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‘Homeland’, Surprisingly, and ‘Modern Family,’ Unsurprisingly, Dominate Emmys

Sections: Award Shows, Emmy Award

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“I try to see the potential in people.”

The Emmys, America’s maybe third or fourth favorite pop culture awards show, took place last night and aired on ABC. As for the awards themselves, the most striking thing was the total split between drama-which provided plenty for the quality TV nerd to be happy about-and comedy, where Modern Family continued its inexplicable domination of the awards even with what by consensus was its weakest season.

By my count Modern Family won every category it was nominated in, except for the minor footnote of Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series, where Jimmy Fallon won for the episode of Saturday Night Live he hosted, beating Greg Kinnear’s totally forgettable guest appearance on Family.

 Besides winning Outstanding Comedy Series, beating the likes of Girls and Veep for the honor, Eric Stonestreet (Cam) won Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, Julie Bowen won Best Supporting Actress, (beating Kristen Wiig’s final season of Saturday Night Live which seems like a travesty to me) and series creator Steve Levitan won Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series for the episode “Baby on Board.”

To win this award he beat Lena Dunham’s well-regarded direction of the pilot for Girls and Louis CK’s direction of a well-regarded episode of Louie. (Shows submit single episodes to the Emmy voters for consideration. So, bizarrely the awards are all technically for a single episode and not the whole season.) And, in a final bit of inexplicability, Jon Cryer somehow yet again won Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series for his work on Two and a Half Men, beating Louis CK, Larry David, and Alec Baldwin.

There was some solace for quality comedy nerds in the Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series category, where there was no Modern Family and where every nominated episode was legitimately good to great. Louis CK won, ironically for what was considered one of the weaker episodes of Louie Season Two. What happiness there was in seeing CK win something, was somewhat mitigated by the fact that he was beating  Community’s Remedial Chaos Theory” which is widely considered to be one of the best episodes of a television comedy of all time.

The drama awards were a different story, one with a lot more surprises and in which almost all of the nominees were deserving. The big surprise was the huge breakout of Homeland. Going in a lot of people thought Claire Danes would probably win Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her lead role on the Showtime series, as she did, but Homeland winning Outstanding Drama Series over Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, and Boardwalk Empire was one of the biggest surprises of the night.

Mad Men won the award for each of its previous four seasons and winning it a fifth time would’ve tied the record. Another surprise was Damian Lewis of Homeland winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama series, beating the likes of Jon Hamm in Mad Men and Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad. This was by far the most major awards ever for a Showtime series and the only time the network has ever won one of the two biggest awards.

The fallout from all this love for Homeland was an unbelievable total shutout for Mad Men. If one believes at all in a correlation of artistic merit and winning awards it was disappointing to see the series go 0-17 for a season which many critics ranked as the series’ all-time best. In the past the Emmys have gone with the strange system of recognizing Mad Men as the best drama but not giving any awards to its actors. This year, the shutout in the acting categories continued (bringing the show to an all-time record of 0-25 in the acting categories) and with Homeland winning best drama there was nothing left for Mad Men.

Mad Men’s AMC brethren Breaking Bad wasn’t completely shut out. Though Damian Lewis’s win meant that Bryan Cranston’s streak of winning Best Lead Actor was broken, the Best Supporting category had the fun of a showdown between Aaron Paul and Giancarlo Esposito. While it would’ve been nice to see Esposito win for what by definition will be his last full season performance as the most original gangster/criminal character in a long time, it’s always good to see Aaron Paul-the most likable actor in Hollywood-win something. And millions of variations of “Emmy, bitch!” immediately got posted on twitter.

The other mild surprise of the night was HBO’s middling adaptation of Game Change dominating the Outstanding Miniseries or Made-for-TV Movie categories. The way these things are lumped together meant that Game Change was up against competition as diverse as Luther, Sherlock, American Horror Story and the movie Hemingway & Gellhorn. Not only did it win the big award in this category but Julianne Moore won for her portrayal of Sarah Palin, which was just empty mimicry and didn’t even have as much as soul as Tina Fey’s Palin, and Jay Roach won for his direction. And Danny Strong won for his writing of Game Change, confusing viewers when it turned out that the writer Danny Strong was also the same person as the actor Danny Strong, who played the character of Danny Siegel on Season Four of Mad Men as well as playing Jonathan on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Prolific TV critic Todd VanDerWerff’s post on the awards, which includes a full list of the major award winners, can be found here.

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