By Drew Maron, For the Daily
Published September 24, 2013
Though it aimed for a dignified tribute to television’s past, the 65th Annual Primetime Emmys stumbled, thanks to CBS’s notorious overabundance of commercials and its ruthlessly monitored schedule. Host Neil Patrick Harris did his best with the little time he had, including a hilarious opening monologue featuring cameos from past hosts — including Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch, Jimmy Fallon and Conan O’Brien, as well as Golden Globes hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — and ending with Kevin Spacey breaking the fourth wall as his character Francis Underwood from “House of Cards.”
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Big winners of the night included “Modern Family,” which won its fourth consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series and “Breaking Bad,” which won its first Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. “Bad” creator Vince Gilligan accepted the award with the humility expected from one of the best writers in the medium.
“I thought this was gonna be ‘House of Cards,’ ” Gilligan said, “or it could’ve been ‘Homeland,’ or it could’ve been ‘Mad Men,’ or it could’ve been ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Downton Abbey,’ could’ve been any of ’em, and even some others who were not nominated in this golden age of television that we feel so proud to be a part of.”
“Bad” also picked up the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama, with series star Anna Gunn getting her just due for putting up with Skyler White haters for the past five seasons.
Huge upsets were seen in both the Lead and Supporting Actor Categories for Drama. “Boardwalk Empire” ’s Bobby Cannavale beat out fan-favorite Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones,” as well as “Homeland” ’s Manny Patinkin, Jim Carter from “Downton Abbey” and “Breaking Bad” stars Jonathon Banks and Aaron Paul.
But the biggest upset happened when Jeff Daniels of “The Newsroom” won for Lead Actor in a Drama. Daniels echoed everyone’s reaction with his acceptance speech: “Well crap, I didn’t expect this.” The favorite was clearly Bryan Cranston, whose turn as Walter White might very well be remembered as the greatest television performance of all time. Still, Cranston has three Emmys under his belt and was grouped in a category with some of the most memorable TV actors in recent years. Kevin Spacey’s scheming Congressman Frank Underwood from “House of Cards” seemed to be next in line after Cranston, as well as Damian Lewis from “Homeland” and Jon Hamm from “Mad Men,” whose portrayal of ad man Don Draper has yet to see a golden statue. Still, Daniels’s performance as the affable but isolated Will McAvoy is largely ignored by most critics, as is the HBO show itself. Will McAvoy’s charm and nobility set him apart from the darker anti-heroes portrayed by his peers, something that Emmy voters seemed to have considered.
Other notable winners included Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale of “Veep,” who won for Outstanding Lead Actress and Supporting Actor in a Comedy, respectively. Big-name filmmakers like David Fincher (“House of Cards”) and Steven Soderbergh (“Behind the Candelabra”) also won, with Fincher making history as the first Emmy winner for a show that didn’t premiere on any television network. But the show’s most tender moment came from the standing ovation given to television legend Bob Newhart, who won his first Emmy for his guest role on “The Big Bang Theory.”
Elton John delivered a powerful performance dedicated to the life of Liberace, while Carrie Underwood gave a solid, albeit semi-sacrilegious, cover of “Yesterday” by The Beatles. The nominees for Best Choreography, meanwhile, presented an out-of-place performance inspired by the nominees, turning the award show into an awkward episode of “So You Think You Can Dance.” The most controversial change to the show, however, was scattering of memorials throughout the broadcast, in honor of deceased television personalities like James Gandolfini and Cory Monteith.