Shows win top awards for comedy, drama again

What a non-difference a year makes.

Heading into the evening, many believed that the outcome of this year’s Emmy Awards was a foregone conclusion: “Mad Men” and “30 Rock” would repeat as the top drama and comedy winners.

And they were right — to the surprise of no one.

“That was a nail-biter,” quipped “30 Rock’s” Tina Fey, no stranger to the Emmy stage.

It was a scenario that the TV Academy likely hoped to avoid.

This represents the first time Emmy has awarded back-to-back outstanding series wins to the same comedy and drama since 1983-84, when “Cheers” and “Hill Street Blues” both repeated.

Few would argue that “Mad Men” and “30 Rock” aren’t deserving of the top prize. But their dominance at the Emmys reps a conundrum for the TV Academy: Not only are TV’s perennial Emmy winners low-rated but they’ve taken almost any element of surprise out of the annual kudocast.

That’s a recipe for a low-rated Emmy show, no matter how good the content — and most everyone agreed that this year’s event, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, was a creative success.

Meanwhile, across the dial, the contrast couldn’t have been more stark: NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” telecast — already expected to trounce CBS’ Emmycast in the ratings — came down to a nail-biting finish, as the New York Giants pulled off a stunner over the Dallas Cowboys (in the Cowboys’ new stadium, no less). The conclusions of Sunday’s two big televised events couldn’t have ended more differently: one ho-hum, the other a thriller.

Unlike the NFL matchup, this year’s Emmycast didn’t provide much suspense. Not only did the top series winners look the same from last year, but the top drama actor and actress — “Breaking Bad’s” Bryan Cranston and “Damages'” Glenn Close — also picked up their second in a row.

“Lee Trevino was struck by lightning twice, and now I know how he feels,” Cranston said.

Alec Baldwin scored his second trophy in a row for his role as Jack Donaghey on “30 Rock,” as did “Survivor’s” Jeff Probst, for reality host.

The writing awards were also a repeat from last year — with “30 Rock” and “Mad Men” both picking up the Emmy in their respective comedy and drama categories.

Of course, “The Amazing Race” and “The Daily Show” did more than just repeat, having both just landed their seventh unprecedented Emmy in their series categories.

Emmy voters are known for sticking with the tried and true — which is why some thesps and shows have shelves of Emmys, while others have been shut out year after year.

The TV Academy has attempted all sorts of rule changes through the years to freshen up the competition — most recently expanding the number of nominees in the top categories. That previously led to some interesting and groundbreaking nominations — “The Flintstones” in 1961, for example.

But alas, history was not meant to be broken this year.

A year out, “Mad Men” and “30 Rock” are perhaps already considered the frontrunners for the 2010 Emmys (which, if it were to come true, would rep “Mad Men’s” third and “30 Rock’s” fourth). Fey remains humble about such a possibility, however.

“There’s no way that we’re standing up here next year,” she told reporters.

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