5:02: It's started. Oprah Winfrey is speaking about the power of television. Guess we should pay attention. Television is medium that can "not just entertain us but educate us and often inspire us. It's putting our own lives in high-definition," she instructs.
5:04: Here come our hosts, Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel, Jeff Probst qnd Ryan Seacrest come out in tuxes. Yes, Heidi's in a tux.
"We feel like the stepchild of TV. This is important to me. I wanted this to be special. This is my moment -- our moment," Mandel says.
Now they're into a bit about how they have nothing planned for the opening. And blaming Oprah for stealing their hifalutin stuff about television and Emmy's 60th anniversary.
"This is serious, this is not a bit," Mandel says. "We are like on Sarah Palin's bridge to nowhere."
5:06: Now they've left it to Tom and Heidi. Tom makes a joke about how Probst has never hosted a show "with indoor plumbing." Not terribly funny.
Now William Shatner has come on stage and ripped part of Heidi's tux off, now she's in sequined shorts. Still not funny. There was buzz going around Saturday's pre-Emmy parties that the five hosts were upset about how flat the opening sketch was. I believe it.
Finally, our first winner. Jeremy Piven wins his third consecutive as supporting comedy actor for "Entourage." He deserves it, even if I was rooting for "Office's" Rainn Wilson. Piven is a classy guy, and whaddya know -- he references how lame the opening bit was. Tee hee.
"These are strange times for all of us. To be a working actor is an unbelievable gift. None of this is lost on me. Thank you," Piven said. First commercial break.
5:17: We're back, and into a segment about famous TV sets. Now we're in a "Seinfeld" clip, from "The Contest." At the top of the show? Why?
5:20: Wow, Jean Smart takes the supporting comedy actress nod for "Samantha Who." Not bad for a show that barely had a half-season in a strike-disrupted Emmy frame.
"The answer to the question 'Samantha Who' is Christina Applegate. She sets the tone for the most amazing brilliant cast in the world," Smart gushes. Now she's into her litany of thank-yous. Hey, ABC's Stephen McPherson gets the first exec shout-out of the night. And they're trying to play her off...
5:25: Heidi and Jeff are back. Heidi's in a frock, finally. Probst congratulates her on "Project Runway" success and she tells him she feels "verklempt." Who wrote this??
Now we're into a "Desperate Housewives" clip package.
5:28: Now the six "Housewives" stars are presenting the supporting drama actor award. They're pretending to be fighting each other for the spotlight while paying tribute to the show's homey atmosphere.
5:30: Now Ricky Gervais is smiling at us -- telling us that he wasn't here last year "but I still won." He's giving us tips on giving a good acceptance speech. This leads into a clip package of memorable acceptance speeches.
Now Gervais is back needling Steve Carell from the stage -- remember Carell accepted Gervais' award for him last year. "I sat through 'Evan Almighty' -- give me my Emmy." Now Gervais has gone down to Carell in the audience and is trying to get his Emmy out of him. "Gimme the Emmy. Give it here."
5:35: Jeremy Piven is back stage. Looking sharp in pinstripes. Giving reporters some grief. He's asked what he meant about the opening being bad.
"I thought we were being punked as an audience. I was confused, there was that awkward moment...It was confusing, so there you have it."
He's asked the obligatory question about his third consecutive win and will he beat the record of five consecutive wins held by Don Knotts of "The Andy Griffith Show."
"To be honest with you that's all I'm focused on. There isn't a moment that goes by when I don't think 'When am I gonna take Don Knotts down?'"
Boy, Piven is going on and on. I can't hear the show -- only see it on the monitors. Looks like they're giving out the music/variety writing award right now.
"Colbert Report" wins. Good! The camera shows Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart embracing -- or was that a fist-bump?
"Oh Hollywood, all is forgiven," Colbert says. Then he gets earnest and gives out the thank-yous, including exec shout-outs to MTV Networks' Doug Herzog and Comedy Central's Michele Ganeless.
5:48: I'm told that while Piven was going on and on, Dianne Wiest won supporting drama actress for "In Treatment."
5:50: Now Steve Martin is doing the tribute to the Smothers Brothers. (He was a writer for their CBS variety show way back when.) "I'd come in in the morning and say "hi" to Tommy, and he'd say "How'd you know?" Martin recalls. Ah the good old days.
Martin notes that "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" was replaced by "Hee Haw." You do the math.
5:52: Now we have Jean Smart backstage. She gives a hearty hello to KTLA's Sam Rubin. They're gushing over each other. She's elaborating on her on-stage remarks about "Samantha Who" star Christina Applegate. "I've never seen an actress so beloved by cast and crew as Christina...and that was before she hit some hard times."
I'm bummed that I can't hear Tommy Smothers getting his big moment on stage. Oh well, I'll catch up with it later.
Jean Smart's earring just fell off. That was far more interesting than the cliche questions she's getting about women over 30 in Hollywood and how she manages to work so much!
