I never tried it but found »www.wuinstall.com/
which is a utility that appears to allow you to download and install the updates, reboot, rinse and repeat.
Just something I found and not sure how effective it will be. Like you, it is a very time consuming thing that requires baby sitting. My dad recently got a Windows 8 desktop and it seemed to only require 2 restarts to apply all updates. I imagine over time that could increase as well.--
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