And the Emmy for an actually entertaining awards show goes to…

Controversy, shmontroversy: I think the Emmys pretty much got it right this year.

(If you’re still watching the West Coast feed and want no spoilers, wait a couple of hours.)

“24″ got its long-awaited Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. Sure, its plot holes and/or convolutions can be mind-bending, but whether you watch it for the high drama or to chortle at the its more preposterous moments — I’m still trying to get my head around the whole President-in-league-with-terrorists thing, which makes whoever cooked that up a mad genius, but a genius nonetheless — you’re quite likely addicted to it. That’s great TV.

And “The Office,” no matter which version on whatever side of the pond you watch, is a brilliant TV series, so its win for Outstanding Comedy Series is completely justified. As for Tony Shalhoub’s third win in the acting category, over Steve Carell, well, you can’t stop Emmy voters from a kneejerk repetitious vote here or there. Megan Mullally’s win over “My Name is Earl’s” Jaime Pressly in the Supporting Actress/Comedy category was a similar head-scratcher — maybe if Emmy voters were coaxed to think in terms of a fresh comic creation, results might be a little different.

Perhaps most gratifying was HBO’s little-seen “The Girl in the Cafe’s” strong showing, which proves that, honest, the voters really are sitting down and watching these things.

Other pluses: Conan O’Brien was terrific as host, backed by some very sharp material. Presenter patter was less insipid than usual — occasionally, even funny, particularly Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s hilariously blinkered and back-handed honoring of the Reality-Competition category. (Which makes you wonder — did they rig it so that Barry Manilow would beat Colbert and Stewart, just so Colbert could have his spectacularly funny meltdown over losing to Manilow? Because, honestly, they couldn’t have scripted that outcome any better.) Bob Newhart’s deadpan peril, likewise, was very amusing, as was his bewildered dismay that 6 percent of the viewers bothered to vote that they had “no opinion” as to whether he should live or die. Hugh Laurie, as perhaps the most egregiously snubbed performer, was nevertheless a gentleman and a laugh riot, participating in not one but two bits of amusing Emmy-night business. And, year in and year out, one of the funniest things about the Emmy ceremony is the presentations of the long lists of writers for the Variety/Music/Comedy shows (Letterman, O’Brien, Stewart, Colbert, etc.), and this year, gratifyingly, was no exception. Maybe next year, some intrepid entertainment journalist should do a story about how these guys go about creating their mode of ironic self-exaltation.)

Weirdest thing about the ceremony: That my piece in today’s Daily News (see blog entry below for the full experience) was so astonishingly prescient, yet was written for a laugh. (I only got one thing wrong, and even Stewart, whose “Daily Show” won for its writing, admitted that “The Colbert Report” deserved to win.)

Bad thing about the ceremony: The music- and video-cue guy was awfully slow on the uptake when winners were announced. There was a frequently weirdly uncomfortable silence while winners made their way to the stage. It reminded me of the muted reaction when I won a writing award (which, granted, hasn’t actually happened, but a hushed, almost hostile, response is what I would sort of expect if I actually won anything.)

Worst thing about the Emmys: That despite the fact that information is disseminated at record land-speeds across The Internets, the networks still insist on running most awards shows (sparing only the Oscars) on tape-delay on the West Coast. Naturally, it’s a financial decision (prime-time commercials cost more than those at 5 or 6 p.m.), but, let’s face it — eventually, that’ll prove to be a wash, because everyone on the West Coast will know all the winners before the broadcast and tune out, which’ll lower ad rates anyway. It’s particularly insane to delay the broadcast in the industry’s home in L.A. — they wouldn’t tape-delay automotive awards ceremonies in Detroit, would they?

So congratulations to all the deserving winners, nice-going to all the undeserving ones, and a hearty I’m-just-as-pissed-as-you-are to the losers whose sterling work merited a better outcome.

“24″ Saves The Emmys: The DVD Commentary

If lame movies merit DVD-commentary tracks, why not lame — um, sorry, brilliant — newspaper stories? Hence, we have dragged in our auteur to explain himself — that is, his creative process as he slapped together, er, lovingly crafted today’s thrilling episode of “24,” in which Jack Bauer saves the Emmys.

(The story begins. Our auteur sits in austere silence.)

