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Early on in the 2013 Primetime Emmys telecast, the annual kudos seemed to stray away from many longtime favorites, with surprises in the supporting categories and a shut-out for the Modern Family cast for the first time since the series premiered. But the ABC comedy still took the top award in the category for the fourth year running.
The drama race, one of the most contested in recent Emmy memory, continued the wave of goodwill for Breaking Bad. The AMC drama scored its first win in the category. Homeland, which swept the top three drama categories last year with series and wins for both leads, only saw a repeat for Claire Danes. Netflix’s pricey foray into originals House of Cards, largely considered a game-changer for the show, failed to make much of an impression, though David Fincher took a win for directing the first episode. It was also another shut-out for Mad Men, which now sees its former darling status two years in the rearview mirror.
Merritt Wever (Nurse Jackie) and Tony Hale (Veep), both dark-horses in the supporting comedy races, were among the first wins of the night. Wever had been nominated once before for her work on Jackie, while Hale, who also reprised the role of Buster Bluth in Netflix’s Arrested Development revival, was a first-time nominee. It was another vote of confidence for Veep, which also saw an early win for Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She repeated last year’s Veep win, making it her fourth to date.
The fact that neither Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell, Sofía Vergara, Ed O’Neill nor Jesse Tyler Ferguson brought a win for Modern Family made it seem like the show might not have continued its streak, but it still managed to top big competition, most notably from Veep, Girls and the final season of 30 Rock.
The lead actor and actress in a comedy took the night to back into more familiar territory. Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons, who previously won in 2011, was also handed a trophy. (Last year’s winner, Jon Cryer, was not nominated.) Comedy’s more technical awards were also split among veterans. Tina Fey, joined by 30 Rock writer Tracey Wigfield, earned the 30 Rock creator the writing award, her eighth Emmy. And for directing, Modern Family‘s Gail Mancuso gave the show its first win for the night.
Drama brought more surprises. After a posthumous win for Homeland writer Henry Bromell, Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad) and Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire) both scored first wins in their respective supporting categories. Cannavale, also nominated for guest work on Nurse Jackie, previously won for Will & Grace. Gunn’s win seemed like it may have been signaling a big night for Breaking Bad, but her multiple-time-winning co-stars Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston both saw rather stunning losses in their categories. Lead actor ended up going to Jeff Daniels, in his first year of eligibility for HBO’s Newsroom.
Danes repeated her 2012 lead actress win for Homeland. The actress, who also has an Emmy for her work in HBO telepic Temple Grandin, proved that the Showtime series was still in favor with some TV Academy voters.
After winning big at the Creative Arts ceremony, HBO’s Behind the Candelabra had a big night in the movie and miniseries categories. In addition to taking the top prize, Michael Douglas beat out co-star Matt Damon to win for his portrayal of Liberace. Steven Soderbergh scored what seemed to be an obligatory nod for directing.
James Cromwell won the supporting actor race for his work on American Horror Story: Asylum, while Ellen Burstyn took the trophy for her work in Political Animals. The Big C, which shifted categories for its abbreviated final run, brought a win for lead actress Laura Linney. Writing went to Abi Morgan for BBC America’s defunct The Hour.
One category that did give a shock was reality competition. After more than a decade of The Amazing Race winning all but once — Top Chef took the trophy in 2010 — The Voice gained the distinction of being the first singing competition to ever score a win in the category. Mark Burnett accepted on behalf of the show, bolstering its status as TV’s reigning reality champ on the eve of its fifth season premiere.
Upsets continued in the variety race, with The Colbert Report putting an end to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart‘s 10-year winning streak as tops in the category. Colbert, which previously won an Emmy for writing in 2010, also took that category.
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William Jackson Harper
Friends: The Reunion