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James Spader poses with his Emmy in the press roomof the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at theShrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, Sunday,September 16, 2007. (Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT)

James Spader poses with his Emmy in the press room
of the 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the
Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, Sunday,
September 16, 2007. (Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/MCT)


The only thing that could be said for Sunday’s seemingly endless Emmy Awards ceremony on Fox was that at least Britney Spears didn’t make an appearance.


For the 59th edition of the TV awards-giving blowout, instead of a dazed pop starlet, we got “American Idol’s” ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest. I’m not sure that qualifies as trading up. Though it must be said that, despite inflicting his own brand of unctuous pain, at least he didn’t attempt to sing a dance-pop number while wearing a bikini.


Thank goodness for small favors.


Not surprisingly, the night served up some wins for “The Sopranos,” the HBO show that has frequently dominated the Emmys since it debuted in 1999. Though star James Gandolfini failed to win as best actor in a drama (he lost out to “Boston Legal’s” James Spader), the show took home the best drama award and an award for best direction.


The Emmys spread the love around a bit, with Second City veteran Tina Fey picking up a best comedy award for her freshman series “30 Rock.”


“Grey’s Anatomy,” “The Office” and “My Name Is Earl” also won Emmys, and Chicago’s Jeremy Piven got another supporting actor award for his work in “Entourage.”


Viewers were frequently treated to a cutaway shot as Fox grappled with winners who swore on stage (though plenty of off-color “humor” made on to the broadcast). Sally Field got the longest bleep of the night when she attempted to say that “if mothers ruled the world there would be no more (expletive) war.”


Some highlights and lowlights from Sunday’s Emmy death march:


Most honestly tender moment: The montage of late-night talk-show hosts paying tribute to the passing of Tom Snyder, a presence who will truly be missed. Can you imagine Snyder hosting the Emmys? Now that would have been must-see TV.


Embarrassing goof No. 1: During a rather pointless comedy routine by presenter Ray Romano, the camera cut away to a strange angle and the sound went out, apparently because of a saucy line or two from Romano. FCC paranoia much, Fox?


Embarrassing goof No. 2: An announcer mispronounced the last name of Katherine Heigl from “Grey’s Anatomy” as she took the stage to present an award with “Friday Night Lights” star Kyle Chandler.


Embarrassing goof No. 3: Though Fox muted the sound, it was obvious Heigl said a profanity when her name was announced as best supporting actress in a drama. But Heigl quickly recovered by giving an entertaining speech in which she said that her own mother had predicted she “didn’t have a shot in hell.” At least though, as she pointed out, that time the announcer got her name right.


Crass Fox self-promotion moment No. 1: Having Seacrest host the awards. Hey, with a radio show and his many other TV and radio gigs, it’s not as though the guy was hurting for work. Do we really need him plastered on our screen during the off-season of “American Idol”?


Crass Fox self-promotion moment No. 2: The show opened with a song-and-dance number from “Family Guy” characters. Not only would this gambit prove to Emmy doubters that the awards fest would be as lame as they’d thought it would be, the song itself was full of the kind of reflexive, snide anti-TV snobbery that is not terribly amusing, except in the most skilled, sharp hands. Sigh.


Crass Fox self-promotion No. 3: Romano’s plug for the new Fox sitcom starring his former “Everybody Loves Raymond” co-star, Patricia Heaton.


Most enjoyable dig at another network’s controversy: In noting the award show’s green efforts, Seacrest said that “to power tonight’s show, we’ve got the entire cast of `Kid Nation’ on treadmills.”


Least enjoyable dig at another network’s controversy: During a reference to the Isaiah Washington controversy, there was a tight close-up of fellow “Grey’s Anatomy” actor T.R. Knight’s face. Classy, Fox.


Most laid-back acceptance speech: Terry O’Quinn, who noted that when he and his castmates are filming in the muddy jungle, he wished he could be baking “a sheet of cookies on Wisteria Lane.”


Classiest tribute: In his acceptance of a writing award for the finale of “The Sopranos,” creator David Chase paid tribute to the show’s ensemble: “This amazing cast is really what it comes down to, the whole thing.”


Best decision by an Emmy winner: Judy Davis, who won as best supporting actress in a mini-series for “The Starter Wife.” She didn’t bother showing up.


Most pointless musical moment: The “Jersey Boys” tribute to “The Sopranos.” What exactly was the point of that, except to make the broadcast longer? And I’m sorry, but the juxtaposition of the bouncy “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” with footage of Silvio Dante getting ready to shoot Adrian a LaCerva - topped only by a scene of a violent fight between Tony and Carmela Soprano set to the pop hit “Who Loves You” - was the was the single most cringe-inducing thing I’ve ever seen on an awards show. And I’ve seen a lot of awards shows. Those moments were not, perhaps, on par with Rob Lowe’s Oscar duet with Snow White nearly 20 years ago , but they were dangerously, embarrasingly close.


Most deserved tribute: The standing ovation for the cast of “The Sopranos.”


Best rant: Louis Black screaming about promotional bugs appearing onscreen during TV shows. “Here’s a message from all the viewers: We don’t care about the next show!” Black yelled.


Crass Fox self-promotion No. 4: An award to CurrentTV was presented by one of the creators of MySpace, which just happens to be owned by Fox. Ugh.


Grossest joke: Count on Brad Garrett to say several crass and unprintable things. Trust me, you don’t want to hear the liberty he took with the name of the mini-series “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” Yeesh. His painful bit of banter with his “‘Til Death” co-star Joely Fisher marked the point at which I hoped that someone would hit me with a 2 by 4 so that I would have an excuse to not watch the rest of the show.


Most honest statement: Broadway legend Elaine Stritch struggled to read her teleprompter at one point, and her ad-lib could have served as the broadcast’s slogan: “I’m not faking this, I really don’t know what the hell I’m doing.”


Crass Fox self-promotion No. 5: The overlong contest between Kanye West and Rainn Wilson promoting the Fox game show “Don’t Forget the Lyrics.”


Funniest moment: When Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” suggested that perhaps it was not environmentally conscious for so many celebrities to gather for an awards show. “What?!” shouted a faux-outraged Stephen Colbert. “If entertainers stop publicly congratulating each other, then the Earth wins!”


Fourth biggest upset: Ricky Gervais, who deservedly won for his work on Season 2 of “Extras,” was by far the long shot in the best comedy actor award category. Comedy bonus: Since Gervais wasn’t in the house, Colbert and Stewart gave the statue to their former “Daily Show” colleague Steve Carell.


Second biggest upset: “30 Rock” winning as best comedy. Another deserved award that came as a pleasant surprise.


Third biggest upset: Sally Field winning for her terrific work on “Brothers and Sisters.” Though Field entirely deserved it, I certainly didn’t see her win coming.


Biggest upset and most telling reminder that you’re watching the Emmys: James Spader winning his third Emmy for “Boston Legal,” instead of, say, “Sopranos” actor James Gandolfini. Unbelievable.

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