Ken Tucker offers a golden trophy to the Academy for its superb choices

By Ken Tucker
September 11, 2000 at 04:00 AM EDT

Why Sunday night’s was the best Emmy show in memory

Sunday night’s Emmy Awards were the best I’ve ever seen. As good as ”The Sopranos” is, ”The West Wing”’s win for Outstanding Drama was heartily well deserved. And to see ”Wing”’s Allison Janney win the Best Supporting Actress Emmy and ”Everybody Loves Raymond”’s Patricia Heaton score the Best Comedy Actress Emmy — well, it was like witnessing miracles. After so many years of watching the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences reward performers a season or two too late — always playing catchup with public taste — it was thrilling to see these two women rewarded for superb performances at exactly the proper moment in their careers.

The fact that Emmys were bestowed upon Janney, Heaton, and the magnificent HBO miniseries ”The Corner” — all choices that would have been longshots in previous years — must be due to the Academy’s new voting system, inaugurated this past year, which allows its members to view tapes at home, instead of dragooning judging committees into weekend screening sessions. It seems clear to me that this new process resulted in fresher choices. Under the previous system, a new show like ”Malcolm in the Middle” would have had to wait another season or two before the formerly staid, older judging panels acknowledged its excellence. Instead, writer creator Linwood Boomer and director Todd Holland took home trophies last night, and bravo for them.

Host Garry Shandling, polishing his comic persona of the vain, priapic buffoon to a high sheen, maintained a wonderful combination of wryness and naughtiness — droll and drool. He’s done for the Emmys what Billy Crystal has done for the Oscars: guaranteed a fast, funny start to the broadcast, along with some shrewdly scripted moments scattered throughout the show.

OK, OK, I’ll reach into my niggling critic’s brain and pull out a low point: the bad, pseudo Crystal musical number incorporating nominees’ names performed by Wayne Brady of ”Whose Line Is It Anyway?”

But the wins for ”Will & Grace,” for the dexterous British comic Eddie Izzard’s HBO special — oh, and for the way Michael J. Fox joked with such typical deftness and grace about his Parkinson’s disease during his bow-tie gag with Shandling; for ”West Wing”’s Richard Schiff to be honored as Best Supporting Drama Actor, and for the Academy to forgive Sela Ward for her awful phone company commercials and recognize the nuanced performance she gives on ”Once and Again”… well, it was just a damn fine night all the way around.