Review: Surprises and upsets at this year's Emmy Awards

On Sunday the sixty fourth prime time Emmy awards were given (photo courtesy of PictureGroup).
On Sunday the sixty fourth prime time Emmy awards were given (photo courtesy of PictureGroup).

The sixty-fourth annual Primetime Emmy Awards aired on Sunday, the results of which bored as much as surprised viewers with the announcement of television’s most esteemed accolades. Overall, the comedy awards failed to bring a breath of fresh air into a stale show’s reign of the category; however, the drama awards surely caused a stir of debate among the world’s water cooler: the internet.

For the third year in a row in its three-season run, Modern Family”  predictably brought home the Outstanding Comedy award along with its second directing award. The show’s stars, Eric Stonestreet and Julie Bowen, also won, for the second time, the award for Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. While “Modern Family” continues to be one of ABC’s most popular shows, the third season felt monotonous and recycled in its narrative trajectory when compared to its two previous and vastly superior seasons. This year’s award, therefore, felt undeserved.

Due to “Modern Family” taking home all of the comedy awards, it was good to see Louis C.K. slip in and grab the writing award for his show “Louie.”Of course, this win proved to be a hollow victory in the reign of “Modern Family,” as the juggernaut wasn’t even nominated. The wins received by “Modern Family” took away from other deserving comedies like HBO’s “Girls”, and NBC’s Community” and “Parks and Recreation.”

Keeping the trend going for overkill in the comedy awards, Jon Cryer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus received Leading Actor and Actress awards, but seemingly in the wrong year. Cryer, with five previous Supporting Actor nominations for his role on “Two and a Half Men,” finally stepped up to play with the big boys in the show’s first season without Charlie Sheen. It paid off as he won the award for Lead Actor in a Comedy. While the decision to keep the show going after the Sheen’s departure is admirable (and lucrative), the show has definitely dipped in quality.

Louis-Dreyfus also took a big step with her career in her move from network to premium cable. With ten nominations and two wins between her work on “Seinfeld” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” Louis-Dreyfus has proven that she is one of the funniest women in comedy. However, her comedic transition to fit HBO’s vulgar style did not suit her humor on “Veep,”  where she kept trying to replace her quick wit and humorous observations with repeated screaming of the “f” word. As such, Louis-Dreyfus may want to consider going back to network television. Her glory days of playing TV’s greatest comedic female character Elaine Benes on “Seinfeld” are beyond her reach at HBO.

(Photo courtesy of Academy of TelevisionArts & Sciences)    

Sunday night the sixty fourth annual Emmy awards were given (Photo courtesy of Academy of Television Arts & Sciences).

While the awards for comedy provided few smiles, the drama awards definitely conjured some violent reactions from the audience.

It seems appropriate that during an election year, the two big wins go to political dramas. One such drama was Game Change,”the HBO made-for-television movie chronicling John McCain and Sarah Palin’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Game Change,” based on a book of the same name, went on to win Emmys for Outstanding Mini-Series or Movie, as well as for its writing, directing and for Lead Actress Julianne Moore. Due to its subject matter, this program seemed like something the Emmy voters would eat right up. Its wins last night supported this theory.

Among the shows that got sidestepped was BBC’s “Sherlock”,a show that despite waves of acclaim from critics and viewers alike did not receive one Emmy award. Perhaps the show is just too British. Keeping the trend going from across the pond, “Downton Abbey” won only one of the nine awards for which it was nominated when it was anticipated to potentially turn the tables on the predicted  “Homeland” vs. Mad Men fight.

Where "Downton Abbey” failed to surprise, “Homeland” surpassed all expectations. While Claire Danes was a definite lock for Lead Actress in a Drama, the Iraqi sleeper cell thriller also earned awards for Outstanding Drama, Lead Actor for Damian Lewis and writing for a drama series. The successes of “Homeland” prevented actor Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” from winning his fourth consecutive Lead Actor Emmy. Even though Cranston’s nomination was presumed to lead to a win, Lewis took home the Emmy for this category. Not saying that Lewis did a bad job in the first season of “Homeland”--he created a sympathetic character out of a sleeper cell agent, which is no small feat--however, due to the secrecy of his character, Lewis didn’t get to flex his acting chops to prove his worth.

Cranston, on the other hand, had his best season to date. He has miraculously managed to keep the fans on his side in spite of his character’s journey into complete anti-hero territory, something that hasn’t been done this successfully since Tony Soprano himself.

AMC’s “Mad Men” had the potential of being the first show to ever win five Outstanding Drama Series awards. However, the show lost to “Homeland,” which won a well-received award for writing over “Mad Men”’s three nominations all in the same category. It is also interesting to note that “Mad Men” earned the honor of having the most losses in a single Emmy night. With seventeen nominations, “Mad Men” failed to garner just one win.

HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”  got the award for directing, finally gaining recognition for what is often an overlooked show. “Boardwalk Empire” has greatly improved in its second season, but continues to be lost in the shadow of “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men” and now “Homeland.”

The biggest surprise of the night included Aaron Paul winning his second consecutive Emmy award for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Paul beat out is “Breaking Bad” co-star Giancarlo Esposito. While Paul may have been the next best pick, Esposito’s failure to win definitely hit viewers hardest on a night full of upsets.

Despite the many surprises at this year’s Emmy Awards, small victories such as in Louis C.K.’s award for “Louie”, the successes of “Boardwalk Empire” and Claire Danes’ recognition for “Homeland” were well deserved. Hopefully next year’s awards will provide more pleasure and credibility for the awards in next year’s show.

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