As celebrities prance and preen down the red carpet tonight, a dark, threatening presence surrounds the 58th annual Emmy Awards ceremony at the Shrine Auditorium. This year, a number of acclaimed actors were snubbed due to a new nomination process, and there are rumors nasty rumors that something unpleasant might happen tonight.
No one takes the threat more seriously than Jack Bauer, the no-holds-barred hero of “24,” a show that has picked up 12 nominations, the most of anyone. Now a frightening scenario has been leaked to us about tonight’s ceremony (we have our sources). But we feel confident all will turn out well because Jack who would cut his mother’s eye out if he thought she was a traitor is on the case.

The Auteur: Um. Well, I didn’t do this part. My introduction was a little more deadpan, like it was an actual newspaper story, sort of, and that made everything that came after that much weirder.

I was on the phone with Marty at the network (everyone in the business when you’re explaining how something odd happened, they’re named Marty), and he told me, “Omigod, everyone here loves your vision for this piece. We’ve changed everything. We’ve taken your bold vision in an even bolder new direction.”

This bolder new direction is OK, though it says “24″ received 12 nominations, “the most of anyone,” which isn’t true — it did receive the most of any ongoing series (the miniseries “Into the West” got more). And suggesting Jack “would cut out his mother’s eye if he thought she was a traitor” seems another factual error, given how defiantly he defended Audrey when she was floated as CTU’s mole du jour for an episode, and she’s just annoying Audrey, who everyone in the audience wanted to see tortured. So Jack’d probably not put his mom’s eye out, but he might shoot her in the thigh.

(The story continues.)

The following takes place between 5 and 8 p.m.
5:00:01: Jack Bauer’s black SUV brakes sharply before the Shrine.
He snaps open his cell phone: “Chloe, set up a perimeter. No one comes in or out. And download the entire audience seating assignment onto my PDA.”
“I’m on it, Jack,” Chloe pouts petulantly.
Bauer, knocking out a security guard and sneaking through a side door even though he’s been granted full security clearance, peruses the instantly downloaded list of 6,300 names; immediately, his face is seized with concern. “Chloe!” he barks into his cell phone. “Hugh Laurie is here!”
“So? He’s really good in ‘House,’ ” Chloe counters crankily.
“Perhaps but he wasn’t nominated this year!”
Jack’s face grows dark; behind him, an ominous figure shadows Bauer.

The Auteur: See how artfully I’ve alluded to the big plot twist that comes at the end of the story? “Shadows?” Utter brilliance. See, I thought this thing out, as opposed to the people who actually make “24,” who just up and decided one day to make the President of the United States in league with terrorists.

5:18:30: As host Conan O’Brien concludes his opening monologue, which shows remarkable restraint in featuring only three John Mark Karr jokes and two Charlie Sheen gags, Bauer creeps up behind Laurie’s assigned seat. He leaps over three rows, grabs the man in a headlock and pummels him senseless. He turns the man’s bloodied face toward him.
“This isn’t Laurie!” Bauer bleats.
“It’s a seat filler, moron,” Mariska Hargitay stammers, taken aback. “I saw him go backstage.”
“Backstage?” Bauer cries, grabbing his cell phone. “Chloe! Set up a perimeter around the green room!”

The Auteur: Not 20 minutes in, and Jack’s already set up two perimeters and beaten up two guys. Genius.

5:27:25: Bauer, gun drawn, lurks backstage as Alan Alda leaves the podium after accepting the Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a drama. Bauer gratuitously cold-cocks Alda with his gun butt, does a tuck-and-rollup to the green room, then lurches into the green room, where Laurie sips a cup of tea. Jack shoots him in the thigh, grabs him by his tux lapels.
“What are you doing here?” he demands.
“Dude, dial it back; take a Zoloft,” Denis Leary, also lounging in the green room, drawls sardonically. “He’s a presenter.”
Bauer snaps open his cell phone. “Chloe, we’ve been sent on a wild-goose chase. Get me the coordinates for best-comedy-actress snubs Lauren Graham, Marcia Cross and Mary-Louise Parker. They have the means, and they have the motive well, at least they have the motive. They must be behind this.” He sheepishly turns to Laurie: “Uh, sorry about that.”
“No worries,” Laurie says. “I have to limp on my show; now, I won’t have to act.”
“Jack Graham and Cross are both in Temecula,” Chloe responds irritably. “Parker well, her character sells pot. Do you really expect her to have the gumption to protest when she’s already won an Emmy and two Golden Globes?”

