Faster. Funnier. That’s what executive producer Don Mischer promised for the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards, and that’s what he delivered.
For their part, Television Academy voters were determined to share the wealth. A total of ten networks shared the 28 Emmys handed out during the live show at the NOKIA Theatre L.A. LIVE, with no network collecting more than five. Despite the expansion of several categories to six and even seven nominees, adding new faces and series to the mix, repeat winners dominated the night.
NBC and HBO tied with five golden statuettes. For NBC, four were won by 30 Rock, including outstanding comedy series for the third year in a row, and lead actor Alec Baldwin, his second in a row. HBO’s Emmys were won in the movies and miniseries categories, including Grey Gardens for outstanding movie, Jessica Lange for lead actress in that film and Brendan Gleeson for lead actor in Into the Storm, in which he played Winston Churchill
Basic cable networks dominated in drama. AMC’s Mad Men won for outstanding drama. Glenn Close took the Emmy for lead actress for FX’s Damages and Bryan Cranston was named lead actor in a drama series for AMC’s Breaking Bad. All three were second-consecutive victories.
Defying most prognosticators, Toni Collette took home the Emmy for lead comedy actress for her work in Showtime’s United States of Tara.
Other encore winners included The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for outstanding comedy series and The Amazing Race for reality-competition, both of which won for the seventh straight year.
In all, broadcast networks claimed 13 Emmys and cable collected 11. Three went to PBS for the miniseries Little Dorrit.
Onstage, one-liners replaced monologues. The entire show was neatly organized into five genres: comedy, reality, movies and miniseries, variety and drama. Presenters, meanwhile, were mostly introduced with references to their most obscure roles.
Host Neil Patrick Harris kicked things off with a rousing rendition of “Put Down the Remote,” a ditty written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, the team behind the Broadway hit Hairspray, that pleaded with viewers to ignore all the usual TV distractions and then ticked off some of the celebrities in the star-studded audience.
“I’m a big fan of television,” said Harris, who gained public attention as kid doctor Doogie Howser. “I grew up on television.
Though not a standup, Harris nonetheless referenced some current events. “I’m here to make sure everything runs smoothly,” he said. “Here’s hoping Kanye West likes 30 Rock.”
Harris gave a quick tour of the stage, including sections for the orchestra and the control room, before introducing a collage of comedy clips from the past season. More clips summarized the TV season before each of the other genres. Far more than the others, the clip summarizing the world of reality TV played like a symphony of bleeped language.
Also breaking with tradition, Harrison introduced offstage announcer John Hodgman, best known as PC in the Apple Mac ads. Tongue firmly in cheek, Hodgman offered up arcane information as the Emmy winners made their way to the stage.
Hodgman set the tone early when, in breathless ’50s style, he welcomed viewers to “the capital of fun, fancy and let’s pretend.”
Unspoken but on many minds was the new Jay Leno Show, which airs at 10 p.m. weekdays, eliminating space traditionally used for dramas. Presenter Julia Louis-Dreyfus, standing beside Amy Poehler, said, “Amy and I are proud to be presenting on the last official year of network broadcast television.” Billy Crystal, singing the writing credits for The Late Show with David Letterman, asked the CBS talk show host if he was moving to 10 p.m.
Closing her acceptance speech for outstanding comedy series for 30 Rock, Tina Fey said “We want to thank our friends at NBC, Jeff Zucker, Ben Silverman, Jeff Gaspin, for keeping us on the air even though we are so much more expensive than a talk show. So thank you.
Earlier, Harris made light of the victory of Two and a Half Men star Jon Cryer for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series, a category in which both had been nominated. “This might have gone in two directions,” he said.
“I used to think that awards were just shallow tokens of momentary popularity, but now I realize they are the only true measure of a person’s real worth as a human being,” Cryer said.
Meanwhile, Kristin Chenoweth was so overwhelmed by her win as outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series for the now-canceled Pushing Daisies that she fought tears throughout her speech. But she still managed to get a laugh when, referencing Pushing Daisies’ demise, she said, "I’m unemployed now, so I’d like to be on Mad Men. I also like The Office and 24."
Nominees for guest actor and actress, awards, given during the Creative Arts Emmys ceremony on Saturday, September 12, were named and the winners — Tina Fey and Justin Timberlake, both for Saturday Night Live — gave acceptance remarks in tandem. A similar scenario occurred for guest drama winners Ellen Burstyn and Michael J. Fox.
Harris didn’t have to wait long for the reviews to roll in. “Neil Patrick Harris, this is how you host the Emmys,” said Jeff Probst, picking up his Emmy for hosting Survivor. “Nice job,” he proclaimed.
Added former host Jon Stewart, on stage to collect an Emmy for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: “Neil Patrick Harris, you’re doing a wonderful job. These shows usually suck, but you’ve been very good.”
Between the Creative Arts and Primetime Emmys ceremonies, HBO led all networks with 21 Emmys, followed by NBC with 16.#