It's never a good sign when a show celebrating television feels like a rerun from the beginning.
When host Jane Lynch of "Glee" began a pre-taped musical number celebrating TV with "surprise" guest spots from prominent actors, a viewer immediately thinks of Jimmy Fallon's "Born to Run" takeoff on last year's show.
Not in a good way, though. Fallon's opening felt fresh and funny. Lynch's felt hashed-over. Even Jon Hamm was a rerun; the "Mad Men" actor appeared in Fallon's skit, too.
There's also something a little off-putting about a musical number proclaiming television "a vast wonderland" and "joy in a box" when it's drenched in irony. This is the time of year when viewers actually want to believe that, and not feel it's all one big joke.
The problem with using irony as the dominant comedic theme is that undercuts other moments. Charlie Sheen may deserve his own real-life Emmy for his springtime of bizarre entertainment, but he came onstage Sunday to calmly wish the stars of his old "Two and Half Men" good luck in their upcoming season.
Then you waited. He couldn't mean that, could he? It had to be some sort of a joke, right? No, apparently not.
By the way, the Emmys should rethink the idea of frontloading the telecast with so many comedy awards. Not only does it diminish comedy vis a vis drama, it takes the risk of what exactly happened Sunday: that the awards were less about all of television and more about one show.
That did give Lynch her best moment of the night. "Welcome back to the 'Modern Family' awards," she said coming back from a commercial.
Speaking of "Modern Family," Emmy winner Julie Bowen needs a few meals. She looked emaciated in her gown.
The drama awards did add some class and a few surprises to the show. The biggest was when Kyle Chandler of "Friday Night Lights" took home the drama acting award, giving luster to a network show that struggled for public attention.
Guy Pearce and Kate Winslet were delights for their wins with "Mildred Pierce." Pearce was drolly humorous in talking about working with Winslet, while Winslet — a big movie star — was infectious with her enthusiasm.
It's early in awards season, but can we start a moratorium on winners saying "I did not think that was going to happen" or "I was sure I wasn't going to win so I didn't write a speech"? Come on, we heard from the "Mad Men" folks when they won best drama. You're the most praised show on television, and you say you're surprised to win an Emmy? Come on. If you're nominated, don't act surprised to win.
The Emmy for most sincere pleasure had to go to Margo Martindale, a veteran actress genuinely touched by winning for "Justified."
We're happy for "The Good Wife" and CBS and for Julianna Margulies for her Emmy. But it sounded awfully off-putting to hear her describe "my stellar cast."
It's also time, perhaps, to get rid of the announcer who makes pithy comments while Emmy winners approach the stage, like when he talked about Margulies' favorite "I Love Lucy" episodes as she climbed to the stage. Really? When it's neither funny nor adds valuable information, it may be the time to rethink it.
You want reruns? How about "The Daily Show" and Jon Stewart winning an Emmy for their show for the ninth year in a row? Or another win for "Amazing Race"? Their work shouldn't be diminished, but it's just one more signal for viewers that they've seen it all before. David Spade couldn't have looked less excited about the reality show awards if he was trying to act that way.
In one sign that much of the creativity in television has shifted to late-night, one of the night's best routines came when Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel came onstage to present an award. Their elaborate joke about whether or not Fallon had written a speech in case he won an Emmy felt fresh and funny.
We liked the beauty pageant way the nominees for best comedy actress lined up onstage when their names were called.
The biggest backstage buzz was about someone who WASN'T there: Alec Baldwin. He asked that a pre-taped bit that included him in the opening skit be excluded when a joke involving News Corp.'s phone hacking scandal was cut out by Emmys broadcaster Fox. He was replaced by Leonard Nimoy.
It all made Ricky Gervais' comedy skit seem more ironic. The controversial "Golden Globes" host appeared in a pre-taped routine, and said Fox editors would change it if he said something offensive. Of course, he seemed to say several "offensive" things awkwardly cut out and replaced. After Gervais started saying that HBO was the best network on television, the edit had him saying, "apart from Fox, that is."