By Tom Gliatto
Updated August 28, 2006 04:00 PM

1. Thinking outside the airtight glass box

Conan O’Brien’s opening number had him dropping in on various hit TV shows and then mocking host network NBC’s ratings woes with a spoof of “Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man. Not much different from what Billy Crystal would do at the Oscars, except that O’Brien is always sending up himself, too. Crystal really considers himself a song-and-dance man, whereas O’Brien just pretends to be one. His other big running joke – holding Bob Newhart hostage in an airproof glass case to keep the show’s time under three hours – gave me bizarre associations with Middle Eastern terrorism, but it was a great sight gag. And the show didn’t run over.

2. He’s smiling down from 7th Heaven

Stephen Collins, flanked by Heather Locklear and glamorous old bobblehead Joan Collins, led off the Aaron Spelling tribute with a phrase I hope will someday be used in my own obituary notices: “He was a surprisingly gentle mogul.” After all the fuss over the family feud, it was nice to see Tori Spelling in attendance (and if I may bring up the subject of the show’s demographic, didn’t she seem like the youngest person in the entire studio audience?).

Ah, then came the reunited Charlie’s Angels: fragile Farrah Fawcett, dolphin-sleek Jaclyn Smith and strapping Kate Jackson, who looked as if she were about to go off to battle practice with Xena. More than a nice moment, it was a reminder that Spelling’s notion of sex appeal – cheesily kittenish or no – endures despite, or maybe beyond, Drew Barrymore and her crew’s hipper incarnation.

3. Gloat like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Jeremy Piven won a well-deserved Emmy on the second go-round for his portrayal of über-agent Ari Gold on Entourage. His acceptance speech was short and punchy, with a sweet nod to his mama in the audience and a rather unexpected blue reference to a career in pornography. If you recorded NBC’s red-carpet pre-show, make sure to watch his interview with Billy Bush. I couldn’t tell if Piven was engaging in friendly bantering or vicious undercutting. Impressive, either way.

4. No cursing, please.

Sweetest moment? Julia Louis-Dreyfus accepting her award for The New Adventures of Old Christine. She shook the trophy in defiance of the Seinfeld curse, then got all emotional, with a big pendant tear sparkling in her right eye. Then she nearly forgot to mention husband Brad Hall, which in the world of celebrity awards shows brings down the greatest curse of all. She finally remembered (after he playfully gave the camera an imploring look). But what range, even for an acceptance speech!

5. Hugh are trés funnee, monsieur docteur

House star and non-nominee Hugh Laurie, presenting an acting award with Elizabeth I winner Helen Mirren, just stood there and translated her teleprompter comments in faux-French. (She stumped him with the phrase “of winnowing.” He went with “de winnoweeeng.”) There was no point to any of this, so far as I could tell, but it was a delight, and a relief, in a night of unusually perfunctory stage chatter. The other exception was Stephen Colbert wailing to Jon Stewart because he’d lost the best variety performer award to Barry Manilow: “I lost to ‘The Copacabana!’ ” You know what? You lost to “Mandy,” too.