Good news for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences: Early Nielsen numbers for last night’s Emmys show a huge spike in viewers over last year, with an estimated 18.6 million viewers watching the CBS telecast, the highest number since 2002. Last year’s show, on then-Siberia network ABC, drew just 13.8 million. No doubt there were plenty of Lost and Desperate Housewives fans who tuned in this year in hopes of seeing their favorites win.

Still, many TV critics seemed disappointed. ”If you strangle, then smother, your TV in this country, do you go to jail?” wrote the apoplectic Tim Goodman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Watching Gary Dourdan and Macy Gray sing the Jeffersons theme in front of a clip of Weezie pummeling George with a pillow, Seattle Post-Intelligencer critic Melanie McFarland wrote, ”I imagined doing that to Ken Ehrlich, the producer responsible for this drivel.” The most enthusiastic review may have come from Washington Post critic Tom Shales, damning the show with faint praise by calling the broadcast ”one of the more nearly entertaining and least irritating Emmycasts in memory.”

And then there were the voters’ picks, which critics agreed provided one upset after another. Who expected Patricia Arquette to beat Glenn Close or Mariska Hargitay for the dramatic actress prize? Or James Spader to beat Hugh Laurie for Dramatic Actor? Or Everybody Loves Raymond to beat both Housewives and Arrested Development for Best Comedy? ”At least for the moment, you are now officially wackier and less predictable than those Hollywood Foreign Press dudes and their offbeat ol’ Golden Globes,” wrote the Hollywood Reporter‘s Ray Richmond.

Of course, some of those surprises were pleasant ones, like Felicity Huffman beating her favored Housewives costars Teri Hatcher and Marcia Cross for lead comedy actress. And there were some strangely entertaining moments, like William Shatner and Frederica von Stade’s Star Trek duet, or Blue Man Group’s presentation of the Reality Competition Series prize.

Tell us, PopWatchers, what did you like and dislike about the Emmy show? How do you feel about the list of winners?

Comments have been disabled on this post