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An Emmy winning streak continued unabated Sunday night while another was shattered by an unexpected upset.
After taking home the Emmy seven years in a row for outstanding reality competition program, CBS’ “The Amazing Race” stunned the Nokia Theatre audience by losing to Bravo’s “Top Chef.”
While Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” — despite some predictions that NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” could result in an embarrassing victory for the network airing the 62nd annual telecast — won the variety, music or comedy series category for a record-setting eighth year in a row.
For “Race,” it halts an extraordinary domination of the top reality category ever since the TV Academy launched the category in 2003. After about four years, many in the industry began grousing about the show’s streak, wondering if the category was somehow unfair for pitting the lavishly produced globetrotting series against studio-based shows like Fox’s “American Idol.”
This year, some thought “Idol” might overturn “Race” after Fox’s hit submitted its send-off to judge Simon Cowell. But it was “Chef,” which has been nominated against “Race” every year since 2007, which finally broke the streak for a widely praised season set in Las Vegas.
“This is something we never expected,” said executive producer Dan Cutforth. “I think a lot of people come up here and say this, I really mean it. I really have nothing prepared to say at all.”
“I thought ‘Amazing Race’ was going to win again,” said host Padma Lakshmi backstage. “In fact, I was really, really mean to [The Amazing Race’s” Phil Keoghan] on the red carpet. I think I hit him twice with my purse.”
For “The Daily Show,” some industry insiders and Team Coco fans were itching for O’Brien’s short-lived tenure hosting NBC’s “Tonight Show” to score. The idea of O’Brien taking the stage to claim the award raised the possibility of a show-stopping speech and a public rebuke to the network for its handling of its late-night shakeup.
Some doubted, however, that such motives were enough to topple “The Daily Show” given that critics felt O’Brien’s performance only took off in the final weeks of the show. “The Daily Show” victory also shut up “Saturday Night Live,” which was considered a strong contender for its episode hosted by Betty White.
In the case of both streaks, key winners were absent. “Top Chef” executive producer Jane Lipsitz didn’t attend the awards for the first time in six years, while Stewart didn’t attend.
“This is crazy,” said “Daily Show” executive producer Rory Albanese. “Stephen Colbert went to Iraq. Conan. This category is insane. We keep winning it. It’s tough to feel bad. We work really hard.”
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