HBO’s The Sopranos took the Emmy for best drama series in its final season in an award ceremony Sunday that otherwise defied expectations. NBC’s 30 Rock won for best comedy series in its first season, beating out favorites Entourage and Ugly Betty. And Ricky Gervais took best lead actor for his bittersweet HBO series Extras—a trophy that had been expected to go to Steve Carell of The Office or Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock.

That was “relatively painless,” said Josef Adalian in The 59th annual Primetime Emmy Awards moved fast and made “sparing use of the inoffensive, near-invisible” host—Ryan Seacrest. There were even some laughs. The biggest came when Gervais failed to show up to collect his statuette, and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert called up Steve Carell for a “Daily Show reunion” and impromptu “happy dance.” It wasn’t much, “but at least watercoolers won't be buzzing about yet another dreadfully dull awards show.”

“If the world were run by Emmy voters,” said Scott Collins in the Los Angeles Times (free registration), “a lot of gamblers would lose the shirts off their backs.” There were only 29 categories, and the TV academy “roamed” so widely that it managed to drop “love-bombs” on 20 programs. “Dominance? That's so 2004. In the new math of the TV academy, everyone's a winner!”

A “rousing farewell” to The Sopranos and a “moving tribute” to the classic miniseries Roots gave the broadcast a lift, said Tom Shales in The Washington Post (free registration), but “three instances of government-mandated censorship brought it down again.” Comic actor Ray Romano and actress Katherine Heigl were both cut off early in the show, apparently for using four-letter words. Then actress Sally Field was bleeped for using a “God-related swear word in voicing antiwar sentiments” during one of her famous, “rambling acceptance speeches.” If Fox censored her because of her political views, this year’s show will be remembered as “an ugly first in the history of the Emmys.”