Los Angeles The latest edition of the Emmy Awards proved that timing really is everything.
Sunday's ceremony on NBC, despite being one of the most entertaining awards shows in years and with host Conan O'Brien in top form, found itself accused of bad timing and worse.
The show opened with an elaborately produced pre-taped comedy skit featuring O'Brien in a spoof of the jetliner crash in "Lost" - on the same day a commuter plane crashed on takeoff in Lexington, Ky., killing 49 people.
The proximity of the accident to the show's airing was unacceptable and the sequence should have been pulled, some observers said.
"We wish somebody had thought this through. It's somewhere between ignorance and incompetence," said Tim Gilbert, the general manager of NBC's Lexington affiliate, WLEX.
"It was a live telecast. We were completely helpless," Gilbert was quoted as saying Sunday night on the Lexington Herald-Leader's Web site. "By the time we began to react, it was over. At the station, we were as horrified as they were at home."
The segment, which opened the Emmys, started with O'Brien boarding a private plane to Los Angeles. Asked by a stewardess whether he was nervous about hosting the show, O'Brien answered "Nervous? What could possibly go wrong?"
The plane then pitched violently and a crash was implied but not shown. Instead, the skit cut to O'Brien stranded on an island resembling the one in "Lost."
The network issued a statement Monday expressing sympathy for those who lost family members in the crash and for the Lexington community.
"In no way would we ever want to make light of this terrible tragedy," the statement continued. "The filmed opening during the Emmy telecast was meant to spoof some of television's most well-known scenes. The timing was unfortunate, and we regret any unintentional pain it may have caused."
The ceremony also suffered because of scheduling. NBC pulled it from its usual home in September, at the start of the new TV season, to accommodate the network's addition of Sunday-night football to its schedule.
That put the Emmys (which rotate among the major networks annually) smack into the least-viewed month of the year. Early ratings seemed to reflect that: The audience fell 14 percent compared to 2005, with 16.1 million watching vs. 18.6 million last year.
That represents the fourth-smallest audience ever for the Emmys, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research.
The show faced competition that included an airing of the original "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie on ABC, an original episode of "Big Brother" on CBS and the season finale of "Entourage" on HBO.
HBO earned the most Emmys, a total of 26 including the awards given out at the Aug. 19 creative arts ceremony for technical and other achievements.
NBC, facing an uphill ratings climb in the coming season, did get a psychological boost with its cumulative 14 awards, the most for any broadcast network. ABC won 11 Emmys and Fox received 10, including its first best drama series trophy. CBS had 10, followed by PBS with nine.