The 63rd Annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards resulted in a lot of first-time winners, a few surprises and for the first time in several years — far fewer repeats.
Though winners in most of the categories were expected, there wasn’t feeling of predictability with the results as the voting was pretty much on point this year. Perhaps the entire process, though still unfortunately based on episode submissions with little or no regard as to a candidate’s body of work for the season, may have been overhauled enough over the last few years that it could actually be working.
The telecast itself was one of the most well-paced and entertaining in many years. Host Jimmy Fallon was goofy but not self-debasing and endearing enough to get away with a few jokes that fell flat. His performance was highlighted by an appearance as Sir Elton John that was convincing enough to fool viewers at the outset into thinking that John was actually participating in the tribute to departing series 24, Lost and Law & Order. Noticeably missing was USA’s Monk, which also went off the air to record ratings after 8 seasons and ABC’s Ugly Betty, which ended its four-year run in April. It remains to be seen whether this was a mere oversight or if shows had to win Outstanding Drama Series (as those honored had done respectively in 2006, 2005 and 1997) in order to be included.
The awards were wisely presented in groups according to genre – comedy, reality, variety, drama and longform – instead of being interspersed throughout the telecast in some odd order of importance. With having to only play off one winner (Mad Men showrunner Matthew Weiner winning his third consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series), the telecast came in right on time. Perhaps they should have been airing live in all time zones all along.
Below is an analysis of this year’s results in the marquee comedy and drama categories.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series
MY PICK: TONY SHALHOUB, MONK
EVENTUAL WINNER: JIM PARSONS, THE BIG BANG THEORY
Parson’s win was not unexpected but still a surprise given Shalhoub’s two-hour submission for the show’s final season coupled with his prior three wins and the Emmy’s penchant for sending off beloved departing series with parting gift in a marquee category as they had done with “ER” last year (Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series), “The Sopranos” in 2007 (Outstanding Drama Series), “Frasier” in 2004 (Outstanding Lead Actor and Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series) as well as “Sex and the City” in 2004 (Outstanding Lead Actress and Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series). This was a well-deserved win for Parsons’ unique characterization and a nice makegood for the show’s snub in the Outstanding Comedy Series category after a breakout season.
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series
MY PICK: EDIE FALCO, NURSE JACKIE
EVENTUAL WINNER: EDIE FALCO, NURSE JACKIE
Apparently, dark comedy counts. Falco seemed to be the only person in the audience who was shocked by this win, her fourth (the first three were as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for “The Sopranos”). Her claim of not being funny was more or less invalidated by speech – particularly in thanking Fallon for his guitar-playing and the mention of her grandmother starting a new life chapter in Florida at the age of 94. Falco becomes the first woman to win lead prizes for both Comedy and Drama following Robert Young (for “Father Knows Best” and “Marcus Welby, MD”) and Carroll O’Connor (for “All in the Family” and “In the Heat of the Night”). Edward Asner also won for Comedy (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) and Drama (spinoff “Lou Grant”), but the former win was for Supporting and the latter for Drama).
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series
MY PICK: ERIC STONESTREET, MODERN FAMILY
EVENTUAL WINNER: ERIC STONESTREET, MODERN FAMILY
Despite the rare feat of prevailing over two other co-stars in the same category, Stonestreet’s win was not all that unexpected. After all, each of the “The Golden Girls” nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series took home an award – Betty White in 1986, Rue McClanahan in 1987 and Beatrice Arthur in 1988 (Getty was nominated as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series and won in 1988). Cynthia Nixon was named Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series over “Sex and the City” co-stars Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis in 2004. The following year Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” defeated co-stars Teri Hatcher and Marcia Cross for the win as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. In a year for the breakout comedy characters, Stonestreet’s name was a welcome one to hear from presenter Betty White.
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series
MY PICK: JANE LYNCH, GLEE
EVENTUAL WINNER: JANE LYNCH, GLEE
This was one of the year’s biggest and most well-deserved no-brainers. Lynch has been a reliable character actress for many years and is finally being justly rewarded with media attention and award recognition. Thanking her “Lord and Creator Ryan Murphy” was one of the best lines of the night.
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Comedy Series
MY PICK: NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, GLEE
EVENTUAL WINNER: NEIL PATRICK HARRIS, GLEE
This had been announced the previous weekend. Harris has long deserved an Emmy and actually won two that night. His other win was for hosting last year’s Tony Awards – which he received alongside the producers in the catch all category of Outstanding Special Class Program. It’s still surprising that he hasn’t won for “How I Met Your Mother” – particularly with several Barneycentric episodes this year. Though co-nominee Mike O’Malley had the heftier dramatic scenes and also would have been a worthy winner, it’s gratifying to see Harris cap off such a banner year with an Emmy.
