1. Life & Culture

Emmy Awards 2014: 'Breaking Bad' wins big; poignant Robin Williams tribute

Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, second from left, picks up the second consecutive Outstanding Drama Series win for his show Monday night.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan, second from left, picks up the second consecutive Outstanding Drama Series win for his show Monday night.
Published Aug. 26, 2014

Two homicide detectives in Louisiana were no match for AMC's reigning meth king, as this Emmy season's battle between True Detective and Breaking Bad came down in Bad's favor Monday night. During the three-hour 66th annual Emmy awards, Bad emerged the big winner, claiming the Outstanding Drama award for its final season that wrapped a year ago, plus three acting wins and a writing nod. Bryan Cranston even pulled off a bit of an upset, nabbing the Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series prize over Matthew McConaughey, the favorite to win for his committed turn on Detective. • On the comedy side, it was a disappointing night for Netflix hit Orange is the New Black. The show, nominated in the comedy categories even though it's arguably a more dramatic series, walked away with just one win out of an impressive 12 nominations (Uzo Aduba won for Guest Actor in a Comedy in a separate ceremony that aired Saturday). Modern Family continued its Outstanding Comedy streak with a fifth consecutive win in the category, a disappointing choice given the much higher qualities of the rest of this year's nominees.

MEYERS SUCCEEDS: Saturday Night Live alum and Late Night host Seth Meyers used his wry delivery and expert timing, strengths honed behind the Weekend Update anchor desk, to prove himself a quippy and capable host who kept up a zippy energy throughout the show (that smile!). In a monologue heavy on jokes about the decline of network TV, he compared MTV holding an awards show for music videos, which they no longer air, to a network holding an awards show and "giving all the awards to cable and Netflix." (Meyers wasn't even afraid to poke fun at his own network NBC. HBO had a ton of nominations going into Monday's show, he said, and "not to be outdone, NBC is also a network.") His strengths as a straight man were put to good use during a particularly entertaining early segment in which he took questions from the audience (Andre Braugher needed the key to the bathroom; Julianna Marguiles wanted dibs on Maggie Smith's potential Emmy). And a bit with his pal Amy Poehler in which they tried to figure out how to introduce presenters Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson was solid gold.

"HE MADE US LAUGH. HARD.": The night's most meaningful moment came later in the show, when the In Memoriam montage accompanied by Sara Bareilles' lovely rendition of Nat King Cole's Smile led into an anticipated Robin Williams tribute. It didn't disappoint. Williams' longtime pal and colleague Billy Crystal weaved a touching and bittersweet tale about working with Williams that emphasized his ability to inspire laughter anywhere. Followed by excerpts of Williams on TV over the years, it was the perfect blend of sentimental and celebratory. "Robin Williams, what a concept."

KIMMEL: Jimmy Kimmel nearly upstaged Meyers when he came out to announce the winner for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy and riffed for a solid five minutes. After spotting McConaughey near the stage, Kimmel wondered why the laidback actor is nominated for a TV show when he doesn't even have a TV and told him he looks "fat" compared to his emaciated appearance at the Oscars. (Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series winner Gail Mancuso also used McConaughey's proximity in her acceptance speech. Afraid to make eye contact with her fellow producers for fear she'd start crying, Mancuso instead focused on McConaughey. Solid strategy, Gail.)

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DREAM TEAM: Television veterans Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Bryan Cranston must do more things together. Like, maybe, host an awards show? Yes, they both have far better things to do with their immense talents, but between their hilarious and clever presentation of Lead Actor in a Comedy ("Hold on, Clark Gable."), that pawn shop Emmys promo they did earlier this month, and the giant smooch a mustached Cranston laid on Dreyfus when she won her fifth Emmy Monday night, they're on a roll.

BILLY SAVES THE EMMYS: Perhaps the smartest — and funniest — thing Meyers and Co. did was recruit Emmy-nominated comedian Billy Eichner to do an Emmys version of his Funny or Die show Billy on the Street. In a taped segment, Eichner and Meyers took to the streets of New York City for a frantic lightning round of questions with strangers on the street. Highlights included Eichner telling someone that Yahoo is producing new episodes of Community and "Hotmail just picked up 12 episodes of Judging Amy"; one guy thinking Seth Meyers is maligned Oscars host Seth MacFarlane; and the pair taking donations for the (extremely well-paid) cast of the Big Bang Theory.

WEIRD INDEED: Fresh off his recent No. 1 album, Weird Al Yankovic showed up midway through the show and performed the theme songs for this year's big nominees, adding lyrics to the instrumental songs that open Mad Men, Scandal, Homeland ("beautiful woman, ugly crying"), Modern Family and Game of Thrones. It was, well, weird.


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