The Rundown: The Emmys

"Queer Eye" jokes, J.Lo cracks, and yucks about actresses over 50 -- recounting the memorable moments of television's annual feel-good extravaganza.

By Heather Havrilesky

Published September 22, 2003 3:11PM (EDT)

Here at Salon, we feel it's our duty to shield you readers from the mind-numbingly dull TV events that might pull you away from more important activities, like reading classic works of literature or watching paint dry. Much as you'd like to avoid four grueling hours of entertainers claiming to love each other dearly, wishing each other the very best and promising to feed each other's pets when they're on vacation, you still live in fear that someone in your office will refer to Jon Stewart's hilarious routine on the Emmys last night and you won't know what he's talking about.

There you'll be, stirring non-dairy creamer dust into your bitter office coffee, when that snarky whippersnapper from marketing will start yammering on about Sarah Jessica Parker's awful hairstyle, and this little voice in your head will berate you for being such a crusty old loser. And even though you thought you effectively shoved a big wool sock in the mouth of that little voice years ago through countless hours of expensive therapy, you'll still wish that you had at least a little inkling of what happened on that tedious awards show the night before.

See how well we know you?

Thus, here at Salon, we get an actual loser (like me, for example) to watch more than four worthless hours of television so that you can roast pork loin and plant begonias and do crossword puzzles and talk to your kids about drugs. Thanks to us, you can have an enriching, relaxing night and you can still chat with that jerk from marketing the next day about Martin Short and "Will & Grace" and how surprised you were about whatever stupid thing I decide is surprising over the next four hours of my life, hours that will be wasted completely, hours that I will never have back, ever.

So let's begin, shall we?

5:30 p.m. The Dolphins look pumped up for this game. Mike Patrick can't understate the importance of this early season matchup against their division rivals, the Bills. My boyfriend flips through the channels and I spot a promo for the Emmys. The Emmys, the Emmys ... Why does that seem important? Then I remember my assignment and break it to my boyfriend that, due to an important work assignment, it looks like he's going to miss the second half of the Miami game.

6:40 p.m. So I have to watch the show over at my friend Nancy's, whose TV is pretty small, but whose couch is much more comfortable than I thought it would be. I hope I can manage to write this thing while she's talking to me, because she seems prepared to do so throughout the entire broadcast.

6:43 p.m. Joan Rivers appears to be wearing an ostrich around her shoulders. She can't get off the Ben and J.Lo jokes. "Do you think Ben and J.Lo broke up because he called her 'J.Ho'?" Don't believe everything you read in the papers, Joan.

6:45 p.m. Joan says she's going to give us a secret sign when she hates someone's outfit. When she scratches her face, that's how the viewers at home will know to ignore the compliments flowing from her mouth. Joan, you evil whore.

6:46 p.m. Here comes Courtney Thorne-Smith, who's engaged to be married once more (triumph!) and has the mannerisms of a drunk debutante. Joan doesn't scratch her face, nor does she ask Courtney if she'll be on the cover of In Style in her wedding dress again this time.

6:53 p.m. Bob, the new Bachelor, appears to be 8 feet tall, but Joan gets bored with him almost immediately because she only likes real stars who live in her neighborhood or share her podiatrist.

6:58 p.m. Joan's ostrich is struggling to fly away. Jorja Fox from "CSI" says, "I thought we were gonna do eight shows and then get canceled." Hey, so did we.

7:02 p.m. Nancy says she wishes she could stop being so hard on herself. "Joe Millionaire's" Evan Marriott has grown a curious mustache-less goatee. Thora Birch from "American Beauty" now has blond hair. Why is the sun still up in Hollywood when out Nancy's window about three miles away, it's getting dark out? It says "live." Why do they lie to us like this? Oh. Nancy says it's only live on the East Coast. That makes sense. Nancy says that even when she gets a lot done, she feels like she hasn't accomplished enough.

7:06 p.m. Robin Williams is vomiting a steady flow of jokes about the California election. For once, Joan is tongue-tied, and then proclaims him a genius, "one of the few I respect." Which geniuses don't you respect, Joan? Nancy says she feels like she's getting an ulcer.

7:11 p.m. Who dressed Melissa Rivers in a turtleneck? Why does she have Superstar Barbie hair? What's with the rhinestone-studded mini? Nancy says Melissa's stylist must have a grudge against her. Maybe Nancy should write this, and I'll go watch the Dolphins game.