5:58: Zeljko Ivanek stops in back stage. He's asked if he felt the love of applause when he won. "I did feel that, it was amazing." This is the level of discourse we're getting here folks. That said, I'm happy for Ivanek. Yes, I thought the award should've gone to Michael Emerson of "Lost," but Ivanek's an old "Homicide" hand so...there you go.
6:04: Oh my god, Groban is doing "MASH's" theme "Suicide is Painless" as a Broadway show stopper. I'm not kidding.
6:06: Thank god that's over. Now Alec Baldwin is using his best PBS voice to present the award for lead longform actress. Laura Linney wins for "John Adams." Totally fair, she was good as Abigail Adams -- a truly great American.
"Tom Hooper you're a genius," she says of the "John Adams" director. Then Linney gives us the first overtly political quip of the night from a winner. The Emmy win for the Adams mini will remind her to "stop and pause and be so grateful for the community organizers that helped form our country." Don't think that was off the cuff!
6:14: A tribute to "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in" features clips of contempo actors doing the "Sock it to me" line. Not trying to be overly critical here, but nothing so far has been funny.
Gary Owens and Lily Tomlin are reprising their roles as announcer and goofy telephone operator. And now other "Laugh-in" vets like Ruth Buzzi are presenting the variety/music/comedy series award, using the old "Laugh-in" windows set.
"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" wins. Stewart does a pretty mean Arte Johnson impression as he's hugged by Joanne Worley, Ruth Buzzi and Lily Tomlin. "Very in-teresting." It's pretty much the highlight of his remarks -- remarkably dry for such a quick wit.
"This has been a remarkable run for us; we really do appreciate it. And I really look forward to the next administration ...whoever it is," Stewart says.
6:21: Barry Sonnenfeld wins the comedy directing Emmy for the "Pie-lette" of "Pushing Daisies." He gives exec shout-outs to Stephen McPherson and Warner Bros. TV's Peter Roth "for championing our show." "You should surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and you'll get a great show, and you'll get all the credit," Sonnenfeld says.
6:25: Tina Fey wins for comedy writing for "30 Rock." She's classy, giving props to her fellow "30 Rock" writing nominee Jack Burditt. She thanks him for writing the phrase "Never go with a hippie to a second location." Fey looks genuinely happy to win in the category.
"I would not have any of the other jobs I've had if I had not been a writer first," she says.
6:32: Martin Sheen has just delivered a get out and vote plug, in his Josiah Bartlet persona.
6:33: Kinda weird. TV Acad prexy John Shaffner seems to be delivering an apology for the biz for last season. He tells viewers that the creative community is "dedicated to bringing you a full season of television." OK...
6:36: "Recount" wins made-for-TV movie. Good. The Cinderella story of "Recount" writer Danny Strong is complete. Producer Paula Weinstein does the talking for the group, and she notes: "This belongs to the men and women on the ground in Florida fighting to count every vote. They'll be on the ground in November. So vote." She also mentions original "Recount" director Sydney Pollack, which garnered big applause from the room.
6:40: Barry Sonnenfeld is back stage and he's really coherent, thoughtful and humble about his "Pushing Daisies" win. He admits that a lot of time when he's in public he starts babbling about his penis, but this time around he was focused. He said he owed his award to "Daisies" creator Bryan Fuller ---always a nice touch from a helmer.
Asked by me about his shout-out to Warner Bros. TV's Peter Roth and the reports last season of friction between him and the studio, Sonnenfeld says it was all "a coup attempt" by an exec producer who's no longer on the show. Interesting. He says season two is coming along great -- the scripts are funnier, the cast is more in a groove. And they're taking care to make sure that viewers see Kristin Chenoweth's "firm and supple breasts" in the coming season.
6:45: While Sonnenfeld was talking, Jay Roach won for longform directing for "Recount." Kirk Ellis won the longform writing award for "John Adams." That's totally right, as far as I'm concerned. Ellis gives a shout-out to HBO execs Michael Lombardo and Colin Callender. And he makes mention of how happy he was to work on a project about "a period in our history when articulate men articulated complex thoughts in complete sentences." He tried to say something else but the camera whisked us into commercial break. I think the world of Kirk Ellis, having enjoyed his work and having seen him on the Emmy chitlin circuit the past few weeks.
6:54: Dame Eileen Atkins wins the longform supporting actress award for PBS' "Cranford." She's not there to accept. I hate to say it but nobody noticed.
6:56: Kathy Griffin is delivering a tribute to Don Rickles. "GET UP" she shouts to the crowd. Liveliest moment in the show so far. "The world hasn't seen a pairing like this since John McCain and Sarah Palin," Griffin observes. Somehow I'm thinking Griffin could've come up with something better, left to her own devices.
6:59: "The Amazing Race" wins its sixth consecutive Emmy for reality-competish program. Presenter Don Rickles is ad-libbing even as Bert Van Munster gives his thank-yous.
