It's never a good sign when a show celebrating television feels like a rerun from the beginning.
When host Jane Lynch of "Glee" began a pre-taped musical number celebrating TV with "surprise" guest spots from prominent actors, a viewer immediately thinks of Jimmy Fallon's "Born to Run" takeoff on last year's show.
And not in a good way. Fallon's opening felt fresh and funny. Lynch's felt hashed-over. Even Jon Hamm was a rerun; the "Mad Men" actor appeared in Fallon's skit, too.
There's something a little off-putting about a musical number proclaiming television "a vast wonderland" and "joy in a box" when it's drenched in irony. This is the time of year when viewers actually want to believe that, and not feel it's all one big joke.
Her opening monologue was otherwise serviceable. As Betty White was shown on the screen, Lynch joked that the 89-year-old actress was the reason the show began at 5 p.m. on the West Coast.
She was sharpest after ABC's "Modern Family" swept the early awards. "Welcome back to the 'Modern Family' award," she said.
By the way, why do the Emmys frontload the telecast with so many comedy awards? That takes the risk of what exactly happened: that the awards were less about all of television and more about one show.
The biggest backstage buzz was about someone who WASN'T there: Alec Baldwin. He asked that a pre-taped bit that included him in the opening skit be excluded when a joke involving News Corp.'s phone hacking scandal was cut out by Emmys broadcaster Fox. He was replaced by Leonard Nimoy.
It all made Ricky Gervais' comedy skit seem more ironic. The controversial "Golden Globes" host appeared in a pre-taped routine, and said Fox editors would change it if he said something offensive. Of course, he seemed to say several "offensive" things awkwardly cut out and replaced. After Gervais started saying that HBO was the best network on television, the edit had him saying, "apart from Fox, that is."