Maybe everybody really does love Raymond.
An Emmy telecast assailed by critics for favoring veteran winners and shows, à la Comedy Series champ Everybody Loves Raymond, was a hit with viewers, posting the award show's biggest numbers since 2002.
Sunday night's Emmy telecast on CBS drew an estimated 18.6 million viewers, the network said Monday. That's up more than 35 percent from last year.
Likewise, E!'s Live from the Red Carpet two-hour pre-show posted a double-digit household ratings increase (16 percent) over last year. (E! Online is a division of E! Networks.)
With the buzz buzzing, the Emmys shattered an awards-show losing streak, becoming the first major trophy-distribution effort in a year to post a gain in viewers.
Last September's Emmys on ABC, January's Golden Globes on NBC, February's Grammys on CBS and, to a lesser degree, February's Academy Awards on ABC all suffered from eyeball attrition.
What was the secret to success for the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards? According to the critics, well, they have no idea.
The three-hour show, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, didn't draw bad notices. But it didn't draw raves, either.
The consensus: The Johnny Carson tribute was fine, if odd (where was Jay Leno?); the fallen network news anchor tribute was fine, if not exactly awe-inspiring; the much-bleeped Jon Stewart bit on the federal government's Hurricane Katrina response was plain funny.
Overall, critics found that the telecast was, in a word, bland, and that without Gwyneth Paltrow's mother, it would have been, in another word, blander.
"The closest thing to controversy was Blythe Danner [a winner for Huff] stretching her time limit to make an antiwar statement," Alessandra Stanley wrote in the New York Times.
On the "liberal media bias"-watching blog, NewsBusters.org, Danner's "let's get the heck out of there," meaning Iraq, was held up as "tacky."
That was about as far as the Emmys went, though, with bulletin-board fodder, although Variety's Phil Gallo gave S. Epatha Merkerson, a winner for the HBO made-for-TV movie Lackawanna Blues, credit for "losing her speech down the front of her dress."
"If nothing else," Barry Garron wrote in the Hollywood Reporter of Merkerson's moment, "it proved that, regardless of what goes wrong, there will always be something funny for the clip reel."
Also a keeper for the clip reel, per most critics, was DeGeneres, who got more consistently good notices than the show she fronted.
"She gave it a college try, insulted no one, displayed a bit of quirkiness and kept the trains running on time," Variety's Gallo wrote.
"I wondered if people were blaming host Ellen DeGeneres, when it really wasn't her fault," Paul Brownfield concurred in the Los Angeles Times.
More to the pointed point was the Chicago Tribune's Maureen Ryan: "Not even Ellen DeGeneres could save the Emmy broadcast from itself."
In her review, Ryan gave voice to common laments--too many repeat winners (Raymond, Raymond stars, Boston Legal's James Spader), too many weird winners ("Patricia Arquette...beating out the fiery Glenn Close of The Shield as Best Actress in a Drama is one of the most head-scratching Emmy moments ever").The columnist did offer one solution: "The Emmy folks ought to sign a multiyear contract with...DeGeneres."