The Auteur: So much is going on here — the ongoing mystery, faux Emmy verisimilitude, wry commentary on the year’s Emmy controversy, blurring the lines between TV and reality, snarky gossip and a truly tortured attempt to unify these disparate entities. But, if you watch the deleted scenes elsewhere on this DVD, you’ll see that even more took place in this scene. I wrote, and we shot, a beautiful scene in which Jack’s sometime-sidekick Curtis made a brief appearance. He was found unconscious in the green room, delivered a line of exposition that I later decided was unnecessary, got to shoot someone and then was consigned to the same off-camera oblivion that Curtis himself found himself for most of the season. It was a poignant, poetic meditation on race, class and the eternal struggle of the contract player — and it stopped the story dead in its tracks. So out it came. This was my decision — the network begged me to keep Curtis in, given that they’d already paid him and everything, but I, clinging to my artistic vision, refused.

Oh, and have you picked up on the oh-so-subtle word choices? Mariska Hargitay — inherently funny. Temecula — absolutely inherently funny. This is comic gold, people.

5:35:59: Bending the rules of physics, Jack speeds up to a Temecula address and, gun drawn, kicks down the door and begins shooting.
“What are you doing?” Graham demands, emerging from the kitchen with a bag of microwave popcorn.
“I’ll ask the questions here,” Bauer barks. “What do you know about the plot to attack the Emmys?”
“No one can hurt the Emmys any more than the voting body already has,” Graham retorts.
“Don’t get smart with me,” Bauer says, grabbing her roughly.
“Why’d you establish such a remote base of operations?”
“These people you just killed were my only friends with an East Coast feed of the Emmys, you jerk,” she replies, then brightens when glancing at the TV. “Oh, look: ‘The Colbert Report’ won for best writing for a variety series!”
“Chloe, we’ve been set up!” Jack yelps into his cell phone. He looks darkly at his image in a two-way mirror; on the other side, a shadowy figure monitors his movements.

The Auteur: OK, OK, I know — I said Marcia Cross was with Lauren Graham in Temecula, and she’s nowhere to be seen in this scene. Well, we shot the previous scene when talks were ongoing with Cross but things looked to be a pretty sure bet. And then she pulled out. But Graham, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me, carries this scene beautifully; we didn’t need Cross after all. The microwave popcorn bag was her idea, and it was a brilliant touch, just the subtle bit of business that humanizes her character — or, rather, her, since she’s playing herself. Also, I think she was just hungry when we shot this.

Also, we include a little throwaway line so that no one forgets that this is a story about the Emmys, which was the whole point, but, being the Emmys, they are sort of easy to forget about, even when you’re writing specifically about them. And: the second oblique hint as to the upcoming radical plot twist: a two-way mirror. So as utterly shocking and unpredictable as the big plot twist is, at least you won’t be able to say we didn’t warn you.

6:22:15: As lucky as Jack was with traffic on his drive to Temecula, he’s equally unlucky on the way back to the Shrine: The on-ramp from Interstate 15 to the 10 is the site of a major pileup. Nothing is moving as rescue vehicles arrive. Jack looks at his watch. His face darkens. He flips opens his phone and calls for a chopper to evacuate him.
6:40:30: Jack climbs onto a rope ladder dangled from the copter, which lifts him high above the accident.
6:46:47: Back at the Shrine, Ellen Burstyn’s acceptance speech for outstanding supporting actress in a TV movie is longer than her bravura 15-second turn in “Mrs. Harris.”
6:52:00: As he swings through the air above L.A., Jack wonders if he should have charged his cell phone.

The Auteur: OK, again, the network and I had some creative differences here, and apparently the network won. I had Jack stuck in traffic for a half-hour, and, if you consult the timeline, that’s in keeping with the stuck-in-traffic scenario. (Had Jack really summoned a helicopter, he’d been back at the Shrine in three minues.) So when I presented my vision for this scene to the network, Marty was ecstatic. “Omigod,” Marty told me; he said, “you’ve radicalized the whole concept behind 24! You’ve taken it through the looking-glass! Sitting with Jack in traffic for a half-hour with only a brief cutaway to Ellen Burstyn is cutting-edge, transformative television.”

I had to agree.

“We can’t do it.” Before I could protest, Marty said, “Look. I know, everyone says that networks are afraid of innovation. But it’s not that. It’s just that we’ve already paid for the helicopter.”