7:12 p.m. Nancy is too exhausted and stressed out to write this article for me. Stupid Nancy.

7:18 p.m. Stockard Channing alleges that everybody loves each other on "The West Wing."

7:20 p.m. Looks like Cuba Gooding Jr. is playing a retarded guy in an upcoming movie. You already have an Oscar, greedy. Nancy is talking to me but I'm not sure what she's saying because I'm trying to finish this sentence instead.

7:34 p.m. Jane Kaczmarek's earrings are bigger than her husband's head. Isn't Joan supposed to be sending us secret signals? What's her problem?

7:38 p.m. Joan asks Kim Cattrall how she maintains such a great figure, aside from the endless hours of grueling exercise. Instead of shrugging at her awesome luck, Cattrall says she diets every day of her life. "After 40, you have to."

7:44 p.m. Sarah Jessica Parker has her hair slicked back into a bun so tight, it appears to be pulling her face like a drum. Matthew Broderick looks distracted. I wonder if he's listening to the Dolphins game on an invisible headset that fits right into his ear. Nah, he's a softie Broadway kinda guy. He's probably just thinking about how bad his wife's hair looks.

7:49 p.m. Here's Jennifer Garner, saying hi to her grandmother in Texas.

7:53 p.m. The cast of "Will & Grace" are like a big family, they all love each other so much. "I love them like my brothers and sisters," says Debra Messing.

8 p.m. The Emmys are starting now, mercifully. Here comes Garry Shandling, to tell a few jokes and talk us down from our close encounters with warm, loving Hollywood families.

8:01 p.m. Shandling's telling a joke about the recall race in California. Just for the record, the only thing worse than jokes about Ben and J.Lo are 1) jokes about "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and 2) jokes about how many trillions of candidates are running for governor here.

8:03 p.m. Shandling: "I'm in syndication on Bravo. I'm the lead-in for 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.'" Camera cuts to a close-up of Ellen DeGeneres. That's right, she's gay! Just like those guys on "Queer Eye"! See how much she loved that joke? That's because she's gay! It was a gay joke!

8:07 p.m. Inspired by Britney and Madonna, Brad Garrett and Garry Shandling kiss on the mouth. Another gay joke for the gays! I love this faux-acceptance of homosexuality thing that's going around. Now let's see Chip and Reichen do the same thing, and watch the audience cringe.

8:09 p.m. Doris Roberts wins something ... must be outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series. Maybe they should just cut to the chase and call tonight's theme "Everybody Loves Everybody Loves Raymond." But isn't it a little weird that they give you awards right before you leave the air, or right before you die? That seems a wee bit false to me. I'm not saying "Raymond" isn't great, but why do shows sweep like this, when it's their last season? It's too convenient.

8:13 p.m. Here's Wanda Sykes from the aisle: "What am I doing here? I should be at home, watching this on TV, booing y'all." Wanda wants to be just like me. This should make me feel better, but it doesn't.

8:20 p.m. Jon Stewart's sendup of sensationalist news is pretty great. I remember those Fox News clips of explosions to music when they first aired -- really heartwarming stuff. Sadly, Stewart can't just keep cracking jokes for the next hour and a half, and instead is forced to announce the next award, outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, which goes to Brad Garrett from "Everybody Loves Raymond." Will everyone from "Raymond" win? The suspense is lulling me to sleep.

8:27 p.m. Nancy has been talking about how much extra responsibility she's taking on at work, but I've been tuning her out really effectively, don't you worry. I don't want you to miss a thing ... except when I leave the room for a few minutes. Darryl Hammond did an impression of Schwarzenegger while I was gone, but it's not that important, trust me.

8:31 p.m. Here comes Jeri Ryan, the hot Trekkie alien woman who moved to Boston and got a job working for the public school system. Even though she's no longer an alien, she still has really remarkable breasts. See? I won't let you miss anything important.

8:35 p.m. The Trekkie announced an award, but I was typing that thing about her breasts and missed it.

8:37 p.m. David Chase and his team got outstanding writing in a drama series for "The Sopranos." No surprise there. Oh hey -- here's the boyfriend! Dolphins won, 17-7!

