Emmys: The Morning After, Who's Feeling Sick From More Than a Hangover? (Analysis)
For the second straight year "Mad Men" was completely shut out, as was "Girls," while "House of Cards," "Game of Thrones," "Downton Abbey" and "Louie" were among the other shows that had particularly rough nights.
At the 65th Emmys -- or as it might be called, the Night of 100 Upsets -- the shocks were plentiful and the pain, as much as the joy, was truly spread around. Anyone who tells you, for instance, that they predicted that the sole acting winner from American Horror Story would be James Cromwell and from Breaking Bad would be Anna Gunn, or that Nurse Jackie would win more awards than Louie or Girls, is a liar. It was just that kind of night.
Let's start with AMC's Mad Men, which was coming off a record 0-for-17 shutout at the 2012 Emmys, and was completely shut out yet again, suffering 12 losses this time around. Somehow, Matthew Weiner's series is still seeking its first acting winner, and with The Newsroom's Jeff Daniels -- rather than Mad Men star Jon Hamm, who was as great as ever this season -- sneaking past presumptive frontrunners Kevin Spacey (House of Cards) and Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) to win best actor in a drama series, it's hard to see that changing anytime soon. Meanwhile, the network's other hit series, Breaking Bad, took home the top prize, best drama series, but lost two other chances to make history, with three-time winner Cranston missing what would have been a record-setting fourth best actor in a drama series win and costar Aaron Paul missing a chance to become the first three-time winner of best supporting actor in a drama series.
Widely buzzed-about newcomer Netflix, meanwhile, got less bang for its buck -- and it spent many this awards season -- than it would have liked. House of Cards caused a stir when it scored 14 noms, but in the end it won just three, only one of which is a big one: David Fincher took home (or will have it delivered to him, since he was a no-show) the best director of a drama series statuette. In the end, all of those food trucks and yard signs and free Netflix subscriptions weren't quite enough to push it over the top in the drama races that it wanted to win most: best series, best actor (Spacey) or best actress (Robin Wright). Not shockingly, its other two shows that received nominations, Arrested Development and Hemlock Grove, fared even worse, winning a combined 0-for-5.
The folks over at FX must be a bit stunned by the fact that they have only three winners to show for their impressive haul of 26 nominations -- and that they are AHS:A's Cromwell for best supporting actor in a movie or miniseries, AHS:A for best sound editing for a miniseries, movie or special and Melissa Leo for her guest actress stint on Louie. The network had higher hopes for both of those shows. This was supposed to be the year that Louie would take home best comedy series and Louie -- as in Louis C.K. -- would win not only best writing for a comedy series (as he did last year), but also best actor and best director. Instead, he went home empty-handed. Even more shockingly, American Horror Story: Asylum, which garnered a field-leading 17 noms, prevailed with only the two, thanks to the shocking upsets, in the TV movie or miniseries categories, of best actress hopeful Jessica Lange (by The Big C: Hereafter's Laura Linney) and best supporting actress hopeful Sarah Paulson (by Political Animals' Ellen Burstyn).
The TV Academy didn't do any favors for U.S.-U.K. relations by snubbing PBS's Downton Abbey, which came in with 12 noms but left with only one win, best music composition for a series, prompting a reporter from a British newspaper to ask me this morning why the Americans have fallen out of love with the British show. As I told him, they clearly haven't, awarding it drama noms for best series and in each of the four acting categories -- best actor (Hugh Bonneville), best actress (Michelle Dockery), best supporting actor (Jim Carter) and best supporting actress (Maggie Smith). The fact that Smith failed to win for a third consecutive year is probably less a reflection on Julian Fellowes' show than it is on the scorching heat that presently surrounds Breaking Bad, the fact that Anna Gunn had yet to win for the show and the realization that Smith, who never shows up for the Emmys or any other awards show, really couldn't care less. I'd bet a lot that Downton, as a period piece costume drama with a massive ensemble, will be back in contention next year.
Showtime didn't have as incredible an Emmys night as last year, when Homeland and its stars Damian Lewis and Claire Danes all won their respective drama categories -- but it still had a pretty solid showing. Danes managed to withstand a surge of momentum for Scandal's Kerry Washington to win best actress in a drama series again. It picked up another major acting win in the best supporting actress in a comedy category, which Nurse Jackie's Merritt Wever won in an absolute shocker over several past winners (Modern Family's Julie Bowen and Glee's Jane Lynch) and higher-profile nominees who seem long overdue (The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik, Modern Family's Sofia Vergara and 30 Rock's Jane Krakowski, who lost for the fourth time for her dearly-departed show). And Homeland writer Henry Bromell, who died of a heart attack in March, was celebrated with a best writing for a drama series win. I would imagine that the network's only real disappointment was that Boardwalk Empire's Bobby Cannavale, rather than Homeland's Mandy Patinkin, was the beneficiary of a Breaking Bad split (between Aaron Paul and Jonathan Banks) in the best supporting actor in a drama category. It would have been a nice way to mend any lingering wounds that he still feels after last year's inexplicable snub.
Comedy Central must be feeling conflicting emotions. Its hallmark program, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, a winner of best variety series every year since 2003, was finally toppled -- but it fell to The Colbert Report, a show that it spawned, which also airs on the network. Colbert also beat Stewart to win best writing for a variety series, marking its third victory in that category in the past six years.
HBO shouldn't really complain much -- after all, it picked up against-all-odds wins for best actor in a drama series (The Newsroom's Daniels), best supporting actor in a drama series (Boardwalk Empire's Cannavale), best supporting actor in a comedy series (Veep's Tony Hale), plus expected wins for best actress in a comedy series (Veep's Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and in the TV movie or miniseries races (for Behind the Candelabra and its director, Steven Soderbergh, and star Michael Douglas, if not its writer Richard LaGravenese). But it can't go without mention that its most-watched drama series this year, Game of Thrones -- which received 16 noms, more than every other show but one -- and its most-buzzed-about comedy series, Girls, both got lost in the shuffle. The former, which some even picked to win best drama series, will have to be content with best makeup for a single-camera series (non-prosthetic) and outstanding special visual effects. (I guess the fantasy genre just isn't the TV Academy's thing.) And the latter was completely shut out, coming up short with all five of its nominations, including both afforded to It-girl Lena Dunham (best actress in and best directing of a comedy series).
And, despite the onslaught of great programming now available via cable and streaming, it's premature to write the obituary for the broadcast networks just yet -- at least on the comedy side of things. ABC's Modern Family hung on for a fourth consecutive best comedy series win and third consecutive best direction of a comedy series win. NBC's 30 Rock went out with a best writing for a comedy series victory (if not big goodbyes for stars Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey in their respective lead acting categories), The Voice became only the second show ever to beat The Amazing Race for best reality competition program, and Saturday Night Live beat both Colbert and Stewart to win best direction of a variety series. And CBS's Jim Parsons won best actor in a comedy series for the third time in four years.