Sept. 23--The Emmys have long been the Walter White of televised award shows: more mild-mannered than the drunken Golden Globes or the flamboyant Oscars and Tonys. The 65th annual primetime Emmy Awards broke bad Sunday night with a messy telecast and a number of confounding winners.
The final award helped set things right, as "Breaking Bad" -- Vince Gilligan's Shakespearean epic about a dull and defeated chemistry teacher who ascends/descends into a methamphetamine crime lord -- deservedly won outstanding drama series.
But unthinkably, Bryan Cranston, a three-time winner for playing White on "Breaking Bad," lost to likable Jeff Daniels, who plays an insufferably self-important character in the insufferably self-important "The Newsroom."
Aaron Paul -- also a previous winner for "Bad" -- lost to "Boardwalk Empire's" Bobby Cannavale, who at least appeared shocked that, as the fourth-most-deserving actor in his category, he won best supporting actor, drama. Among the drama's cast, only the long-suffering Anna Gunn deservedly won best supporting actress for her work on "Bad."
"Modern Family" won the award for outstanding comedy series for the fourth straight year, while Houston native Jim Parsons won his third Emmy for his work on "The Big Bang Theory."
Claire Danes was a repeat winner as best actress, drama, for her work on "Homeland," an award many thought was a sure thing for "Scandal" star Kerry Washington.
On the comedy side, "Veep" was the closest thing to a big comedy winner, drawing a lead acting award for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, her fifth, and a supporting one for Tony Hale, his first.
Merritt Wever was another first-time winner, earning a best supporting actress win for "Nurse Jackie."
"Behind the Candelabra" fared well, also, winning outstanding miniseries or movie, as well as an acting award for Michael Douglas and a directing award for Steven Soderbergh.
Puzzlement about winners and losers is a matter of personal taste. Less subjective was the telecast's status as an unequivocal bust.
The first presenters of the evening cracked wise about the show already running off schedule, suggesting hard-wired problems from the get-go.
Those problems were confirmed when the best choreography award was handed out at 9:20 p.m. This isn't the Tonys.
Neil Patrick Harris proved a charming host, as always, but he wasn't given much material. Jokes repeatedly fell like dead monkeys from trees.
Even more peculiar was the decision to allow so many presenters onstage without makeup, their faces glowing like disco balls.
There were bad transitions in and out of commercials. Bob Newhart -- talk about injustice: He won his first ever Emmy for guest actor in a comedy series on "Big Bang Theory" -- had his face almost completely obscured by a microphone.
There was far, far too much music, and the music wasn't very good.
I can't recall an award show telecast as bad as this one.
That said, a poignancy occasionally peeked out from the wreckage. A moving silence greeted the award for best writing, drama, for late "Homeland" writer Henry Bromell, who suffered a torn aorta in March. His widow accepted the award.
And one telecast decision that worked well was the longer tributes to a few actors and creators who died in the past year: Jonathan Winters, Jean Stapleton, Cory Monteith, James Gandolfini and Gary David Goldberg.
The idea drew some backlash from the family of Jack Klugman, who believed he deserved similar treatment. But the segments were nevertheless stirring and heartfelt.
Still, the show was more bad than "Bad," but that could change next year. "Breaking Bad" has one episode remaining in its final season, and it is roaring toward one of the most satisfying conclusions in TV history.
This time next year it's likely to get the sweep it deserved this year.
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