Third time's a charm for Emmys

by Rebecca Leffler | 11/5/01 6:00am

"Welcome to the 53rd, 54th and 55th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards," joked host Ellen DeGeneres as she greeted those famous faces of the entertainment industry last night at the Shubert Theater in Los Angeles.

After weeks of anticipation, the 53rd Annual Emmy Awards finally aired. The show was originally scheduled to air Sept. 16, but was postponed after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, then called off again just hours before the rescheduled Oct. 7 airdate because of the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan.

However, in true American spirit, the Academy decided that "the show must go on" and primetime stars gathered together once again to honor those whose lives are dedicated to providing entertainment in the best of times and the worst of times.

While the show did indeed go on, this year's Emmy's had a very different feel from previous years. From the moving montages honoring those who passed away on Sept. 11 to the absurd comedy of host Ellen DeGeneres, the show paid tribute to the American spirit, while, at the same time, providing all the drama and the humor that television is famous for.

As the opening credits rolled, cameras zoomed in on a big-screen image of the American flag as "America the Beautiful" echoed in the background. Viewers and audience members were reminded that television "speaks to a global audience" and "honors those cherished freedoms that set us apart as a nation and as a people."

Ellen DeGeneres provided a very entertaining performance, making comical references to the long delay of the awards show without entering into inappropriate territory concerning the Sept. 11 attacks. In her opening monologue, DeGeneres emphasized her internationally controversial role as host of the event: "What would bug the Taliban more than seeing a gay woman in a suit surrounded by Jews?"

From pulling a man from the balcony section into the front row to exchanging a laugh with Steve Martin, DeGeneres provided comedy without forgetting those whose lives were taken just weeks ago. Even DeGeneres herself pointed out how difficult it has been for comedians to be funny without being tactless in light of recent events.

From a montage of video clippings showing the reactions from around the world to the attacks on America to a presentation by Martin Short wearing a 200-lb fat suit, this year's Emmy's were both entertaining and respectful.

Academy Chairman Rice Sable addressed the audience and explained his reasoning for holding the awards shows at such a pressing time in the nation's history. Terrorism aims to crush the spirit of it's survivors, according to Sable, and the Academy did not want to accept defeat. Walter Cronkite helped set a more serious tone as he praised television for its efforts to help the country make it through such a difficult time.

While all the suits and the glitzy gowns still managed to appear in the Hollywood spirit -- come on, did you really think the lovely ladies of television would show up in paper bags? -- guards searched cars and police officers lined the red carpet.

I learned many things tonight, among them the fact that my skills in picking Emmy winners are severely lacking ( I was 1 for 6). Here's a look at my predictions and last night's winners.

Best Drama Series

My vote: "The Sopranos"

Who I thought would win: "The West Wing"

Who won: "The West Wing"

Best Actor in a Drama

My vote: Rob Lowe, "The West Wing"

Who I thought would win: Martin Sheen, "The West Wing"

Who won: James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos"

Best Actress in a Drama

My vote: Lorraine Bracco, "The Sopranos"

Who I thought would win: Lorraine Bracco, "The Sopranos"

Who won: Edie Falco, "The Sopranos"

Best Comedy Series

My vote: "Will & Grace"

Who I thought would win: "Malcolm in the Middle"

Who won: "Sex and the City"

Best Actor in a Comedy

My vote: Eric McCormack, "Will and Grace"

Who I thought would win: John Lithgow, "3rd Rock from the Sun"

Who won: Eric McCormack, "Will and Grace"

Best Actress in a Comedy

My vote: Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm in the Middle"

Who I thought would win: Jane Kaczmarek, "Malcolm in the Middle"

Who won: Patricia Heaton, "Everybody Loves Raymond"