7:02: "John Adams" wins for miniseries. Zero surprise there. Tom Hanks gives a pointed shout-out to Chris Albrecht, and then Colin Callender, Michael Lombardo and Richard Plepler for believing in it, yada yada. As the orchestra plays, Hanks gets in a dig noting how the election between Jefferson and Adams was "full of lies, bitter partisanship and scandal. How great that we've come so far since then."
7:08: Neil Patrick Harris and Kristin Chenoweth are giving out the variety/music program individual perf award. Don Rickles gets it for the HBO docu "Mr. Warmth." He's a little subdued but tells a funny story of meeting his longtime agent, ICM's Jack Gilardi.
7:15: Surprising. Greg Yaitanes wins drama series directing for "House" over Alan Taylor for the "Mad Men" pilot. But now Matthew Weiner has just won for drama series writing for "Mad Men" pilot. "I guess I'm going to have to find something new to complain about," Weiner says.
7:23: Paul Giamatti wins lead longform actor for "John Adams." It's feeling like a very colonial night.
7:27: Glenn Close wins lead drama actress for "Damages." John Landgraf of FX gets a shout-out.
7:38: SHOCK AND AWE. Bryan Cranston wins lead actor in a drama for AMC's "Breaking Bad." No offense but ... JON freakin' HAMM??? What the heck?? (Later, Cranston hints that he shared my reaction, to a degree. "I thought I was the dark horse. I should've been in the back of the pack," he said backstage.)
7:41: Tina Fey wins for comedy actress. "The Daily Show" winners are back here talking up their win, so we can't hear Tina. Jon Stewart says, "It's always great to come out and win. It's a long flight."
He's getting probing questions like "Why are politics and comedy so connected."
"It's the elevation of the rhetoric in comedy," Stewart says without missing a beat.
7:46: Now it's the "Colbert Report's" turn back stage. Colbert's mocking us for dumb questions. How does it feel to win an Emmy? "How does it feel? No wonder people don't trust the press," Colbert says.
Maybe me," Colbert says of Palin, "because I have absolutely no business being vice president."
7:50: "Survivor's" Jeff Probst wins the first Emmy for reality-competish host. Not to be rude, really, but doesn't he kinda do the least among the nominees (which were his co-hosts)? He gives a shout-out to CBS chief Leslie Moonves, and "Survivor" producer Mark Burnett.
7:54: "30 Rock" wins for comedy series, second year in a row. Don Rickles is back stage talking. "I got this, what can you do to me?"
7:56: Well, thank goodness. "Mad Men" has won for drama series. I read Tom Selleck's lips announcing the winner, because Rickles is still talking.
Gracious, look at the size of that cast on stage behind Matt Weiner, and how good they all are. That's great television, ladies and gentlemen.
7:59: Paul Giamatti has finally made his way backstage. The "John Adams" folks truly deserved their makeup Emmys, because Giamatti looks anything but presidential. He really didn't think he was going to win. "Not an optimist," he said, sounding every bit like Harvey Pekar.
8:13: Here's the problem with the delay in getting winners back here. Greg Yaitanes, winner for drama series directing for "House," finally comes back but everyone's so busy finalizing their stories that they don't have time for him. He's about to leave with no questions asked, but then one well-meaning reporter comes up with one, but it happens to be about the WRITING for the show. "Well, I don't write the show..." Oh boy. At least he has his Emmy.
8:18: Kirk Ellis is backstage, with an Emmy in each hand. He's clearly miffed about getting played off stage so quick. "When I stood up they were already flashing the wrap-up sign....I love how we can have 30 minutes of the ceremony devoted to reality show hosts, but the people who create the work don't get any time to talk." That got a round of applause.
8:22: Jay Roach is now telling us what he would have said on stage had he been given the time."I wanted to say that 'Recount' was about the notion that democracy really does depend on fair elections. We don't want to have to go somewhere and do 'Recount II: The Sequel."
8:28: Jeff Probst is yakking back stage about his win for "Survivor." Even he knows the Emmy show was flat. "Did that opening bit work? Hell if I know." I think he knows.
8:29: Glenn Close is here, and she's putting up with some dumb questions. How does winning an Emmy compare to winning an Oscar. "I've never won an Oscar." But she's taking the high road. "It really is the ride of my career," she says of "Damages." "It's as good as any part I'd find in a feature film."
9:01: "Mad Men" cast is in the house. They look even better up close. Matthew Weiner looks a little subdued, actually, maybe it's relief. What a build up. Jon Hamm is getting a lot of questions, and I couldn't help but notice that January Jones downed at least one flute of champagne while standing there looking gorgeous.
The actors really do look like they like each other. "I have this amazing cast, and none of them were asked to present tonight," Weiner observed.
"It is fun to dress up and smoke and drink in play land," Hamm admits when pressed about all the boozing and smoking and philandering in "Mad Men."
More to come, but it's time to hit the parties...
(Pics by Mathew Imaging/WireImage.com)