Emmy awards recap: Mad Men and Modern Family win big in tug of war between cable and network TV
Here's the showbiz miracle that occurred during Sunday's Emmy awards:
Just about everybody who deserved to win an award, actually received one.
That means ABC's sidesplitting freshman comedy Modern Family took home major awards as best TV comedy and best supporting comedy actor for Eric Stonestreet. AMC's Mad Men took the big trophy for best drama, but its natural rival Breaking Bad won the top male drama acting awards for lead Bryan Cranston and supporting actor Aaron Paul (I wrote a column for Variety magazine last year recommending Paul for the Emmy back then; glad to see it only took the academy a year to catch up).
And another newbie comedy, Fox's Glee, took home awards for supporting actress in a comedy -- the house would have been burned to the ground if Jane Lynch hadn't won this one -- and a first-ever directing Emmy for mastermind Ryan Murphy.
Even in the ever-snippy land of network TV versus cable, there was a bit of balance -- with the broadcasters mostly owning the comedy categories and the cable guys taking drama, made for TV movies and miniseries. As it should be.
Of course, this made for bittersweet award ceremony for a snarky critic.
One the one hand, you had a game, energetic host in Jimmy Fallon, appropriate and well-deserved awards for newbies Glee and Modern Family alongside veterans Big Bang Theory and the Daily Show, and an opening number featuring Betty White teaching Mad Men’s Jon Hamm how to shake his naughty bits.
On the other, where’s the fun in snarking off about an awards show smart enough to start with a Glee-style take on Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run and cool enough to let comic Ricky Gervais have as much time as he wanted to make fun of Mel Gibson. Again.
“I’m saving all the really offensive stuff for the Golden Globes,” Gervais cracked just before making fun of eventual Emmy winner, Winter Olympics broadcast director Bucky Gunts. “I didn’t even know you could say that on television.”
Emmy voters even handed down a few surprises, naming The Good Wife co-star Archie Punjabi as best supporting actress in a drama, handing the best actress in a drama statue to The Closer's Kyra Sedgwick instead of long-favored Good Wife star Juliana Margulies and naming Sopranos alum Edie Falco as best comedy actress for Showtime's Nurse Jackie.
“This is the most ridiculous thing in the history of the awards,” said Falco, acknowledging comedy heavyweights such as Tina Fey and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the category. “I’m not even funny.”
The biggest disappointment for critics came when former Tonight Show host Conan O’Brien lost best variety show award to The Daily Show. Sure Jon Stewart’s show has consistently nailed the absurdity behind America’s biggest challenges, but didn’t we all want to see O’Brien stroll onto his old network’s airwaves for one last appearance after getting fired from NBC?
A few other missteps: The show misspelled actress Julia Ormond's name when she rose to accept the best supporting actress award in a made for TV movie (Ormand? Really?); they cut off Mad Men producer Matthew Weiner when his acceptance speech went long (didn't they know; he always goes long); and the backstage "thank you cam" aired on NBC.com probably seemed like a good idea until you realize, that long string of names you never head of is the most boring part of most awards ceremonies.
Best of all, my own prediction average was better than past years. I called wins for Falco, Mad Men, Modern Family and Cranston, but did not see Jim Parsons winning best comedy actor for Big Bang Theory (though critics have been grousing about giving it to him for years) or Sedgwick acing Margulies.
And any award show that makes me look smart, has definitely got my thumbs up.