Sept. 23--The Emmy Awards on Sunday turned out to be a triumphant going away party for Breaking Bad, which ends its five-year run next Sunday as one of the most acclaimed programs in the annals of television. The series about a New Mexico high school teacher turned meth lord won best drama.
Michael Douglas took the statuette for his portrayal of Liberace in the cable movie Behind the Candelabra, which also won for outstanding miniseries or movie.
Host Neil Patrick Harris opened a lively and engaging telecast with an amusingly contrived skit in which he was interrupted on stage by former hosts including Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O'Brien. It was capped by audience commentary from Kevin Spacey in character as Francis Underwood, his scheming Southerner from House of Cards.
But Spacey did not win for best actor in a drama series. Nor did Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston, the other presumptive favorite in the category.
As Harris noted near the show's climax, "This just in: No one in America is winning their office pool."
It was indeed a volatile night. While Emmy continued its habit of rerun winners as perennials like Jim Parsons, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Modern Family prevailed yet again, there were unpredictable results as well, beginning with the first award handed out: Supporting actress in a comedy went to Merritt Wever of Nurse Jackie.
And the surprises kept coming. Laura Linney was honored for her work in The Big C: Hereafter, as was Anna Gunn for Breaking Bad. Most surprisingly, Jeff Daniels, rarely mentioned in the discussion about best actor in a drama, won for his performance in The Newsroom.
It was a long night for fans of popular shows like Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Downton Abbey, none of which got appreciable love.
Controversy arose over the "In Memoriam: parcel, an annual ritual that is usually congenial. Glee's Cory Montheith was one of the recently deceased entertainers (Jonathan Winters, Jean Stapleton, James Gandolfini, and producer Gary David Goldberg were the others) given a special tribute. Many in the industry felt the young and relatively inexperienced actor, who died this year of an overdose, did not deserve a level of recognition that was not extended to TV icons like Jack Klugman and Larry Hagman.
The night's musical moments were entertaining if extraneous. Sir Elton John performed a song, "Home Again" from his new album, Diving Board, as a tenuous tribute to Liberace. He extolled the subject of Behind the Candelabra with remarks he read off a teleprompter positioned near his piano bench.
Later in the broadcast, Carrie Underwood ostensibly summed up the '60s with a string-soaked arrangement of The Beatles' "Yesterday."
One of the night's longest and most indulgent segments was a skit that served as a promo for and featured the cast of Harris' sitcom How I Met Your Mother. But there was a comedic payoff, as Arsenio Hall conducted an intervention on Harris to get him to enter the Ryan Seacrest Center for Excessive Hosting.
There were touching moments as well, like Rob Reiner's emotional homage to Stapleton, and the standing ovation accorded to sitcom superman Bob Newhart.
There was even a neat bit of trivia. As James Cromwell walked up to accept his award for supporting actor in American Horror Story: Asylum, a voiceover identified him as "the only actor to ever utter the words 'star trek' on Star Trek."
At the end of the night, when it counted most, Emmy got it right, as Breaking Bad received its overdue.
MAJOR EMMY WINNERS
Drama Series: Breaking Bad
Comedy Series: Modern Family
Miniseries or Movie: Behind the Candelabra
Variety, Music, or Comedy Series: The Colbert Report
Reality-Competition Program: The Voice
Actor, Drama Series: Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
Actor, Comedy Series: Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory
Actor, Miniseries or Movie: Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
Actress, Drama Series: Claire Danes, Homeland
Actress, Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Actress, Miniseries or Movie: Laura Linney, The Big C: Hereafter
Supporting Actor, Drama Series: Bobby Cannavale, Boardwalk Empire
Supporting Actor, Miniseries or Movie: James Cromwell, American Horror Story
Supporting Actor, Comedy Series: Tony Hale, Veep
Supporting Actress, Drama Series: Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Supporting Actress, Comedy Series: Merritt Wever, Nurse Jackie
Supporting Actress, Miniseries or Move: Ellen Burstyn, Political Animals
Directing, Drama Series: David Fincher, House of Cards
Directing, Variety Series: Don Roy King, Saturday Night Live
Directing, Comedy Series: Gail Mancuso, Modern Family
Writing, Comedy Series: Tina Fey, Tracey Wigfield, 30 Rock
Writing, Drama Series: Henry Bromell, Homeland
Writing, Variety Series: The Colbert Report
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