6:57:22: Just as Jack bursts back into the Shrine, an explosion erupts onstage during a musical tribute to ’80s-sitcom hairstyles. William Shatner, Meredith Baxter and host O’Brien perish in the blast.
Jack flips open his cell phone: “Chloe, contact the director; tell him the dead-celebrity montage needs to be updated.” His face darkens.

The Auteur: So this didn’t work out as well as I had hoped. I mean, the explosion is truly spectacular; don’t get me wrong. But while “Meredith Baxter Birney” sounds funny, “Meredith Baxter” just doesn’t, and much to my chagrin someone actually fact-checked this story and figured out that the “Birney” comes from two husbands back. Had the network confronted me about this, I would’ve pointed out that she was, in fact, “Meredith Baxter Birney” (see? say it to yourself three times fast! Comic genius!) back when she had a regrettable hairstyle in an ’80s sitcom. As for Shatner — well, enough said, and he actually sings badly, as well. He was a real trooper on this shoot, but then, if you’ve seen him lately on VH1 or TV Land or Comedy Central or the History Channel or Discovery or wherever he’s knocking one off, you know he’ll pretty much do anything.

7:03:16: As order is restored, Jack orders Jane Kaczmarek to take over as emcee. Her extemporaneous Mel Gibson one-liners get huge laughs; her Hurricane Katrina jokes are considered a bit dated.
7:18:18: Jack, realizing he’s overlooking a crucial clue, tries to call Chloe, but his cell-phone battery is dead. “Damn!” he says, “I knew I should’ve recharged this thing at some point in the past five years!” A dark expression clouds his face; he sets off in search of a pay phone.
7:41:05: Bauer finally locates a pay phone outside the nearby car dealership shrouded by a giant Felix the Cat statue and calls Chloe.

The Auteur: Verisimilitude, and ironic juxtaposition: There really is a giant Felix the Cat statue atop a car dealership near the Shrine Auditorium. We had to install the pay phone, however.

“What Emmys have yet to be distributed?” he demands. As she recalcitrantly recites the list, Jack’s eyes widen; he abruptly stops her. “Chloe,” he gravely intones, “there’s a mole inside CTU!” He drops the phone and runs, gun drawn, back to the Shrine, shooting a number of journalists inside the press tent along the way, just in case.
7:46:47: Just as Kaczmarek is about to introduce the presenter for outstanding actor in a drama series, Bauer tackles her and grabs the envelope. “You!” he shouts, training his gun on a figure lurking in the shadows, sporting a cummerbund over a hoodie sweater. “Don’t move!”
The figure skulks onto the stage; Jack tackles him, wrestling the hood from his head, revealing … Kiefer Sutherland.
“You don’t understand!” Sutherland bellows. “I’ve been nominated five years in a row and have nothing to show for it! I knew I wouldn’t win if Hugh Laurie was nominated!
“So I called Chloe, impersonating you, and asked her to download the Emmy mainframe into my PDA,” the anguished Sutherland continues.
“All my acting on that show is shouting into cell phones, shooting people in the thigh and responding to depressing information with a dark expression!
“I manipulated votes so what?” Sutherland adds. “So Kevin James gets a nod; so seven lead actresses from canceled shows get nominated; so that lame ‘Will & Grace’ gets 10 nominations! That’s a small price to pay to ensure my own corporeal glory!”
“You’re insane,” hisses Bauer.
“Chloe knows you better than anyone, and I convinced her I was you,” Sutherland responds. “That should be worth an Emmy, right?”
7:57:01: “24″ is named outstanding drama series. Bauer himself addresses the audience: “I’d like to thank those who couldn’t be here tonight,” he says, his visage darkening; he realizes he’s now one of them.

The Auteur: What can I say? Pure genius: Ironic, shocking, contemplative, true to the spirit of “24″ and bust-a-gut funny. “Kaczmarek” — funny, funny, funny. Whenever I’m low and considering ending it all I’ll just think of Jane Kaczmarek’s name and in it somehow find the strength to continue on. And finally, the long-awaited plot twist, better even than making the President of the United States in league with the terrorists: Making Jack Bauer himself, or his doppelganger, the bad guy! Elucidating the Conradian duality within each of us, the story ultimately asks us to look deep within ourselves, find that which is truly evil and, then, embrace it fully, because that is what makes us human.

Or something like that.

