Best drama has never seemed so hollow.
Each season that "The Sopranos" gets nominated for Emmy Awards, its cast and creator make a trek to Los Angeles that seems beneath them. Where other shows offer up their stars as presenters and in comedy bits, generally playing along with the night's lighthearted bathos, "The Sopranos" barely participate in the telecast, available only for glum reaction shots as they sit there waiting to be honored.
It's a haughty New York vs. L.A. divide that exists industry-wide but is crystallized by "The Sopranos," which is at once the most celebrated series in TV history and the most disdainful of the left coast awards-season adulation.
So maybe that's why Emmy strikes back by withholding awards from a show that's unimpeachable but with an attitude, giving its statuettes instead to traditional TV actors who put out a more traditional 22 episodes a year.
Yes, "The Sopranos" won for best drama, but this only made the actor awards look all the more like non sequiturs. Thus did the starlet Katherine Heigl of "Grey's Anatomy" take the best supporting actress statue from veteran players Lorraine Bracco or Aida Turturro, while the outdoorsy Terry O'Quinn got best supporting actor instead of big-nosed, too-ethnic-looking Michael Imperioli.
Those snubs, however, were just a prelude to the laugh-out-loud choices: Meet scene-chewer Sally Field, your best actress on "Brothers & Sisters" instead of Edie Falco, and James Spader, your best actor for "Boston Legal" instead of James Gandolfini.
You can't call Spader a scenery chewer -- in fact, he says his lines in the same pitch over and over.
Of the Gandolfini/Falco shutout, you felt worse for Falco; though Carmela Soprano was something of an afterthought in the final season of "The Sopranos," her work these past years has been, in the best sense, an evolution, deserving of a final coronation (also, Falco is gracious enough to smile when the Emmy cameras find her).
In the end, the Emmys gave "The Sopranos" what "The Sopranos" consistently gives the Emmys -- more a halfhearted toast than a full-blown group hug.
It appears to be a classic case of getting only as much as you give. Most amazingly, producers got the cast to agree to participate in a mid-show tribute, coming onstage at the end of an homage that featured music from "Jersey Boys" set to your favorite "Sopranos" acts of violence.
You figured the segment was a fail-safe in case the Emmys didn't honor the show with awards. And, mostly, it didn't.