On the mark
'Mad Men' win caps night of breakthroughsIt was a record-breaking night at the 60th Primetime Emmy Awards, with HBO's "John Adams" setting the standard for most wins by a program in a single year and CBS' "The Amazing Race" and Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" posting unprecedented sixth consecutive best series wins.
Overall, there were few surprises Sunday as the three most-nominated programs — "John Adams" (23 noms), NBC's "30 Rock" (17) and AMC's "Mad Men" (16) — dominated the longform, comedy and drama fields.
With its best drama series trophy, "Mad Men" became the first basic cable program to win a major series category. In addition to the "30 Rock" repeat as best comedy series, creator-star Tina Fey emerged as TV's new queen of comedy, collecting two more Emmys for lead comedy actress and comedy series writing. "Mad Men" also walked away with a drama writing Emmy for creator Matthew Weiner.
The haul for "John Adams" included wins for best miniseries; for stars Paul Giamatti, Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson; and for writer Kirk Ellis. Combined with eight wins at the Creative Arts Emmy ceremony the previous weekend, the mini walked away with 13 Emmys, two more than the record held by HBO's "Angels in America" and ABC's "Eleanor and Franklin."
HBO was the top winner for the night with 10 Emmys, followed by NBC with four and ABC and AMC with three apiece.
Following a season in which broadcast networks' schedules were heavily disrupted by the WGA strike, cable dominated the Emmys.
Cable series swept the drama acting categories, with FX's "Damages" nabbing two nods, including a lead actress trophy for Glenn Close and a supporting actor statuette for first-time nominee Zeljko Ivanek. In a surprise win, Bryan Cranston, star of AMC's "Breaking Bad," beat Golden Globe winner and "Mad Men" star Jon Hamm for lead actor in a drama series. Supporting actress honors went to Dianne Wiest for HBO's "In Treatment."
Overall, all main series honors went to critically acclaimed but ratings-challenged shows: "Mad Men," "30 Rock," "Damages" and "Breaking Bad."
"We're all just grateful to have jobs in this turkey-burger economy," Fey said.
In the lead comedy acting field, Fey shared honors with her "30 Rock" co-star Alec Baldwin, who was named best actor. Turning to Fey, Baldwin anointed her as "the Elaine May of her generation."
The TV academy can't heap enough praise on Jeremy Piven's portrayal of an abrasive Hollywood agent. The actor's role on HBO's comedy "Entourage" earned him a third consecutive supporting trophy. On the distaff side, Jean Smart won for her role on ABC's "Samantha Who?"
Speaking of streaks, both "Daily Show" and "Amazing Race" posted sixth consecutive wins in the best variety/music/ comedy series and best reality competition series, respectively, breaking the record of five held by NBC's "Frasier" (best comedy series) and CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" (variety/music/comedy).
The star of another CBS reality show, Jeff Probst of "Survivor," took home the first-ever trophy for best reality host.
Sunday marked the 60th anniversary of the Primetime Emmy Awards, and producers celebrated throughout the show with tributes to iconic TV phrases, sets, shows — including "Laugh-In" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" — and theme songs. A game Josh Groban performed several of the latter, including the tunes from "South Park," "Happy Days" and "Cops," and he even rapped his way through the "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" theme.
The ceremony was hosted by the five reality show host nominees — Probst, Tom Bergeron, Heidi Klum, Howie Mandel and Ryan Seacrest — who joked in their opening that they were completely unscripted in their remarks. It showed.
Piven said onstage: "What if I just kept talking for 12 minutes? What would happen?"
One of the night's highlights was a bit between Ricky Gervais of "Extras" and "The Office" star Steve Carell, the latter of whom accepted Gervais' lead actor Emmy last year in his absence. Gervais accused Carell of keeping Gervais' statuette.
"I made you what you are and I get nothing back?" joked Gervais, who co-created the original British "Office" and originated the character played in the U.S. version by Carell. "I sat through 'Evan Almighty,' so give me my Emmy."
The ceremony was held at a new venue this year, the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Many attendees seemed pleased with the venue, citing the eight big screensand functional decor.
The only major hitch Sunday came earlier in the day when the vehicle checkpoints for the media and other noncelebrity attendees were held up for several minutes after police found an aerosol rifle in the trunk of a car and detained three people.