TV Land Awards: Where you know everyone’s name

Honestly, the TV Land Awards barely qualify as part of awards season — like, say, the People’s Choice Awards, they’re kind of decided on who says they’ll show up to accept the trophy (which look like they’re made of Styrofoam spray-painted silver) — but that doesn’t mean that they don’t lure a galaxy of stars. The casts of “Cheers,” “Good Times,” “Batman” and “Dallas” — including the big names, like Ted Danson, John Amos, Adam West and Larry Hagman, not just supporting players poignantly intent on keeping their faces in front of the public — turned up in a Santa Monica Airport hangar Sunday night to receive awards for shows that have long since left the air (except, of course, for syndication). It’s a cheeky ceremony that, reasonably enough, refuses to take itself seriously.

(Here’s the point where you’re grateful that I didn’t elaborate on my nightmare, 2 1/2 drive from Echo Park to Santa Monica on the day of the LA Marathon. But my head almost exploded and I’m still bitter.)

Here’s a question: What accounts for TV Land’s success? (Last year, the network says, 24 million people watched the TV Land Awards, though not at once — it was repeated several times; nonetheless, that’s how many people see an original episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” which was named Future Classic on Sunday.)

Which is another way of saying, I suppose, what accounts for nostalgia in general? Are TV Land’s shows really that good and enduring, or are viewers more intent on escaping today’s grim realities by retreating to days that seem relatively safer via the TV shows of their childhood? (Interestingly, many of TV Land’s shows come from the ’70s, when the U.S. was also embroiled in a seemingly unwinnable war, so how innocent were those days/shows?)

Not a powerfully original thought, I concede. But still, here’s a question for TV Land viewers: Why do you watch? The shows or the memories?

In the “House”

“Were doing Gods work, proclaimed David Shore, creator of the Fox medical drama “House. He was responding to a woman who runs a foundation for or rather, against — vasculitis (and for those who suffer from it), who thanked him for bringing awareness to the disease by mentioning it on the show. He was also kidding.

It was “Houses turn for the Museum of TV and Radio’s Paley TV Festival treatment tonight at the DGA. An audience that was a little more fawning toward the stars and creators than the “My Name is Earl crowd was the night before were treated to an upcoming episode in which House the crank played by Hugh Laurie whose medical brilliance is rivaled only by his anti-social misanthropy got to solve a crime as well as a medical mystery.

The panel discussion afterwards was a little foursquare, nuts-and-bolts affair for a while, detailing the shows creation in a fashion that if you were enough of a fan of the show to attend the event, you had probably already read in one or more articles on the series. Creator David Shore joked, “I tend to take all my characters and attach the word `hostile in their descriptions. Or maybe that one wasnt a joke.

But things got more interesting when the actors started talking out of school. Robert Sean Leonard decried the kind of scripts actors receive: “Just watch the Sid and Marty Kroft Saturday morning shows thats what most scripts you get are.
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Another round of Stern v. Moonves

Howard Stern hasn’t exactly been shy about slagging CBS CEO Les Moonves since the latter slapped the former with a lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions of dollars for plugging his move to satellite radio on CBS Radio’s airwaves. And now, according to the most tersely worded press release I’ve ever received from CBS, he’ll get to pound away at Moonves on CBS itself, with David Letterman as his corner man.

Stern will appear on “The Late Show with David Letterman” on Monday, March 13. The press release makes no mention of the lawsuit, but you’d be a fool if you think Stern will be so polite as to do the same while chatting with Letterman.

The main question is, how far will Stern have to go before Moonves — or someone — decides there’s no point to running anti-CBS propaganda on CBS.

Here’re a few quotes from Stern’s recent appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show to give you an idea of what he’ll likely be telling Dave: “I’m a CBS stockholder. I’d like to know why (Moonves is) spending money on frivolous lawsuits.”

“I was a loyal player, and this is no way to repay a guy after all of this hard work. When you know the lawsuit has no merit, this is vindictive. This is vicious. This is jealousy. This is being green with envy. It’s a shame on CBS. The once great CBS, the home of Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite. What a — what a knock. This is not the CBS any more.”

Stern seemed distraught in the video when he first discussed the lawsuit, so his Les-bashing isn’t just an act. And Letterman should prove an enabler — he’s done plenty of Moonves mauling on his show in the past. As I said, it’ll be interesting to see just how much of this’ll actually get on the air.

Oscars: Backlash to the backlash

Honestly, this wasnt unforeseen: A bunch of people are really hacked off that Crash? beat Brokeback Mountain? for the Best Picture Oscar. Guess thats why they call it an upset.?

