Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; Lester Cohen/WireImage
You could describe the 64th Primetime Emmys in many ways, but predictable wouldn't be one of them. An awards ceremony that tends to hand out trophies to the same (usually deserving) shows and actors year after year got a little punchy this time, delivering at least a few big upsets and some genuinely funny gags along the way.
Which was the night's biggest surprise? Some might say it was the domination of Showtime's critically acclaimed Homeland, which took the trophy for outstanding drama series, while its leads, Claire Danes and Damian Lewis, won the outstanding lead actor and lead actress trophies. And instead of winning a record-breaking fifth trophy for outstanding drama, the consistently fantastic series Mad Men was all but tossed aside.
So was Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, whom most critics had deemed the rightful owner of the award for outstanding lead actor in a drama. As for comedy, the big surprise here was Jon Cryer snagging the outstanding lead actor in a comedy award when everyone thought it was destined for Louis C.K.'s mantel.
Sure, some awards were doled out as expected: Modern Family won the trophy for outstanding comedy. No one was shocked to hear Danes' name called for outstanding lead actress in a drama. Ironically, the pregnant star accepted it while wearing what appeared to be the maternity version of the dress worn by Julie Bowen, who won the award for outstanding supporting actress in a comedy. And Jon Stewart and his fake news team shocked no one by winning the outstanding variety, music or comedy series trophy for the tenth time. Naturally, he gave a funny-as-always speech which ended with his signature humility: "Years from now, when the earth is just a burning husk and aliens visit, they will find a box of these and they find a box of these, they will know just how (bleep) predictable these (bleep) Emmys are!"
But not all around. Not this time, at least. When Jon Cryer was called to the stage for outstanding lead actor in a comedy, the Two and a Half Men star himself looked shell-shocked by the news. "Don't panic, people," he said jokingly from the podium. "Something has clearly gone terribly wrong. I'm stunned."
No doubt lots of people were. Louis C.K. was almost universally predicted to win that trophy, with some critics hedging that Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons might grab it for a third time. Though in past years Cryer has won two Emmys for his role as Alan Harper in the outstanding supporting actor category, no one expected him to win once he moved into the outstanding actor race (which he did after Charlie Sheen departed). His win could only burn for Sheen (presumably watching at home). He never won this trophy in all his years on the show.
Eric Stonestreet's win for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy was less of a surprise, but still an upset. Stonestreet does excellent work on the show, but as he himself said from the podium when accepting his award, "I wouldn't be standing here without Jesse Tyler Ferguson. There is no Cam without Mitch." It seemed somehow wrong that just one of them would win. Perhaps that's partly why most critics thought the award would go to their castmate Ty Burrell again.
One of the funniest gags of the night came when Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the outstanding lead actress in a comedy award. She and fellow nominee Amy Poehler hugged before she took the podium, and when she began reading her speech, she found herself reading Poehler's words and thanking Poehler's kids. Then she looked up with panicked realization: They'd "accidentally" traded speeches. The joke sent her flying back to Poehler to retrieve her proper speech, and ended when she read the last lines: "There's one last thing written here. It says, 'Lastly, isn't it a shame that Amy Poehler didn't win?'" The camera cut to a nodding Poehler, pencil in hand. Hilarious.
Perhaps the night's sweetest speech came from a genuinely shocked Aaron Paul, who won for outstanding supporting actor in a drama -- over costar Giancarlo Esposito, who was highly favored to win. "Vince Gilligan and the rest of the writers, thank you so much for not killing me off!"
Overall, Jimmy Kimmel proved a genial host who easily out-classed last year's group of reality TV hosts at the podium. Leaning on his late-night hosting persona -- part Hollywood naïf, part class clown -- Kimmel good-humoredly ribbed the gathered stars and TV industry types. At one point in his monologue, he pointed out that none of the nominees for outstanding drama were on a major network. "The Academy is sending a pretty clear message," he said. "And that message is: 'Show us your boobs.'"
Ironically, at the top of the show, one of his monologue jokes referred to Mad Men's Jon Hamm not winning a trophy. After congratulating on his "tremendous" performance last season, he added, "and I, for one, am shocked that you did not win tonight." Of course the joke was that he'd inadvertantly given away one of the evening's big secrets. But it was even funnier to this crowd of TV insiders, most of whom were expecting Breaking Bad's Cranston to win for outstanding dramatic actor, despite Hamm's great year. When they roared, Kimmel deadpanned, "Too soon?"
Little did the assembled audience realize that the Academy had several surprises in store, one of them being the winner in this very category. You've got to hand it to Homeland's Lewis, whose confident speech upon winning showed no hint of surprise at besting those other thespians. Looks like there's a new TV show to beat. And the truth is, that's not a bad thing.
For a full list of Emmy winners, go to Emmys.com.
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