Elaine Stritch wins an Emmy

Up until the time Elaine Stritch won her 2004 Emmy Award for the D.A. Pennebaker HBO special Elaine Stritch: At Liberty (a documentary taping of her landmark Tony Award winning solo show), the awards ceremony was one of the dullest in memory. But when the legendary stage actress won for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, she bounded onto the stage with an energy and excitement that invigorated the audience and amused everyone in the house as well as at home. The speech was one of the funniest I’ve ever heard – and typically Stritch (she was the only winner who had to be censored). It was a highlight of the ceremony, and became a great running gag for the rest of the evening.


The item was picked up by news sources and blogs and was voted “Best Loose Cannon” by Entertainment Weekly. Fellow nominee Ellen DeGeneres invited Stritch to appear on her talk show the very next day, and Stritch accepted. She talked about her stage career and of working for George Abbott. Again, proving to be one of the funniest women in the room. Here is an excerpt:


I’m with Coco

Lots of brouhaha over the late night talk shows this week (talk of a sequel to The Late Shift? yikes!) and I might as well declare myself Team Conan. I’ve been a fan since ’98, when my older brother introduced me to The Late Night 5th anniversary special. For years, I’ve found his humor smart, offbeat and strangely endearing. My brothers and I were excited to see him take on The Tonight Show, and looked forward to seeing the new direction the show would take with Conan’s sensibility over the next few years. One of those insufferable yet banal life choices was whether to watch Conan or Craig Ferguson, as I am a big fan of both. Having Conan on the Tonight Show made it easier – one right after the other. It’s also amazing to look at the executives who seem to be acting as if they’d never worked in television before. This has to be one of the biggest PR nightmares in recent TV memory. Now with Jay returning to his old timeslot and Conan leaving NBC (and Jimmy Kimmel pwning Leno like it was nobody’s business last evening) it will be interesting to see how this unending drama plays out.

Back in 2001, the producers of the Broadway revival of The Music Man were looking for a replacement for star Craig Bierko. While Will & Grace star Eric McCormack assumed the role for his summer hiatus, one of the original choices they approached was Conan O’Brien. The soon to be former Tonight Show host is a fan of the musical; he famously used it as an inspiration for the classic “Marge & the Monorail” episode of The Simpsons from back in that series’ early years. (It also featured a Harold Hill crowd-rouser type song called, simply, “Monorail!”). The talk show host was very much interested, but due to his TV commitments they just couldn’t work around the scheduling.

I hope Conan is back on TV – and soon. I also hope he moves back to NY, as I think this city is more his groove. For a trip down memory lane, here is his opening number from the 2006 Emmy telecast to the famed “Trouble” from that aforementioned Meredith Willson classic. Enjoy:

Emmy Roundup

It was the final game at Yankee Stadium this evening, so I have actually not been watching the regularly scheduled programming called “The Emmy’s.” Truth be told, I’ve never been as big on the Emmy awards as I am on the Tonys or especially the Oscars.

But tonight isn’t necessarily a night to just discuss the Emmys. For me it becomes a night for New York – especially with the number of NY based shows and theatre actors who are being celebrated this evening. The stadium that Ruth built, one of the great icons of our city, is ending its 85 year run tonight. Later this week, the Mets will play their last game at Shea stadium, but with all due respect, they have nothing on the legacy left by the Bronx Bombers and their home. Starting next season, they will play at the new Yankee Stadium, which is in its design more akin to the 1923 stadium than the 1976 revision. Anyway, the evening’s festivities and memories felt more like a New Orleans funeral for someone who was still living than anything else. It was a great night to be a New Yorker. It was a terrible night if you were involved in the Emmy Awards telecast.

I did catch more of the Emmys towards the close of the ceremony and missed seeing the opening live on TV. I caught it on the internet later. My mistake. I have never seen anything worse than the five Emmy hosts filling dead air with nothing. It was an offense to writers everywhere, not to mention the intelligence of those in the audience and the few watching at home. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the worst-ever ratings were a result of thousands reaching for the remotes in the first ten minutes). My brief rant: you had Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, and Conan O’Brien in the house. Hell, Don Rickles would have done a better job without a script at 82 than the reality hosts. (Let’s face it, reality shows: you’re the Jackie Collins of television).

However, almost more embarrassing than that was the horrifying medley of TV themes as performed by Josh Groban. I think the only performer who could have successfully given such a manic performance packed with as many songs would have been the late great Dorothy Loudon. If you saw it, you know how bad it was.

However, there was much to celebrate. AMC’s Mad Men, set in NY and featuring many contemporary theatre actors, took the prize for Best Drama Series, a first for basic cable. My beloved 30 Rock took Comedy Series for the second year in a row. John Adams was Best Miniseries.

Theatre actors were winning in droves: Jeremy Piven (Entourage), Jean Smart (Samantha Who?), Dianne Wiest (In Treatment), Zeljko Ivanek (Damages), Glenn Close (Damages), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Laura Linney (John Adams), Paul Giamatti (John Adams) and Eileen Atkins (Cranford) have all tread the boards on Broadway. (Okay, so Piven has yet to make his debut, but he was in rehearsals before he was a winner – and is starting previews next week, so I’m giving him a pass here!) Tom Wilkinson (John Adams) has done extensive theatre work in London.

Props to Tina Fey, whom co-star Alec Baldwin called “the Elaine May of her generation” in his acceptance speech, on winning three awards for the fantastic, NY-based satire on the television industry, 30 Rock. Best Writing. Best Actress. Best Comedy Series. That says a lot about this brilliant writer’s ability. (Sarah Palin anyone?) This show is the funniest thing on TV you are probably not watching, at least if we use the ratings as a gauge. Season 1 is out on DVD and 2 will be out shortly, so be sure to catch up. The episodes are sharp, well-written and unexpected in their unending hilarity and wit. Jane Krakowski, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer costar. Guest stars have included Isabella Rossellini, Paul Reubens, Al Roker, Chris Mathews, Tucker Carlson, Elaine Stritch (in an Emmy-winning turn season one), Steve Buscemi, Tim Conway (winning this year), Carrie Fisher, Edie Falco, David Schwimmer, Al Gore, Rip Torn, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. In the upcoming season (which starts on October 30) Jennifer Aniston and Oprah are among the stars making appearances.

Next year, get a host!

Quote of the Day, Emmy Edition

It’s a fact that awards aren’t necessarily the best indicator of quality. That doesn’t make it any less shocking that Angela Lansbury has been nominated 18 times but never won an Emmy

After seven decades in showbiz, she’s a living legend, with four Tonys, six Golden Globes and three Oscar nods. But the role she’s most known for — mystery novelist-cum-amateur-sleuth Jessica Fletcher on ‘Murder, She Wrote’ — earned her 12 Emmy noms (no wins), for a career total of 18 … and she never complained like Susan Lucci.

– AOL’s profile of this weekend’s Emmy awards

It really is a travesty that the highest award in television has never been bestowed on Lansbury, but looking at the other actors in this list, she enjoys the esteemed company of Gracie Allen, George Burns, Sherman Hemsley, Michael Landon (who was never Emmy-nominated once over the course of three series, 652 episodes of television!), Bob Newhart, Jane Kaczmarek, Jason Alexander, Buddy Ebsen, Desi Arnaz, Andy Griffith and Jackie Gleason.

Well, there’s always a place on Broadway for Angie. So come back to us as Madame Arcati in the spring revival of Blithe Spirit and clear your mantle for a fifth Tony!!