A reader clued me into this, which offers a good overview of the controversy, wondering if Hollywood is as progressive as George Clooney proclaimed it to be and (inevitably) raising questions regarding lingering strains of homophobia in the industry:

another step toward irrelevance?

And then, there are the folks who just thought Crash? was somewhere between undeserving of Hollywoods highest honor and an unrelentingly overheated cheesefest. Heres just one of many items from defamer.com, which in its live-blogging of the ceremony, concluded, WORST. OSCARS. EVER.?:

Oscar hangover

If you agree and havent checked it out yet, defamer.com has plenty of amusing barbs blowtorching Crash.?

Gordon Parks (1912-2006): A renaissance man’s renaissance man

“As far as being a ‘renaissance man,’ I haven’t learned to spell the word yet,” Gordon Parks joked to me in 2000, when he had just released a new book of photography and poetry, an exhibit featuring his photography, music, films and novels was being presented in Exposition Park, and HBO was premiering a documentary exploring his pioneering and versatile achievements.

Parks died today in New York at the age of 93. His was an amazing life, and he was an extraordinarily modest man, as that Daily News interview in 2000, reprinted here, suggests:

When Gordon Parks was taking his prize-winning photos of the devastating effects of segregation in Alabama for Life magazine, or when he was conducting an orchestral concert of his own compositions in Venice in the 1950s, or when he was directing “The Learning Tree” from his own autobiographical novel for Warner Bros., he wasn’t considering the historical ramifications of his being the first African-American to break such ground.

“Everything I did was a means for survival, not necessarily genius,” Parks says matter-of-factly today. “I had to buy breakfast the next morning. It was a job; I wanted to try to excel. I wasn’t working for all black people – I was working for myself. What I was doing just so happened to help young black people.”

And we haven’t even gotten around to the three autobiographies and other novels and books of poetry; the Vogue fashion spreads; his influential film “Shaft,” which kick-started the blaxploitation movement; his ballet homage to Martin Luther King Jr. And there were numerous other highly politicized photo shoots that leapt out at readers from the pages of Life, including a profile of an impoverished Brazilian boy named Flavio that was transformed into a short film and inspired readers to send the child’s family money. Likewise, we haven’t mentioned the 45 honorary doctorates he has received – not bad for a guy who quit high school after a white teacher advised him to abandon his dreams of college.
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“Earl” receives good karma

Here are a few gems from the Paley Television Festival’s tribute to “My Name is Earl,” held tonight at the Directors Guild of America and sponsored by the Museum of TV and Radio:

“Worst Actor Ever:” That’s Jaime Pressly (who plays Earl’s ex-wife Joy) on one of her own colleagues, Jason Lee’s stand-in. “He’ll have to do some lines, and I think, ‘Oh, my God, where is Jason?’” (If the poor guy was there that night, he didn’t admit it.)

“I feel like an @$$#*!&:” Ethan Suplee (Earl’s dim-witted brother Randy) after one of his many responses delivered monosyllabically (except, of course, for that last word).

And, after screening a very funny flashback episode (which has yet to air) that sort of revealed the origins of the group’s dynamic — they believe the Y2K bug destroyed mankind, so they begin living in a superstore and fumble about creating a new civlization — series creator Greg Garcia explained, “We thought it would be funny if the one thing they planned for was Y2K and it didn’t happen. And that they would be better people only if everyone else on the planet died.”
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Oscars: Just a thought

On Oscar night, everyone assiduously mentions how PriceWaterhouseCooperMcMandateCohenAlexandriaLoonDeTard (and whoever the accounting company has merged with in the past 45 minutes) has heroically prevented results of the upcoming Academy Award winners from getting out more than The United Arab Emirates may protect our East-Coast ports, yet tonight, it seemed just about all the pundits at ABC were echoing the same theme: There’s always a surprise at the Oscars (which isn’t really true); “Crash” could realistically upset “Brokeback Mountain” for Best Picture, and so on. And, indeed, “Crash” swiped top honors from the frontrunner.

Hence, a question for conspiracy theorists: Are these results really that protected? Were these guys tipped off in advance? Or are they just really good pundits, who divined the intentions of a capricious Academy far more sagely than widely-established-for-months conventional wisdom? At any rate, they sort of undercut the drama: Viewers for all the red-carpet nonsense were already primed to accept “Crash’s” victory as something less than a surprise.