Sept. 23--The brave new world of television was mentioned at Sunday night's Emmy Awards when host Neil Patrick Harris joked, "Right now, I'm actually watching an episode of 'American Horror Story: Asylum' on my contact lenses."
Well, if you were DVRing the biggest night in TV and catching AMC's "Breaking Bad" or live-tweeting NBC's "Sunday Night Football" Bears/Steelers game instead, you missed some surprises, like Michigan's own Jeff Daniels taking home the best actor in a drama prize.
Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" broke the "The Daily Show" 's streak for best variety program. Breakthrough actors like Bobby Cannavale ("Boardwalk Empire"), Anna Gunn ("Breaking Bad") and Tony Hale ("Veep") had their moment in the spotlight.
And despite the laughs provided by Harris, presenters Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and a sloppy shorts-wearing Will Ferrell, the mood was set by the somber appreciations of the great talents that TV lost over the past year.
Here are some of the night's biggest moments:
-- Fashion: Who rocked the red carpet at the Emmy awards?
-- Local hero: Michigan's Jeff Daniels wins Emmy for 'Newsroom'
Most predictable: A win for "House of Cards" would have made history for Netflix, its online "network" of sorts. But this is the year of "Breaking Bad," which nabbed the best drama Emmy after two previous nominations in that category. The AMC drama also probably stole away a good chunk of Emmy viewers with its Sunday night episode.
Local hero: Yay to Jeff Daniels, who won the best actor in a drama Emmy for playing cable news anchor Will McAvoy on HBO's "The Newsroom." Chelsea's favorite son won in a tough category that included Bryan Cranston for "Breaking Bad" and Kevin Spacey for "House of Cards."
"Well, crap," said the down-to-earth Michigan guy when he took the stage. After joking about rarely winning anything and noting the last thing he won was an AARP award, he told his wife they'd have to move the golden Barcalounger from that senior lobbying group to have space for his new trophy.
It was the first Emmy nomination and first Emmy win for the talented actor, who's been nominated four times for the Golden Globes and three times for the Screen Actors Guild Awards. And, of course, he's the annual winner of the friendliest star to still live in Michigan even though he could move to either coast in a New York minute.
The elephant in the room: Finally, somebody acknowledged that the frequent, very moving tributes to dead stars that peppered the Emmys were awfully depressing. "Well, this may be the saddest Emmys of all time," but we're happy, cracked executive producer Steve Levitan when "Modern Family" won best comedy for the fourth year in a row.
Inevitable groaner: Kudos to Michael Douglas for his richly deserved Emmy for channeling Liberace in "Behind the Candelabra," the HBO project that also grabbed best made-for-TV movie or miniseries. But it's a good thing it wasn't the family hour when Douglas told his costar Matt Damon, who played Liberace's much younger lover, that he deserved half the award and asked, "Do you want the bottom or the top?"
More gold for Detroit: Motor City native Ellen Burstyn nabbed the best supporting actress/miniseries or movie Emmy for her part as a feisty grandma in USA's inside-the-Beltway melodrama "Political Animals." The veteran actress expressed her thanks for being able to play a role written for a character who's an endangered species on the tube: "a woman over 65 who still had a lot of juice."
More Motor City mentions: During the roundup saluting a long list of TV contributors who died recently, legendary Detroit boxing manager Emanuel Steward, who was also an HBO commentator, was included.
A dance number after 10 p.m.?: Instead of taking a bathroom break, we chose the best and worst show interpretations during the salute to choreography. Best: Scary dancing nuns and rubber-suited men for "American Horror Story." Worst: Hip-hop meth makers holding chemistry cubes for "Breaking Bad."
The streak is over: "The Colbert Report" won for best variety show, breaking the decade-long reign of "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, which hadn't lost since 2003. With "Daily Show" graduate Colbert breaking the streak, at least they kept it in the family.
A dance number after 10 p.m.?: Instead of taking a bathroom break, we chose the best and worst show interpretations during the salute to choreography. Best: Scary dancing nuns and rubber-suited men for "American Horror Story: Asylum." Worst: Hip-hop meth makers holding chemistry cubes for "Breaking Bad."
He's long overdue: Jim Parsons made a point of noting that Bob Newhart won his first Emmy last week -- for guesting on "The Big Bang Theory." Ever the master of perfect timing, Newhart replied, "I don't know if that's a compliment or you're just trying to rub it in."
Newest obsession: The Emmy announcer had a strange fascination with stating where winners reside or were born (did you know Anna Gunn hails from New Mexico?). Hey, it got Chelsea, Mich., a shout-out when Daniels won his Emmy.
Best spontaneous moment: When TV trailblazer Diahann Carroll presented with "Scandal" star Kerry Washington, she seemingly ad-libbed that "tonight, she better get this award." Washington would have been the first African-American actress to win best actress for a TV drama, but lost to Claire Danes ("Homeland.") But she'd already won an amazing fan.
Beyond the candelabra: Douglas' Emmy-nominated performance as Liberace in HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" was brassy and bold -- just the sort of homage the sequin-sporting entertainer would have loved. But did anyone else think Elton John's ballad during the broadcast to honor Liberace was more of a snoozefest?
Most noticeable innovation: Instead of limiting tributes to recently departed stars to the traditional "In Memoriam" section, the show paused several times for special segments on late TV greats like Jean Stapleton, James Gandolfini and Jonathan Winters and "Glee" favorite Cory Monteith. It was a nice touch -- and one likely to spark debate over who did or didn't get a solo spot.
The elephant in the room: Someone acknowledged that the frequent, very moving tributes to dead stars twere awfully depressing. "Well, this may be the saddest Emmys of all time," but we're happy, cracked executive producer Steve Levitan when "Modern Family" won best comedy for the fourth year in a row.
Funniest intro: Loved it when Harris introduced presenters Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" and Alec Baldwin of "30 Rock" as "my biological parents." But Hamm's apparent attempt to grow a "Duck Dynasty" beard? Not so much.
Best acceptance sight gag: Julia Louis-Dreyfus may deserve an Emmy for her Emmy speech. As she accepted her best actress/comedy honors for her role as the vice president in HBO's "Veep," her costar Tony Hale, who plays her sycophantic aide on the show (and who won for best supporting actor/comedy), stood behind her, smiling, nodding and prompting her to remember to thank her family. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how it's done.
Most concise: Merritt Wever of Showtime's "Nurse Jackie," a surprise winner in the best supporting actress/comedy category, was virtually speechless at defeating heavyweights like Julie Bowen and Sofia Vergara of "Modern Family" and Jane Lynch of "Glee." In a whispery voice, she said: "Thank you so much. I gotta go. Bye."
Golden girls: Harris held a mini class reunion for former hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Jane Lynch and Conan O'Brien during an opening bit that mocked their squabbling. But Golden Globe hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler knocked it out of the park with their advice to Harris: "Take your pants off! ... Twerk it!," they heckled. As Amy said, "It might be degrading, but we would be degrateful."
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