8:45 p.m. Back to my apartment (thank the Lord) and I'm hoping Boyfriend can dream up some really funny jokes or insights for this piece, but he keeps saying things like, "I can't believe Ricky Williams had 42 carries for 153 yards!" and "Junior Seau had a great sack! Afterward, he screamed at the crowd like a maniac! It was so cool!" I finally told him he's stepping on King Kaufman's turf and he'd better step the hell off.

8:47 p.m. More awards that seem sort of insignificant, in the big scheme of things. A writer from "Everybody Loves Raymond" wins for best episode or something like that and calls Phil Rosenthal "the best writer in the business." Then a guy from "Curb Your Enthusiasm" calls Larry David "the greatest comic mind working in television today." Maybe those two superlative-hurlers should be forced to settle this like men, in a bare-knuckled brawl, right there on the stage ...

9:09 p.m. Joey Pants wins outstanding supporting actor in a drama series. That's a serious surprise. He's choking up, and wearing some kind of a golf cap over his bald head. Remember how, when they cut off Ralphie's head on "The Sopranos," his wig fell off and it freaked Christopher out, because he didn't know Ralphie was bald? That was cool. I didn't know he was bald, either.

9:30 p.m. Jon Stewart and the writers of "The Daily Show" win for outstanding writing in a variety/music/comedy program. Darryl Hammond trots out his imitation of Donald Rumsfeld and ruthlessly insults "Yes, Dear," which makes everyone uncomfortable because it doesn't involve the reckless use of superlatives.

9:38 p.m. Here's Wanda Sykes to jeer at the losers and pass around high school sporting trophies as consolation prizes, which is pretty funny. She probably should've hosted the whole thing. Now she's trying to get the crowd to do the Electric Slide, and the self-conscious mice are just glued to their seats, smiling politely. Wait! Peter Krause from "Six Feet Under" jumps up and tries to dance with her. Bonus points for Krause! He'd better win something.

9:30 p.m. Oh my god, we're only at the halfway point. Help. Here's Dennis Miller to introduce lowlights from the year in television, from Madonna kissing Britney to a clip of a little black dog making sweet love to a white teddy bear. I think the Emmy goes to the dog, definitely. Oh! It goes to Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show"! Excellent! Outstanding variety, music or comedy series -- what an awful name for an award. We've got three hours, can't we manage separate awards for these three categories? Are there music shows at all, or is this an outdated Lawrence Welk type of category that should've been eliminated decades ago?

9:57 p.m. Now George Lopez is making J.Lo jokes. Can you imagine being J.Lo right now, and being the brunt of every bad joke, just because ... what did she do wrong again, aside from that song about how her diamonds were confusing us? George is bombing, but there are laughs galore. "Survivor: East L.A."? Didn't I hear that one three years ago? Beer-goggle jokes getting big laughs? Are there paid laughers in this fraudience or what?

9:59 p.m. Looks like "Amazing Race," "American Idol" and "Survivor" are up against each other, along with that Bob Hope special and some American Film Institute thing, which for some reason got lumped into the "reality" category. I can't believe "Drunk Asshole Hotel" wasn't even nominated. "Amazing Race" wins, though, which is nice.

10:02 p.m. Outstanding made-for-TV movie goes to "Door to Door," starring William H. Macy. As the nominees are announced, my boyfriend has taken to shouting "No!" at the screen after each one, until they come to his personal favorite. This is good, because it makes the show just a tiny bit more exciting than it was a minute ago, before he started shouting. It also keeps me from falling asleep.

10:13 p.m. Damon Wayans comes out to announce outstanding actress in a comedy series. "Most of the actresses here tonight weren't even born when the first awards were given out 55 years ago," he says. "Except for Doris Roberts, who was actually 53 at the time." Huh? Cut to Doris Roberts, biting her nail, and shaking her head with a half-confused, half-annoyed frown on her face. Note to Wayans: Age jokes are funny for men, not so funny for women and grounds for execution by older actresses.

10:14 p.m. Debra Messing wins! That's a shocker, actually.

10:15 p.m. OK, how many times in one hour can they tease "a fond farewell to John Ritter" right before the commercial break? And how incredibly depressing is it to think that your death could be teased repeatedly on an awards show?

