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Emmys 2012 Review: Jimmy Kimmel Scores

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On this Emmy night, I'd like to thank my manager, my agent, my lawyers and my hairstylist, but most of all I'd like to thank Jimmy Kimmel for keeping me away from prescription painkillers and hard liquor during Sunday's Emmy awards show broadcast.

Every Emmy broadcast becomes a slog, there's no doubt about that. Three hours of anything -- yes, anything -- become hard to bear after a while.

But the mischievous quality that Kimmel and his team -- as well as the game nominees and winners, who kept things sprightly whenever they could -- made the Emmys telecast much less of a chore than it could have been. It was even -- dare I say it -- fun at times.

And it was certainly a thrill to watch Showtime arrive as a network in real time, as it scooped up big wins for "Homeland" actors Damian Lewis and Claire Danes and of course, Showtime's thriller also won the Big Kahuna itself, Best Drama. Not only did "Homeland" break "Mad Men's" best-drama streak (and the AMC show got no awards Sunday), it picked up the most glittering statues of the night. Showtime didn't just steal the thunder of Emmy big dog HBO, it diced up that thunder and ate it for breakfast.

To quote an exuberant Danes: "Mandy Patinkin! Holla!"

During Sunday's Emmy broadcast on ABC, the wins for shows that have won a lot of hardware previously got a tiresome. (Hey, now that "Modern Family" has won a few Emmys, maybe people will watch that cult comedy! Just maybe!)

Having said that, the Emmys telecast, generally speaking, went about as well these things can. The parts of it that involved Kimmel worked well, and there were enough wins from a new crop of nominees -- "Louie," "Veep" and "Homeland" among them -- to keep the show relatively interesting.

Overall, for the first two-thirds of the broadcast, the pace was brisk and there were enough silly or funny things happening to keep me from reaching for a bottle. Kimmel got Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul to star in a hilarious re-envisioning of "Breaking Bad" as a latter-day "Andy Griffith Show," and in one of the most amusing bits, Kimmel dedicated an In Memoriam segment to himself. As he was serenaded by Josh Groban, who sang One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful," a clip reel of Kimmel's work over the years played, and in one clip, he interrupted an interview with Matthew Perry to break the fourth wall and sing along with Groban.

Later, he asked Tracy Morgan to pretend to be passed out on the stage and encouraged the audience to tweet about Morgan's "condition." And for good measure, Kimmel pointed out his parents in the audience (at least he said they were his parents), and had security remove them because they got his hopes up about winning an Emmy.

I hope Kimmel hosts the Oscars at some point, because he understands a fundamental point about the gig: You have to entertain everyone -- not just the people in the room, and not just the people at home. Kimmel made fun of the egos of the crowd in the room in a way that was both entertaining and knowing, and yet he didn't put the audience in the room on edge or act too cool for the folks at home. Most difficult of all, he made bridging that divide seem easy. As we've seen from the other awards-show hosts who have gone down in flames over the years, it's not.

The same gently mocking tone carried through to the awards introductions and various other bits as well. In their intro bits and after their wins, nominees and winners goofed on the process, all of which went a long way toward making the long broadcast more tolerable.

Like Kimmel, a lot of participants were happy to acknowledge how ridiculous the whole affair was, while reveling in another chance to show the entire world just how much they enjoy attention (and awards). As Lewis said during his acceptance speech, "I don't really believe in judging art, but I thought I'd show up just in case. It turned out all right."

Though it wasn't quite as funny as last year's "beauty pageant" moment, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Amy Poehler had some fun with the "Veep" actress' win. When Louis-Dreyfus won the best comedy actress Emmy, she pretended she'd accidentally grabbed Amy Poehler's acceptance speech when she hugged Poehler on her way up to the stage, and began reading that. Poehler then ran up to the stage to give Louis-Dreyfus her "real" speech. And when Jon Stewart and his crew won their tenth Emmy for "The Daily Show," fellow nominees Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert tackled Stewart in the aisles, leaving him very winded but able to give a funny speech about "how predictable these [expletive] things can be."

Not predictable: Kimmel in the bathroom in the show's introductory bit, crying over a botched Botox job. Several female nominees punched his face back to normal, but not before we got a glimpse of a naked Lena Dunham eating cake on a toilet. It's that kind of irreverent celebration that made whole chunks of the broadcast go by pretty painlessly.

Another thing that worked: Short segments in which directing and writing nominees were asked questions like, "What do you do when you have writer's block?" and "How would your teachers remember you?" The folks who don't normally get to be on TV had a good amount of fun with these brief, punchy segments.

Among the goofiness and sendups, there was room for sincerity as well: Ron Howard's short tribute to Andy Griffith was moving and sweet, and the actual In Memoriam segment in the middle of the broadcast was nicely done.

Of course every broadcast hits a wall, and the Emmys always slow down to a sludgy crawl when the predictable Reality categories arrive and during what I like to think as HBO Funtimes, i.e., the Movie and Miniseries category. As "Game Change" won a blizzard of awards, it was hard for the mind not to wander. If perhaps some people in the viewing audience went online to look at pictures of their adorable baby niece, who could blame them? Not I. In any event, those "Game Change" Emmys and the "Veep" win were more or less HBO's consolation prizes on what was clearly "Homeland's" big night.

Many TV fans enter awards season as a partisan of some kind of another, and sure, I would have loved it if "Louie" had picked up more awards (though two for Louis C.K. aren't shabby); it would have been swell if "Girls" had picked up a statue or two; and I wanted "Sherlock" to win something just so the world could have been Cumberbatched a little more.

I was sad that Giancarlo Esposito didn't win for career-defining work on "Breaking Bad," and do I wish "Game of Thrones" had won as many awards as "Game Change"? Sure. In what didn't turn out to be a big night for "Downton Abbey," it was a letdown that Maggie Smith wasn't there to pick up her award, because how awesome would her speech have been? Very awesome indeed, thank you very much.

And I'll admit it, one point, after "Modern Family" won yet another award, I did really consider downing an entire bottle of Jack Daniels. (I'm not hating on the show per se, but they've won everything but the Westminster Kennel Club award at this point. Give somebody else a turn someday, please?)

But hey, more than half of the Emmy ceremony was a lot of fun. I'm all for renewing Jimmy Kimmel's contract as host and lead Emmy goofball. We could certainly do worse.

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