Memo to the TV academy: Next year, try bikinis.

The Miss America Pageant turned to the two-piece to liven up things. And if the Emmy people know what's good for them (or, for viewers) they'll try the same thing.

While we're not exactly anxious at the prospect of scoping out Dennis Franz or John Lithgow in spaghetti straps and Speedos, we're anxious for anything to ensure that next year's big show is nothing like this year's big show--namely, a smug snoozefest of the highest order.

For the record, Frasier repeated as best comedy series winner; Law & Order upset NYPD Blue's steamroller as a surprise best drama-series victor Sunday night at the 49th Annual Prime-time Emmy Awards in Pasadena, California. HBO's Miss Evers' Boys, one of the night's big-time winners, was named best TV movie; PBS' Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgement honored as best miniseries.

Mad About You's Helen Hunt bested Ellen DeGeneres as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series--her second win in a row; John Lithgow also repeated in the best comedy actor category for 3rd Rock from the Sun. In the drama series lead acting categories, Dennis Franz (NYPD Blue) and Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) took their respective gender groupings. Armand Assante was named Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Special for NBC's The Odyssey; Alfre Woodard, Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries or Special for Miss Evers' Boys.

Overall, NBC won the most Emmys with 24. HBO followed with 19; CBS, 12; ABC, 10; PBS, six; and Fox, five.

NYPD Blue and 3rd Rock were the biggest winners among series; Miss Evers' Boys led all in the TV movie and miniseries categories.

Ellen DeGeneres won, but for writing--not acting. Still, that win gave her the opportunity to comment on last season's most talked-about half-hour of TV--the "coming out" episode of Ellen.

Notably shut out Sunday night: ER, which led all comers with 22 nominations; and CBS' Chicago Hope. (ER did win three technical awards in a non-televised ceremony last weekend.)

The CBS telecast was seen in 90 countries by an estimated 620 million people. Not a good night for the globe. This was a night without a pulse. No tears. No "moments." No nothing. (And for Fran Drescher, no flashbulbs. Some paparazzi outside the awards refused to take pictures of The Nanny. A tiff over her equating the shutterbugs to "slime balls," or so one of the photogs said.)

Bryant Gumbel seemed like a dubious choice from the start to host this affair. Mr. Gumbel was heretofore best known as the talented, but insufferable interrogator on NBC'sToday. Those are actually fine characteristics for someone whose job it is to lob questions at the likes of, say, Anwar Sadat. Those are actually lousy traits for someone whose job it is to introduce Mel Brooks.

With Gumbel setting the tone, the 49th annual edition of the Emmy Awards was as serious as a freakin' heart attack. There were more laughs at the last closed-door session of NATO. Hey, Bryant. Hey, CBS...This is TV! The boob tube. Home to Green Acres and When Animals Attack. It ain't brain surgery. You don't have to whisper. You won't disturb us.

Yeesh.

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