News Column

The News & Advance, Lynchburg, Va., Casey Gillis column

September 24, 2013


Sept. 24--I'm not sure my Emmy predictions could have been more wrong.

In my pre-show column last week, I lamented the best supporting actor in a drama category, writing about how hard it was to choose a favorite in a field that included "Breaking Bad" stars Aaron Paul and Jonathan Banks, "Homeland's" Mandy Patinkin and "Game of Thrones'" Peter Dinklage.

And, wouldn't you know, none of them won! Instead the trophy went to someone who wasn't even on my radar: Bobby Cannavale for HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."

Jeff Daniels' best actor in a drama win for HBO's "The Newsroom" had me similarly perplexed. I was rooting for Bryan Cranston (for AMC's "Breaking Bad") or Damian Lewis (Showtime's "Homeland") while believing that Kevin Spacey would actually get it for Netflix's "House of Cards."

Is the guy from "Dumb and Dumber" really better then those three? At least his speech -- during which he joked about winning an AARP award, and how the Emmy was better -- was funny.

I also was wrong about best drama ("Breaking Bad" beat out my pick, HBO's "Game of Thrones") and comedy (ABC's "Modern Family" won for the fourth time instead of my dark horse prediction, FX's "Louie").

Here's what I thought were some of the ceremony's best and worst moments:

Best memorial tribute: In addition to the usual "in memoriam" segment, producers also chose to separately single out several high-profile stars who passed away this year -- James Gandolfini, "Glee" star Cory Monteith, "All in the Family" legend Jean Stapleton, "Family Ties" producer Gary David Goldberg and actor/comedian Jonathan Winters -- with tributes from former costars and collaborators.

Perhaps it's because I've been watching reruns of "The Sopranos" for the past month, but Edie Falco's eulogy to her TV husband Gandolfini affected me most.

"You all knew James Gandolfini the actor," she said. "I was lucky enough to know Jim the man."

Funniest presenter: Will Ferrell, who can usually be relied on for funny awards show schtick. This time around, he wandered onstage -- to hand out the best drama and comedy categories -- dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with his three sons in tow. He told the crowd that Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith had dropped out of presenting at the last minute, and he couldn't find childcare when he was asked to fill in.

"We had a soccer game. There was a neighbor's birthday party, a nut allergy," he said after giving the boys permission to play "Angry Birds" on their iPad. "I didn't have time to do my hair. It doesn't matter. It's great to be here."

Runners-up are Diahann Carroll, who joked that "the men are much more beautiful than when I was doing television. I don't know where you came from, but I'm very happy to see you," and Bryan Cranston, who said he had his fingers crossed for his category -- which he'd already lost.

Best part of Neil Patrick Harris' opening monologue: Former Emmy hosts like Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch and even Conan O'Brien were trotted out during the opening moments of the show, but my favorite bit, by far, was when Amy Poehler and Tina Fey -- so brilliant while hosting last year's Golden Globes -- started heckling him. They ate popcorn, they wore 3-D glasses, and they encouraged Harris to emulate Miley Cyrus' recent performance at the MTV VMAs.

Said Fey: "I come to award shows for the twerking."

Who doesn't?

Best acceptance speeches: There were actually a lot this year. Like most of America, I enjoyed the brevity of Merritt Wever's when she won best supporting actress in a comedy for Showtime's "Nurse Jackie."

"Thanks so much," she said, clearly stunned. "Thank you so much. Um, I gotta go. Bye."

Tina Fey also had me cracking up when she won for best comedy writing with Tracey Wigfield. Wigfield spoke first, and when it was Fey's turn, she opened with, "No one said you could talk, Tracey."

Show I have to start watching now: HBO's "Veep," which earned two awards. Tony Hale took home best supporting actor in a comedy and returned to the podium with best actress in a comedy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus, to spoof their characters' relationship on the show. It was a funny bit that took away the sting of Louis-Dreyfus beating Amy Poehler for the second year in a row.

Biggest head-scratchers: The order of the awards was just odd. The miniseries trophies are usually given out around the middle of the show but, here, they were left until the end, right before best comedy and drama -- most likely because of all the star power involved with HBO's movie "Behind the Candelabra," which won best miniseries or movie, best director (Stephen Soderbergh) and best actor (Michael Douglas). I would have preferred to see the lead drama and comedy acting categories there instead.

Also, I love Carrie Underwood and Elton John as much as the next person, but not on my television award shows. Their performances didn't really add anything to the ceremony.

On the flip side, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the choreographers' showcase, in which the nominees for best choreography put together vignettes honoring series like "Breaking Bad," "The Big Bang Theory" and "Boardwalk Empire."

I could've done without seeing the "American Horror Story" one, featuring dancers in the creepy full-body S&M suit that scared the crap out of me in the show's first season, but, all in all, it was fun.


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