10:21 p.m. Here comes the president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to congratulate the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on what a great show the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has put on tonight. He's wearing a little too much blush.

10:22 p.m. Whoa, here comes Walter Cronkite. I remember watching him on TV when I was really little. I always got him confused with Henry Kissinger. Now I can tell them apart, though, because Cronkite has one really long, stray eyebrow, and Kissinger doesn't.

10:26 p.m. Ray Romano presents Bill Cosby with a lifetime achievement award. Cosby thanks his wife of 40 years, who looks about 35. Then he talks about his deceased son Ennis, which is kind of sad, and about Mister Rogers, which is also sad.

10:39 p.m. Martin Short: "If everyone were a winner, there wouldn't be anyone to look down on." Next, he sings an ode to the losers, which he rhymes with "future substance abusers." Good stuff, despite yet another J.Lo-and-Ben joke midsong.

10:43 p.m. Outstanding actor in a comedy series nominees are Larry David, Ray Romano, Matt LeBlanc, Bernie Mac, Eric McCormack and Tony Shalhoub. Guess who wins. Just guess. I don't care if you don't know who Tony Shalhoub is, guess anyway. He's on "Monk." Go ahead, guess.

10:44 p.m. Wrong! Shalhoub wins it. He says his nephew died this week. That's really, really sad. Now I'm glad he won.

10:47 p.m. Oh, sweet Jesus, time for a John Ritter tribute. Luckily, it's not a very well-done montage, or I'd be too weepy to write this highly detailed and informative description of the show you should be really glad you didn't watch.

10:49 p.m. Oh man, more dead people! This is torturous. Gregory Hines. Richard Crenna. Nell Carter. Buddy Hackett. Johnny Cash. Katharine Hepburn. James Coburn. Charles Bronson. Buddy Ebsen. David Brinkley. Gregory Peck. Fred Rogers. Bob Hope. Are we paying for our irreverence during the first half of the show with a full half-hour of unmitigated sadness?

10:59 p.m. The show is almost over. Looks like we'll end on a very low, low note. But it's nice that Edie Falco won outstanding actress in a drama series for "The Sopranos," anyway. And, to round things out, James Gandolfini wins too, for outstanding actor in a drama series.

11:06 p.m. What time is it? Are we going over? Is that what we're doing? Is this remotely fair? "CSI," "The Sopranos," "The West Wing," "24" and "Six Feet Under" are all nominated for outstanding drama series. Guess who wins. I'm gonna guess "Six Feet Under," OK? What's your guess?

11:07 p.m. Nope, we're both wrong! "The West Wing" takes it, which really makes little sense to me, considering how amazing "Six Feet Under" was last season. Aaron Sorkin accepts, along with 30 other humans who can't believe it, considering how amazing "Six Feet Under" was last season. I'm betting a good fourth of those people (including Sorkin, of course) aren't even working on the show this season.

11:08 p.m. "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Sex and the City," "Friends," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Will & Grace" are nominated for outstanding comedy series. I'm gonna go ahead and guess that "Everybody Loves Raymond" wins this one, based on our previously established Sweep Situation.

11:09 p.m. Wow, I'm pretty sharp. "Everybody Loves Raymond" wins. And here's the Nicest Guy in the Universe, Phil Rosenthal, to accept his award. This is pretty funny -- he's talking about how he wanted to do a traditional, well-made, classic sitcom but the studio wanted him to do a "hip and edgy" show. Wait a minute. This sounds really familiar. How could that be?

Nah, I must be hallucinating out of sheer boredom and desperation. Luckily, the show is finally over and it's time for bed. I hope you had a nice time working on your favorite puzzle or jarring pickled beets for the winter months, because I certainly enjoyed walking across the hot coals of Award Show Hell for your benefit. And I learned some important lessons, like the fact that Ricky Williams is a great runner partially because he's so patient, and that growing older in Hollywood means working out and dieting constantly, even though some young guy will refer to you as ancient in front of a massive audience either way. Being famous does have its benefits, though. Like when you break up with your fiancé and they make about 15 or 20 cruel jokes about it on the Emmys. Or when your sudden death is teased repeatedly on national TV. That's what it's all about, you know? That's the dream we all strive for here in Tinseltown, when we're not telling bad "Queer Eye" jokes and bumping into Joan Rivers at the podiatrist's office.

Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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