BEST DRAMA: Mad Men
BEST COMEDY: 30 Rock
* * *
Turns out, the strategy for making Sunday's Emmy Awards the most entertaining ceremony in recent memory didn't include a single, momentous change.
Instead, it was a barrage of sidesplitting moments, calibrated to reward serious TV and pop culture fans, that led to an unpredictable, hilarious and outrageously entertaining tribute to the new face of TV.
There was a moustachioed Sarah Silverman shown awaiting the best comedy actress award; Late Night host Jimmy Fallon greeting the crowd with his voice masked by an auto-tuner, only to slip, fall and call for help with freaky, computerized vocals; Daily Show castmember John Hodgman providing fake facts about award winners and a segment introducing the awards show accountants taken over by fictional villain Dr. Horrible.
"Here's hoping Kanye West likes 30 Rock," quipped host Neal Patrick Harris, loosing the first of at least three jokes about the rapper, moments after completing a lavish song-and-dance tribute to the Emmys that basically begged viewers not to switch over to the Giants-Cowboys game.
This was an Emmys that embraced the world of hip TV fans, centering a long, sidesplitting bit on Harris' revolutionary musical DVD and online video Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. So what if Grandma didn't get the reference - fans of TV willing to pass up a new Mad Men episode or NFL game were rewarded with a cheeky, musical lark where Dr. Horrible's bid to hijack the Emmys was thwarted by Internet buffering problems.
Good thing, too. Because many of the actual Emmy winners were completely predictable, including consecutive wins for Mad Men (best drama), 30 Rock (best comedy), 30 Rock's Alec Baldwin (best actor, comedy), Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston (best actor, drama), Damages' Glenn Close (best actress, drama) and Survivor host Jeff Probst (best reality host).
"What an incredible year," quipped Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner. "First, the election, and now this."
Some surprises were just odd. Kristin Chenoweth won a best supporting actress Emmy in comedy even though her series, Pushing Daises, was canceled last season. American Idol director Bruce Gower won an Emmy despite a spate of technical problems and overly long live episodes last season that kept some fans who recorded the show from seeing the end.
Savvy fans got bonus content. Besides making some funny comments during the show, Hodgman provided snarky commentary on Twitter, noting, "I happen to know Gervais is wearing Calvin Klein. And some fake stubble he borrowed from Sarah Silverman."
Producers seemed determined to subvert almost every convention that makes modern awards ceremonies so dull. Gone were dreary speeches by accountants and academy presidents; taking a page from the Oscars, the tribute to deceased performers was set to a live song from singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan.
"This is how you host the Emmys," saidProbst, in a wry nod to last year's ceremony, which was widely viewed as a disaster hosted by him and the four other reality TV show hosts nominated for an award. (Comic Ricky Gervais had a blunter assessment, walking on stage and saying simply "better than last year, right?")
In the end, Harris and his bag of tricks more than made up for a field of predictable winners, embracing quality TV's new status as a hip-ified niche with a fervor that brought the best Emmycast television has seen in a very long while. Wonder what Doogie is doing when the Oscars roll around next year?
Partial list of winners at Sunday's 61st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards presented by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences:
Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Michael Emerson, Lost
Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Cherry Jones, 24
Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Kristin Chenoweth, Pushing Daisies
Miniseries: Little Dorrit
Made-for-TV Movie: Grey Gardens
Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm
Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens
Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Ken Howard, Grey Gardens
Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Shohreh Aghdashloo, House of Saddam
Directing for a Comedy Series: The Office "Stress Relief," Jeff Blitz, NBC
Directing for a Drama Series:ER: "And in the End," Rod Holcomb
Directing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: American Idol: Show 833 (The Final Three), Bruce Gowers
Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special:Little Dorrit: Part 1, Dearbhla Walsh
Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Reality-Competition Program: The Amazing Race
Writing for a Comedy Series:30 Rock: "Reunion," Matt Hubbard
Writing for a Drama Series:Mad Men: "Meditations in an Emergency," Kater Gordon and Matthew Weiner
Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special:Little Dorrit, Andrew Davies
Host, Reality or Reality-Competition Program: Jeff Probst, Survivor
Original Music and Lyrics:81st Annual Academy Awards: "Song Title: Hugh Jackman Opening Number"