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Comedy Series
MY PICK: BETTY WHITE, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
EVENTUAL WINNER: BETTY WHITE, SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
In the year’s other no-brainer category. White at age 88 became the eldest person last week ever to win an Emmy. The previous record holder, the late Beulah Bondi, was 85 when she won in 1977 for a guest appearance on “The Waltons”. With a part in the show’s open, presenting the first award, random camera cuts to her, the occasional stage mention and appearing in promos for both the season premiere of NBC’s “Community” as well as her new movie “You Again”, Betty White’s omnipresence was more than welcome throughout the telecast. Chances are she will be back in the race next year with either an Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy nomination for TV Land’s “Hot in Cleveland” and/or for any number of other guest spots she is certain to be slated for in the coming year.
Outstanding Comedy Series
MY PICK: MODERN FAMILY
EVENTUAL WINNER: MODERN FAMILY
As expected, the three-year roll in this category for “30 Rock” came to end. Less expected was that show’s complete shut-out this year despite 15 nominations (only “Northern Exposure” in 1993 suffered a worse shut-out with 16 nominations). Had the awards taken place in midseason like the Golden Globes, “Glee” would have taken the prize easily as the first half of its breakout first season was much stronger than the second half-which had become a victim of its own success with a few too many musical tributes that began to overshadow progression of the show’s storylines. With a far more consistent season, the tortoise that is “Modern Family” slowly and steadily rode the wave to join the ranks of “The Phil Silvers Show” (1955), “The Monkees” (1967), “All in the Family” (1971), “Taxi” (1979), “Cheers” (1983), “The Cosby Show” (1985), “The Golden Girls” (1986), “The Wonder Years” (1988), “Frasier” (1994), “Arrested Development” (2004) and “30 Rock” (2007) with a rare win in this category for a first season show. The win in this category for “Modern Family” is the first for ABC since “The Wonder Years” in 1988.
Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series
MY PICK: HUGH LAURIE, HOUSE
EVENTUAL WINNER: BRYAN CRANSTON, BREAKING BAD
Though Cranston is very good, this is the wrong category for any repeats. The disappointed and resigned look on five-time nominee Hugh Laurie’s face said it all. Fortunately for him, four-time nominee Michael C. Hall and three-time nominee Jon Hamm, Cranston will not be eligible for next year’s awards as “Breaking Bad” won’t be returning until the latter half of 2011. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Laurie opted out of next year’s race anyway. As disappointments go, this is a minor one since it was expected for Laurie, Hall or even Hamm to prevail after each coming off their best seasons.
Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series
MY PICK: KYRA SEDGWICK, THE CLOSER
EVENTUAL WINNER: KYRA SEDGWICK, THE CLOSER
Margulies had the momentum and carried the expectation of a win after walking away victorious from both the Golden Globes and SAG. However, Sedgwick’s celebrated win was long overdue for her performance on a show that has topped the cable ratings (and much of broadcast) for half a decade. Plus, we got to see a few cutaway shots of the eternally youthful Kevin Bacon.
Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series
MY PICK: AARON PAUL, BREAKING BAD
EVENTUAL WINNER: AARON PAUL, BREAKING BAD
The outpouring of support for new blood this year continued here against heavy competition from 2007 winner O’Quinn and last year’s winner Emerson. Clearly stunned at hearing his name called, Paul himself later stated in the press room that he was expecting one of the “Lost” to repeat. That Aaron Paul won for his excellent work is all that much more gratifying given the strength of this category.
Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series
MY PICK: CHRISTINA HENDRICKS, MAD MEN
EVENTUAL WINNER: ARCHIE PANJABI, THE GOOD WIFE
Despite the ever-increasing number of performance nominations for “Mad Men”, it’s not every year that one of them is considered a front-runner. Moreover, any “Good Wife” love was expected to be bestowed upon series star Juliana Margulies. Additionally, the nomination of co-star Christine Baranski could have resulted in vote-splitting. All things considered, Panjabi’s win was the evening’s only true surprise win as most of the other winners were frontrunners, spoilers or dark horse candidates. The best part of this win was Baranski’s joyful reaction and enthusiastic embrace of Panjabi.
Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series
MY PICK: JOHN LITHGOW, DEXTER
EVENTUAL WINNER: JOHN LITHGOW, DEXTER
As with the victories for Lynch and White, Lithgow’s win was an absolute no-brainer. In fact, one could feel bad for the other nominees at even having to show up to the ceremony last week knowing they hadn’t a zebra’s chance in a lion’s den of winning. As always, Lithgow is gracious in victory and was just happy to be asked to play the Trinity Killer on “Dexter”.
Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series
MY PICK: LILY TOMLIN, DAMAGES
EVENTUAL WINNER: ANN-MARGRET, LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT
If Sedgwick was overdue, then the legendary Ann-Margret was just about Luccian after five prior losses dating back to 1983. The standing ovation she received at the Creative Arts Emmys last week shows just how overdue she was and how legendary she is.
Outstanding Drama Series
MY PICK: MAD MEN
EVENTUAL WINNER: MAD MEN
The first win was expected. The second win was one of last year’s no-brainers. Coming of its best season yet, a three-peat for “Mad Men” was highly likely but possible upsets from the stakes-raising “Dexter” and the dearly departed “Lost” were still possible. Though a win for “Dexter” would have been a pleasant surprise, this three-peat is far more satisfying.