"Dave's Unfunny Emmy Bid … Conan's Hardware Hunt"
New York Observer
July 24, 2002
by Jason Gay


Last year's Emmys were the Emmys that almost weren't-the always enthralling TV back-pat was postponed twice after Sept. 11, and many nominees skipped the stripped-down L.A. jamboree altogether.

This year, however, the television community is hoping to attend en masse and give lonely ol' Emmy a much-needed cuddle. They have a date (Sept. 22), a location (Shrine Auditorium), and now they have themselves a strapping new host, NBC's Conan O'Brien.

There were few surprises in this year's nominees. Six Feet Under, its candidacy boosted by the absence of the gone-fishin'-for-18-months Sopranos , received a whopping 23 nominations, which must make the two or three unnominated members of the cast and crew feel like real shirkers. The West Wing received 21 nominations, which means there are 21 "Aaron Sorkin, you're a genius!" acceptance speeches in the works. Aging Friend Jennifer Aniston is considered a "sentimental choice" for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy. Yaww-n.

If there's going to be a strange winner in this year's Emmy presentation, it's probably going to be an Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series entry that wasn't musical or comedic at all. David Letterman's CBS Late Show, which is nominated in three other categories as well, has submitted the program's Sept. 17 episode for Outstanding V.M.C. consideration, a source close to the show said.

The Sept. 17 Late Show was Mr. Letterman's first after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. In it, the host opened by making a brief, emotional speech from behind his desk and then segued to guest Dan Rather, who at one point held Mr. Letterman's hand as he choked back tears.

Not exactly Richard Simmons and Stupid Pet Tricks, the Sept. 17 Late Show was widely praised for its raw honesty and appropriate sense of tone, and will be remembered as one of the most famous moments of Mr. Letterman's career, alongside his 2000 return after heart surgery. But the Sept. 17 show was hardly funny. The only light moments in the show came toward the end, when Mr. Letterman gingerly cracked jokes with his second guest, Regis Philbin.

Mr. Letterman's show has won the Outstanding Variety, Music, Comedy award every year since 1998, and the Sept. 17 episode may be hard for Emmy to resist. The Late Show is going up against The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the canceled dark horse, Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect. (Yup-no Conan).

Mr. Letterman's show is also nominated for Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program; Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork or Video for a Series; and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.

Is Dave a lock? Who knows? At least the LateShow crew should be in town. Though Mr. Letterman steers clear of the broadcast itself, he has in the past hosted a party for staff and friends of the show in L.A. following the Emmy fest. Last year, however, the Late Show's staff remained in New York, like many of their nominated colleagues.

Tonight on the Late Show with David Letterman, Dana Carvey and some guy with an animal. [WCBS, 2, 11:35 p.m.]

Thursday, July 25

So whutisthedeeeel with Conan O'Brien hosting the Emmys, considering the hardest-working redhead in show business has been repeatedly and scandalously snubbed by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy Series category? (The Conan team is nominated for writing this year.)

Is there any irony in Mr. O'Brien serving as ringmaster for a contest that hasn't shown him much respect? "No, not really," said Conan writer and executive producerJeff Ross. "I don't think about it in those terms. That is stuff you have no control over."

Still, Mr. Ross acknowledged he wouldn't mind a little ATAS hardware at some point. "If you're asking me would I rather have it than not have it, I'd rather have it," Mr. Ross said. But, he added, "at the end of the day, we have done this pushing 10 years. So if you give me the choice of an Emmy nomination or another couple of years, I'll take the extra couple of years."

Tonight on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Los Lobos and El Martin Lawrence. [WNBC, 4, 12:35 a.m.]

Friday, July 26

In yet another piece of Emmy news-hey, give us a break, it's July; what do you want, Meet My Folks updates?-those smartypants at The Daily Show will finally be able to see what the inside of the Shrine Auditorium looks like.

Last year, the D-Show was the Cinderella that missed the ball, skipping the Emmy ceremony in the wake of Sept. 11, and not really getting to celebrate its win for outstanding writing.

This year, the gang at West 54th is fired up to go to L.A. "As long as there isn't some horrific event of overwhelming sadness, we will probably make it," said D-Show supervising producer Ben Karlin. As for a party in L.A., he said, "I'm sure we'll do something."

Mr. Karlin said that the past year had been particularly challenging for The Daily Show, especially compared to the previous year, when the program was acclaimed for its Presidential-election satire.

"This year was incredibly difficult for us to have fun and do a comedy show, while at the same time staying tethered to what was happening in the world outside," Mr. Karlin said.

Meanwhile, the D-Show staff is getting ready to chip in for the show's recently announced partnership with CNN International. Mr. Karlin and his writers will write "wraparounds" for Daily Show compilations that will be shown abroad on CNN's overseas outlets.

"It's a great and exciting opportunity for the Viacom–Time Warner family," Mr. Karlin said, full of vigor. "And let me tell you: the checks, when they start coming in for that-hoo-hah!"

Tonight on Comedy Central, the perennially Emmy-, Oscar-, Peabody-, Tony- and Nobel-snubbed Jim Breuer in Jim Breuer: Hardcore. [COM, 45, 11 p.m.]

Saturday July 27

Tonight, Saturday Night Live does alum Mike Myers a nice slurpy, synergistic favor by doing a "Best of Mike Myers" one day into the debut of Goldmember. Anyone besides us bored of the Mini-Me jokes? Guy's small. Ha-ha. Enough already. [WNBC, 4, 11:35 p.m.]


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