September 23, 2005 at 04:00 AM EDT

Obviously, it was going to be a strange night when Donald Trump strolled on stage at the 57th Annual Emmy Awards in a straw hat and overalls to sing the Green Acres theme song. But even that odd moment couldn’t quite capture how unpredictable things were going to get. Indeed, Emmy voters were in a cranky, volatile mood this year, aiming awards like rifle fire from a novice marksman — never quite hitting the expected target. (Save for Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Doris Roberts, of course, who will be collecting Emmy kudos well into the 24th century.) ”I think the Academy took their job very seriously,” says Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz, a surprise winner over Desperate Housewives‘ Marc Cherry in the comedy-writing category. ”They really studied the material.” Actually, the jury’s still out on that (really, no award for Glenn Close?). Here’s a look at the moments that made this one of the weirdest ceremonies in recent memory.

SURPRISE No. 1 The night’s surest bet, a win for The Shield‘s Close, went poof! with Patricia Arquette’s upset victory for NBC’s Medium, which isn’t exactly a critical darling. ”I was convinced that I was not gonna win,” she says. Well, not so convinced — she prepared a speech, after all. ”I wanted to make sure I wasn’t caught with my pants down on the small chance that I won!” Perhaps she should have been more concerned with busting out of that too-tight dress.

SURPRISE No. 2 Few expected William Shatner’s win for Boston Legal; fewer still thought costar James Spader would take home his second consecutive Emmy with such strong competition from House‘s Hugh Laurie and Deadwood‘s Ian McShane. Nobody denies Spader’s consistent excellence, but these wins are a reminder that Emmy voters tend to glom onto a once-interesting choice and institutionalize the victory…year after year after year. Call it Frasier Syndrome.

SURPRISE No. 3 She’s widely considered one of the best awards-show hosts in Hollywood, so why did the show’s producers sideline Ellen DeGeneres for much of the evening? ”It’s not about the number of minutes she hosts,” defends exec producer Ken Ehrlich. ”With the things she wanted to do, we had to move her around the building, which made it trickier to have her available.” The best bit: DeGeneres joining Eva Longoria in the nosebleed section, for a tongue-in-cheek segment — an idea cooked up by the host — that touched on Longoria’s now-famous non-nomination. Says Longoria: ”She called me on Saturday and said, ‘You’re not bitter about not being nominated, are you? You can laugh at it?’ And I absolutely said yes. I’d do anything for her.”

SURPRISE No. 4 Industry favorite Felicity Huffman, so rarely mentioned when the tabloids write about the grousing Housewives, proved that great acting trumps great vamping with her upset in the comedic lead actress category. Kathryn Joosten, who won a guest-actress Emmy for playing Huffman’s on-screen nemesis Mrs. McClusky, says the win proves that Emmy’s system actually works. ”What the voters are looking for is not what the public responds to,” she argues. ”We’re looking for excellence, ergo Felicity, who is so subtle but zings in and just gets it. Just because it’s a loud, emotional scene doesn’t mean it’s good acting.” Uh-oh…did we just inadvertently start another cast catfight?

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