.

And it wasn’t long before Che noted the first seven winners were all white. Eventually, that changed.

The good news is that the Emmy voters did fine by my standards, giving plenty of love to three of my favorite programs from last year, including Amazon’s “The Marvelous Miss Maisel,” FX’s “The Americans” and FX’s limited series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace.”

It also honored NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” after one of its best seasons and HBO’s “Game of Thrones” for a season that ended more than a year ago. The eligibility period was from June 1, 2017, through May 31.

As had been the case recently, the broadcast networks didn’t have much to celebrate as the great majority of winners came from cable or streaming shows.

Now here’s some more highs, lows and news about the program.

Local Angles: Lindsay Shookus, the Williamsville native who is a producer on “SNL,” was on the stage after executive Lorne Michaels accepted the Emmy for outstanding variety sketch series. And Maureen Orth – the widow of Tim Russert – was on the stage when “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” won as best limited series. She wrote the book upon which the series was based. The TV series, which included an Emmy-winning performance by Darren Criss as a serial killer who murdered Versace, deserved a much bigger audience. Maybe it will get it now.

Best Speeches: Jeff Daniels, who won as supporting actor for his role in the Netflix western series “Godless,” gave a beautifully written funny and serious speech. He even thanked his horse. And Rachel Brosnahan, who won as lead actress for “Mrs. Maisel,” gave a get-out-the vote speech after noting her series was about “a woman finding her voice.”

Best Line: Amy Sherman-Palladino, who won writing and directing awards for “Mrs. Maisel,” noted the series was inspired by her father. “I had to turn a 6-foot, 2-inch Bronx Jew into Rachel Brosnahan,” she cracked. If you haven’t seen the series and have an Amazon account, you should know its shows are free for you to watch. I highly recommend Amazon’s “Jack Ryan,” the new series starring John Krasinski as an instinctive CIA analyst who is practically turned into a superhero. I watched all eight episodes in two nights. It is better than many seasons of “24” and should be up for an Emmy next season.

Most Interesting Promo: Showtime ran a promo for the upcoming prison break series, “Escape from Dannemora,” directed by Ben Stiller. The last I heard it doesn’t have an air date on Showtime but is expected to be on before the end of the year.

Biggest Waste of Time: Maya Rudolph and Fred Armisen were brought on several times to play so-called Emmy experts. The comedy bits fell flat.

Best Proposal Follow-ups: I thought Tina Fey, who was a presenter after the proposal, might have said something funny about it. She didn’t even try, perhaps because the proposal already jeopardized the chances of the show finishing in three hours. But Matthew Rhys, who won as best dramatic actor for “The Americans” opposite his co-star and partner, Keri Russell, cracked in his acceptance speech: “She said, 'If you propose to me I will punch you clean in the mouth.'” Jost also had a decent post-proposal line: “There are so many guys who didn’t win with engagement rings in their pockets,” he cracked.

Best Filmed Piece: Che’s filmed piece on “The Reparations Emmys,” in which he handed out Emmys to African-American stars of old series, was the best bit of the night.

Happy Days: It is tough to say something memorable in 45 seconds at the Emmys. Besides Brosnahan and Daniels, Henry Winkler and Bill Hader of the HBO comedy “Barry” nailed it. In winning his first Emmy, Winkler of "Happy Days" fame, cracked “I have 37 seconds. I wrote this 43 years ago.”

Best Prediction: Jost made a crack in the opening monologue about the show’s expected low ratings early, saying there were thousands of people in the auditorium and “hundreds” at home watching. Getting many viewers to care about the Emmys has been a problem in recent years, and Monday’s show didn’t solve it locally. It only received a 6.8 rating on WGRZ-TV (Channel 2), the local NBC affiliate. Chicago’s win over Seattle on Monday Night Football had a 9.5 rating here on ESPN.

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