11/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

2009 Emmy Awards

The 61st Annual Emmys, with the theme this year "A Tribute to Lorne Michaels," benefited greatly by having Neil Patrick Harris host instead of Heidi Klum, yet introduced maybe the most appalling innovation in all its 61 years: the promo scroll at the bottom of the screen. Right in the middle of someone's acceptance speech they would flash, "Jennifer Love Hewitt and Patricia Arquette in 5 minutes." In other words, just five minutes until these nobodies are through and people you care about will again be on.

Never once during an actor's speech however, did they flash "The Writers of Burn Notice in 6 minutes."

It was painfully obvious that the producers had one goal only -- reverse the ratings trend and not lose again to the Weather Channel. The scroll was one device. Another was to pre-shoot several awards and only air edited versions (cutting out those interminable crosses from the winners' seats up to the stage). But the ATAS realized that might be disrespectful to the industry when the major guilds threatened to boycott the show and not grant them use of any film clips.

So in reviewing the telecast I have to cut them some slack because they had to stage an awards show where they were forced to actually show the awards.

The evening started on a high note for me since KTLA Channel 5 once again rolled out their red carpet show. Hosted, of course, by celebrity footstool Sam Rubin and a random bimbo. This year's tomato was Victoria Recano, who I learned is their evening news anchor. These two lovable chuckleheads are always good for a few idiotic questions and comments. Also present was Tom O'Neill (a so-called Emmys expert). Sam asked him for a preview of the show and he said, "The highlight will be the In Memoriam feature."

And then there was fashion expert Jennifer Dorogo (whoever the hell she is). Jen did not like Elizabeth Moss' gown. So Sam asks, "Is there someone to blame?" Apparently not since Jen declares, "The celebrities have the final say."

Victoria to Anna Gunn regarding her gown, "Who is this guy?"

Sam to Johnny Galecki of Big Bang Theory: "Have you heard from nerds?"

Dexter's Julie Benz, quite birdlike in a dress that looked like a chandelier, was very excited to get the free mints KTLA doled out. My daughter Annie said, "That's her dinner."

More fashion critiques from Jennifer Dorogo, who somehow mistook Lonny Ross (Josh on 30 Rock) for Jennifer Morrison (of House).

The actual show got off to a rousing start with Neil Patrick Harris (in a white dinner jacket) singing a big splashy opening number. The Academy wanted to recapture the magic of Neil hosting the Tonys and they certainly succeeded: it was the gayest opening of the Emmys ever. But Doogie can really sing and perform and has a nice easy charm. I thought he was the best Emmy host in ages. Next year the show airs on a different network, so depending on which it is, expect either Gordon Ramsay or Katherine Heigl.

There were fewer Kanye West jokes than I thought. Maybe twelve.

Very elegant comedy montage -- pratfalls, sex jokes, and Tina Fey on the toilet. Doesn't it seem like Frasier's been off the air for a hundred years?

Yay for Kristin Chenoweth, who won for a show that ABC canceled. Her voice is so squeaky high anyway that when she started to cry garage doors all over America went up. But her emotional speech felt very real and heartfelt and after directing her last sitcom, I'm relieved that I didn't kill her career.

A big comedy bit was "Best Seat in the House." A supposed fan is given the best seat in the house. But one time it's behind the Harlem Globetrotters and another it's behind equipment. Ha ha. I'm sorry but I'd rather see a winning writer walk all the way from his house to the stage than that lame bit.

Much funnier was the mock commentary by John Hodgman and Neil Patrick Harris introducing presenters by their most cringeworthy credits. Fortunately for me, no one from Mannequin 2 was a presenter this year.

Olivia Wilde had the dress of the night, maybe the year. It was a two-piece white backless gown. Feathers over her left breast and then the other part. All she needed was a parrot on her elbow and she could get a thousand dollars a night performing at the Badda Bing.

I'm sure Toni Collette deserved her award. I understand she was very good. What show was she on again?

The Reality Show montage: five minutes of angry people being bleeped. This is the "excellence in television" we're celebrating tonight.

When Jessica Lange was thanking everyone in the world I was hoping for a promo crawl underneath her to say, "Jessica Lange speech over in 8 minutes."

One category they should eliminate is "Guest Actor/Actress" for comedy and drama. These are nothing more than a salute to stunt casting. It's a reward for movie stars to slum it and do TV or former TV stars to get a big payday while they still can. Steve Martin, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Aniston, and perennial Ellen Burstyn (who actually won one year for being on camera for literally 14 seconds). Replace the category with "Newcomers of the Year." The ATAS wants new viewers? Honor new talent. Can you imagine anyone who uses the word "dude" rooting for Ellen Burstyn?

How is Jimmy Smits considered a "Guest" actor on Dexter? He was in 12 of the 13 episodes.

Debra Messing came dressed as Ariel, the little Mermaid.

I was thrilled for Michael Emerson and Cherry Jones. Happy for Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin (although I would have been happier for Jim Parsons).

Jeff Probst -- Best Reality Host. Hugh Laurie can't win an Emmy but this guy now has two for saying, "Wanna know what you're playing for?" every friggin' episode.

During the Movies and Mini-Series montage they should have had a promo crawl that said, "Music and Variety Awards in 38 minutes."

Note to winner Shohreh Aghdashloo: Sleeves!!

How did Bruce Gowers win an Emmy for directing American Idol? First of all, it was in the musical-variety category. Isn't American Idol a reality show? And second, how hard is it to direct American Idol? One singer at a time comes out and stands in the same spot. And the judges all sit at one table. Half the nimrods on YouTube could do that.

Only in television could the great Sir Ian McKellan, Kenneth Branaugh, Kevin Kline, Kevin Bacon, and Brendan Gleeson be up for the same Best Actor in a Movie award with Keifer Sutherland for the two-hour 24.

After Ken Howard thanked someone for giving him a kidney, isn't it a little hard for the next winner to go up and thank Lorne Michaels?

Family Guy might've won for Best Comedy had they campaigned.

I hear Grey Gardens was great unless you were expecting the musical.

No one who watched any of the mini-series or movies-for-television had the slightest clue what the Dr. Horrible bit was all about.

Congratulations to all the Creative Arts winners, although there was not even a single mention of them this year. "Creative Arts" is a nice word for "crew." To use a football analogy (since most people were watching the Cowboys-Giants game anyway) they're the offensive line that protects the quarterback. Without them Teri Hatcher would be sacked forty times a game.

Question about the Variety montage -- there was a shot of the Inauguration. The Presidential Inauguration is now considered Musical/Variety?

You're going to think I'm making this up but I'm not. While the winners of the best song were giving their acceptance speech a promo crawl appeared that read, "In Memoriam in 11 minutes."

The one criticism everyone had about the Oscars was that instead of just showing the people who passed on full screen during the "In Memoriam" segment, they opened with a long shot of the stage, the names and faces appearing on a screen in the background while an anguished singer performed in the foreground. That was universally reviled. So what do the Emmys do? The exact same thing.

I was happy for Matthew Weiner of Mad Men, although during his speech I half expected a promo crawl to say, "Summer Olympics in 3 years."

No big surprises for the honored shows. Mad Men, 30 Rock, The Amazing Race, The Daily Show. All well deserved. But if Lost, Dexter, Family Guy, or The Colbert Report had won I wouldn't have been that upset.

Will all the "improvements" and Neil Patrick Harris be enough to turn the tide? It's hard to say. They certainly made some strides. But the Weather Channel had a special on hail storms in Kansas. I'm not optimistic.

Read Ken's blog here.