Someone in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has been watching MTV.
Thank goodness for viewers of the "51st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards" last night on Fox.
In what was the most entertaining Emmy telecast in recent memory, the program took a page from MTV's Movie Awards by including short filmed parodies.
The best of the bunch featured the cast of "Felicity" spoofing "NYPD Blue," "The X-Files" and "ER."
Another satirical piece cast Jon Stewart as a "Dawson's Creek" writer thought to be 18 who was revealed to be a 36-year-old former insurance salesman.
Regis Philbin appeared to ask "Final answer?" in a self-parody of his hit game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
With these entertaining interludes the telecast remained lively and far-from-dull for most of its three hours (it even ended on time at 11 p.m.).
There were a few instances of the Emmys going too far in an effort to ape MTV. WWF stars "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and The Rock introduced the Emmy vote-counters. Should the Academy encourage wrestling by acknowledging its influence on television? Better to just ignore it and hope it goes away.
The night's biggest disappointment was some of the winners. The Emmys gave untraditional nominations this year, but the winners were mostly tried and true. In some cases they were just plain tired. David Hyde Pierece, Helen Hunt, John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston and Dennis Franz are talented, but how many times do they have to win?
There were a few deserving first-time wins, particularly down-to-earth Michael Badalucco (Jimmy on "The Practice"), whose appreciation seemed genuine. He even thanked viewers for their support of "The Practice," something winners rarely do.
HBO's "The Sopranos" led the Emmy nominations, but its most prominent awards were for writing and lead actress Edie Falco.
The one award "Sports Night" deserved went to Thomas Schlamme for his work directing the dramedy. Allan Arkush won for directing the NBC miniseries "The Temptations," which was filmed in Pittsburgh (he didn't mention the city in his acceptance speech).
Hosts Jenna Elfman and Pierce began the show with an interpretive dance parody. They came onstage dressed in purple tights and proceeded to romp about. It went on too long and seemed like bad tidings of skits to come (although the Jay Leno-David Letterman comparison was apropos). The show improved despite that creaky beginning.
Too bad most Pittsburgh viewers probably missed it because they were watching the Steelers beat the Browns. Oh well, maybe next year.
Here are few awards for the Emmy show itself:
AWARD FOR THE BIGGEST MISSED OPPORTUNITY: It's no secret E! questioners Joan and Melissa Rivers have less knowledge about the entertainment industry than thousands of Entertainment Weekly readers who live nowhere near Los Angeles, but Missy really blew it when she had Gloria Reuben in front of her and failed to ask Reuben about her plans to leave "ER."
AWARD FOR HONESTY: Animated "King of the Hill" star Hank Hill introduced a tribute to prime-time animation, "or as we call it in my house, time to go take a poop." Luckily there were only a few of these moments during the Emmy telecast.
AWARD FOR POOR VOTING: Academy members flubbed up when they gave a writing award to "Frasier's" Jay Kogen. He wasn't that funny when he thanked the Academy for "objectively making me in some way better than [fellow nominee] David Kelley." He then proceeded to give out a family member's phone number, prompting Fox to use a delay that muted the audio for several seconds.
AWARD FOR TRYING TO HAVE IT BOTH WAYS: The animated boys from "South Park" came on to make fun of the annual "In Memorial" segment by showing scenes of Kenny dying over and over. But later on there was a legitimate memorial tribute to entertainers who have really died in the past year.
AWARD FOR MOST SUCCINCT ACCEPTANCE: Holland Taylor, who won a much-deserved award for supporting actress in "The Practice," reacted with stunned silence, followed by the single word, "Overnight!"
AWARD FOR MOST RAMBLING: Presenter Paul Reiser of "Mad About You" babbled on and on about not winning an Emmy in the past. Your show is done, please be quiet and go away.
"WE WERE THINKING THE SAME THING" AWARD: "I really don't know why I have won," Lithgow said in accepting his Emmy. "Every actor in town thinks what I do on '3rd Rock' is totally disgraceful... I mean, I'm embarrassed myself."
AWARD FOR PREDICTIONS WORTH SQUAT: Once again, I'm the big winner. In Friday's Post-Gazette I predicted wins in seven categories. I only called one right.