THE THEME of this year's Emmy telecast was "Into the '90s." If the show is representative of the medium's next decade, then it looks like it's back to the future.
The highly-touted cutting edge that's been making television a much more interesting place the last few months was dulled a bit last night, not only by an uneven, pedestrian Emmy show, but by awards that tended to stick with the safe and sound.
OK, you give the Television Academy some credit for giving "In Living Color" the best variety Emmy, for naming "Cheers'" Bebe Neuwirth as best comedy supporting actress, for finally giving Ted Danson his Emmy, for naming "Murphy Brown" the top comedy, for honoring Tracey Ullman and her late, lamented show.
But in the high profile awards given out last night, "Twin Peaks" went 0 for 5. That included a couple of horrendous injustices.
Peter Falk can phone in "Columbo" these days, yet he gets best dramatic actor over the inventive performance of Kyle MacLachan? Come on!
And Scott Winant's direction of the nominated episode of "thirtysomething" was special, but Thomas Carter, a talented director, had a confused mess on his hands with the pilot of "Equal Justice." And they tie for the best director award ahead of David Lynch's mesmerizing "Twin Peaks" pilot? Absurd.
Consider that the most-honored director last night was Joseph Sargent. He's a fine, above-average TV director, but the last time he broke ground, it was probably on a new house. Yet he not
only got the miniseries/movie directing award for "Caroline?" but saw another of his shows, "The Incident," tie "Caroline?" for best miniseries/movie.
Look, "L.A. Law" is a fine series to be sure, but it's almost a formula show by now. No way it should get the writing and drama Emmys over "Twin Peaks."
The message sent out by the TV Academy's so-called blue ribbon panels, Academy members who spent a weekend in a hotel screening shows and voting on the Emmys, was that awards go to conventional television that is very well done, not to the pioneers. Maybe some of those audience members yelling for "Twin Peaks" should show up and join the panels next year.
As for the show itself, it was fairly unremarkable, other than Diane English, the highly respected talent behind "Murphy Brown," the surprise winner of the Andrew Dice Clay-Guns N Roses Seven-Second Delay award for her slip of the expletive.
The bit with the Simpsons handing out an award was well-done, and there was a nice Jim Henson tribute, using clips with stars of the variety show reading out the long lists of their nominated writers.
But otherwise, the use of clips from winning shows was confusing and unpredictable. The writing was lousy, most of the jokes fell flat, and no honorees, barring perhaps "thirtysomething's" Patricia Wettig's moving acceptance for best drama actress, gave inspired speeches.
And the winners are...
Here is a partial list of winners of the 42nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards presented Saturday and Sunday nights.
DRAMA SERIES: "L.A. Law," NBC.
COMEDY SERIES: "Murphy Brown," CBS.
MINISERIES: "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story," NBC.
DRAMA-COMEDY, SPECIAL: Tie, "Hallmark Hall of Fame: Caroline?" CBS; and "AT&T; Presents: The Incident," CBS.
VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SPECIAL: "Sammy Davis Jr.'s 60th Anniversary Celebration," ABC.
VARIETY MUSIC OR COMEDY SERIES: "In Living Color," Fox.
LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES: Patricia Wettig, "thirtysomething," ABC.
LEAD ACTOR DRAMA SERIES: Peter Falk, "Columbo," ABC.
LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES: Candice Bergen, "Murphy Brown," CBS.
LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES: Ted Danson, "Cheers," NBC.
LEAD ACTOR, MINISERIES OR SPECIAL: Hume Cronyn, "Age-Old Friends," HBO.
LEAD ACTRESS, MINISERIES OR SPECIAL: Barbara Hershey, "A Killing in a Small Town," CBS.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA SERIES: Marg Helgenberger, "China Beach," ABC.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA SERIES: Jimmy Smits, "L.A. Law," NBC.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY SERIES: Bebe Neuwirth, "Cheers," NBC.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY SERIES: Alex Rocco, "The Famous Teddy Z," CBS.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, MINISERIES OR SPECIAL: Eva Marie Saint, "People Like Us," NBC.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, MINISERIES OR SPECIAL: Vincent Gardenia, "Age-Old Friends," HBO.
INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE, VARIETY OR MUSICAL PROGRAM: Tracey Ullman, "The Best of the Tracey Ullman Show," Fox.
DIRECTING, COMEDY SERIES: "The Wonder Years: Good-Bye," ABC.