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Nostalgia the Theme at the Emmy Awards

Nostalgia kicks in at the Emmys even before the curtain goes up. The 57th annual show begins Sunday with video splashed on black-and-white screens in which a quartet of recognizable faces talk about their favorite award moments over the years. Three are earnest. The other is Billy Crystal (search).

From there, the show rips through reminiscences both ironic ( William Shatner (search) singing the "Star Trek" theme) and heartfelt (a tribute to Johnny Carson (search)).

Overseeing the balance between silliness and solemnity is host Ellen DeGeneres (search), a New Orleans native who will address the Hurricane Katrina (search) disaster on stage.

The Associated Press got a preview during weekend rehearsals at the Shrine Auditorium. The show airs live at 8 p.m. EDT Sunday on CBS.

"People just can't go on with an awards show like nothing happened," comedian and former Emmy host Conan O'Brien (search) said of the hurricane's devastation after running through his routine Saturday.

"It might not hurt the show to have layers of the show actually be about something. It might actually add depth to the show. And if anyone can do it, Ellen can," he said.

Yet the focus will definitely be on fun, including a bizarre trophy presentation by Blue Man Group that's unlikely to be topped in weirdness any time soon. The group hands out the reality trophy after dancing to a mix-and-scratch soundtrack of "You're fired," "the tribe has spoken" and other catchphrases from nominated reality shows.

"Awesome," executive producer Ken Ehrlich said after their rehearsal Friday. "The Blue Man Group are in their own world. If you put them with people they have to be the aliens, so it's good to have them do something on their own, something different."

Early in the Emmy show, there's a "24"-style jibe at overly long award shows and a performance by the Black Eyed Peas and Earth, Wind & Fire of the latter's '70s hit "September," with rewritten lyrics referencing "sexy 'Housewives,'" Jack Bauer saving the world and other primetime themes.

Later in the ceremony, look out for tributes to the trio of former network anchors and "Tonight Show" host Carson, who died in January.

Another don't-miss moment will be the nominee video introduction for writing for a variety, music or comedy program. The writers of HBO's "Da Ali G Show" pose as '70s porn stars. Just be thankful they don't show any more skin.

During Saturday's rehearsal, O'Brien strutted along the stage with a stand-in to present one of the night's most anticipated awards — for actress in a comedy series, featuring three "Desperate Housewives" competing with each other.

He landed several funny lines before a kicker involving, not the winner, but the trophy losers.

Eyes drooping after arriving in Los Angeles from New York at 4 a.m., he's unapologetic about his sarcastic, dark humor.

"I don't feel anything anymore," he said. "I went numb in '95."

Perfect. More nostalgia.