The eagerness of Sunday’s Emmy Awards show writers to embrace TV’s hottest and hippest was apparent early… But the Emmy voters themselves were far more resistant. At the very end, though, the Emmys broke with tradition, and awarded the night’s final award, Outstanding Drama Series, to first-time winner AMC’s Breaking Bad.
It was, in a way, a welcome bookend to a very odd evening. The pre-taped opening sketch of CBS’s 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards had host Neil Patrick Harris, as preparation for his return as host after a few years hosting other awards shows, strapping himself in for a year’s worth of TV binge viewing. The payoff to that sketch was a monitor showing Bryan Cranston, as Walter White, scaring Harris into getting on stage to do his best.
Then, in the opening live bit in front of the black-tie Emmy audience, Harris was joined, or heckled, by those who had hosted the Emmys in his absence: Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Jane Lynch.
Then, as the five of them bickered, the show cut to an audience-level camera – whereupon Kevin Spacey, turning to speaking to the camera in his House of Cards conspiratorial tone and accent, said with sinister glee, “It’s all going according to my plan.”
Yet less than two hours later, as the Emmy-night upsets continued to mount, both Cranston and Spacey came up empty in the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series category. The winner? Jeff Daniels from HBO’s The Newsroom – a great actor in a great role, yes, but this year? Against those guys?
It was a trend, of sorts, as one unexpected winner after another kept taking the stage, starting with the night’s first winner, Merritt Wever, for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for Nurse Jackie.
It wasn’t that there wasn’t any groundbreaking news, or exciting wins. David Fincher won Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for House of Cards, the first major Emmy won by a streaming service – in this case, Netflix. But he was a no-show, so he didn’t get to crow about the win, and give Netflix an invaluable shout-out.
And for The Colbert Report to finally get a writing Emmy, taking one away from fellow Comedy Central series The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, was something the show, and the host, truly earned this year. And then, later, wins the Variety Series as well. Huzzah!
Other notes about last night’s show:
Funniest acceptance speech of the night: From Michael Douglas, winner in the Movies or Miniseries category for best actor, saluting his Behind the Candelabra co-star and fellow nominee Matt Damon.
“This was a two-hander,” Douglas said, using show-biz shorthand for a two-character drama, as Damon comically waved him off. “You’re only as good as your other hand.” Douglas then offered to share the statuette with Damon, asking, “You want the bottom or the top?”
Bob Newhart, having been awarded his Guest Actor in a Comedy Emmy the week before for The Big Bang Theory, showed up to present another category – and got a well-deserved standing ovation. It was a classier nod to TV’s past, and legacy, than the JFK and Beatles tributes, or any of the posthumous stand-alone salutes, which started off on the wrong foot by omitting Larry Hagman.
Those tributes to prominent show-biz figures who died in the past year, by the way, didn’t show a single moving frame of film, or video, of the people being honored.
Robin Williams did the many voices of Jonathan Winters, but we heard, and saw, no Winters himself. Ditto when Rob Reiner honored Jean Stapleton.
It was about that time that Albert Brooks, in one of the funniest tweets I’ve ever read, tweeted the following: “When I die just show clips of me and shut the f up.” God bless Albert Brooks.
And speaking of “shut the f up,” why the nonsensical insistence upon holding the winners to an acceptance speech about the length of the average tweet? I understand the idea of keeping things moving, and for allowing time in the program for special segments – but I’ve always felt, with the Emmys as well as the Oscars, Tonys and Grammys, that the whole point of the thing is to revel in the wins with the winners.
What a waste: Squeezing those thank-yous into Hollywood haikus.