“Modern Family” — the show that may have saved the sitcom — may have also rescued the Emmys.
The hit ABC sitcom, which scored the Emmy for outstanding comedy, was part of a wave of fresh faces and new programs that injected a dose of much-needed life into the kudocast.
That was key for the TV Academy, as it heads into a brutal contract renegotiation to keep the telecast on the Big Four nets. The Emmys needed an exciting string of wins this year, and they got it.
Streaks were meant to be broken, as most of the top series categories saw a major shake-up for the first time in years.
The top transition of power came in the laffer category, as “Modern Family” broke “30 Rock’s” three-year stranglehold in the comedy race.
“Modern Family” also won for outstanding comedy writing, via creators Steve Levitan’s and Christopher Lloyd’s pilot episode. And Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cameron on the show, won for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy.
“We’re so grateful and thrilled that families are sitting down together to watch a TV show,” Levitan said. “We’re so happy that you have let us into your families.” Levitan noted that the show was aiming for a broad-based aud from the beginning and there was never a thought of shopping it to cable.
Meanwhile, in what was likely the night’s biggest shock, Bravo’s “Top Chef” knocked seven-time winner “The Amazing Race” out of the reality competition category.
Of course, not all streaks were meant to be broken: “Mad Men” won its third in a row for outstanding drama (and the show’s Matthew Weiner and Erin Levy won for outstanding drama writing).
“The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” scored an eighth consecutive Emmy for outstanding variety/music/comedy series — so unusual that even announcer John Hodgman got it wrong, incorrectly touting the show’s seventh win.
But fresh blood pulsated through the Emmycast, as voters were also big on bringing new actors to the Emmy table.
Surprise wins for Emmy newbies kicked off the night as “Modern Family’s” Stonestreet and “Glee’s” Jane Lynch won their first-ever statuettes in the supporting comedy thesp category.
“The Big Bang Theory’s” Jim Parsons then took his first-ever win as comedy actor — a nice consolation for the show, which was ignored in the outstanding comedy category.
First-timers on the drama side included actress Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer”) and supporting thesps Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”) and Archie Panjabi (“The Good Wife”).
HBO’s telepic “Temple Grandin” also landed several cast members their first Emmy: star Claire Danes, as outstanding actress in a longform, as well as supporting actress winner Julia Ormond and supporting actor David Strathairn.
Among the actor and actress categories, just one thesp repeated from last year — Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”) landed his third consecutive win.
Outstanding comedy actress Edie Falco picked up her fourth Emmy — but this repped her first-ever in the comedy category, for “Nurse Jackie.”
Falco’s win made her the first actress to have ever won an Emmy in both drama (for “The Sopranos,” in 1999, 2002 and 2003) and comedy. (Only two actors have achieved such a feat: Carroll O’Connor and Robert Young.)
It wasn’t just the awards bolstering this year’s Emmycast. Host Jimmy Fallon also scored high mark. from with his take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” along with Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, the cast of “Glee” and others, to his impersonations of Elton John, Boyz II Men and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong in a tribute to retiring shows.
That kind of energy and new blood could serve the TV Academy well. Given the interest in shows like “Modern Family” and “Glee,” many pundits expected NBC to see an uptick in Emmy ratings over the telecast’s performance last year on CBS. (That may still be a tough order, though. TV usage is lower in late August than in September. Last year’s show was on the Eye net in September.)
Positive social-media mentions on Fallon’s hosting and the surprise wins may have fueled more tune-in, however. The Twitter Effect has been credited with boosting awards show viewership, and that could be the case here as well.
All that could have an impact on Emmy negotiations at the nets, but one other phenomenon on Sunday night may also have a major impact on those talks: HBO’s complete dominance of the longform categories.
HBO went eight for eight in the TV movie and miniseries competish, including the top TV movie prize for “Temple Grandin” and outstanding miniseries Emmy for “The Pacific.”
With the broadcasters mostly out of the TV movie and miniseries game, televising the longform awards during the Primetime ceremony has become a bone of contention with the Big 4 — and will likely be a major part of discussions in the coming weeks to renew the Emmy “wheel” deal.
HBO has dominated the Emmy haul in recent years specifically because of longform. Most of the pay cabler’s whopping 101 nominations — nearly 40 more than nearest competitor ABC (63) — came from the longform world.
All of its wins on Sunday night came from that realm. HBO didn’t even win its first award until two hours into the Emmycast, when the attention finally turned to longform.
That longform dominance has Big Four execs fuming about its place in the Emmycast. Broadcasters see those categories as a lengthy commercial for pay TV that the already overloaded Emmycast could do without. If they had their way, this would be the final year that those awards are telecast on the primetime show.
But the TV Academy argues that the movie and mini categories attract major stars that generally don’t do series TV, like Al Pacino, Jeff Bridges and Judi Dench.
Fueling HBO’s dominance was “Temple Grandin,” the telepic starring Claire Danes as a high-functioning autistic professor, which won five awards on Sunday night’s Emmycast (and two in the previous technical awards event).
Besides its three acting wins and Emmy for outstanding telepic, “Temple Grandin” won for longform director (Mick Jackson).
“The Pacific,” the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg-produced miniseries about WWII’s Pacific Theater, landed 24 noms, the most of any program, and scored eight awards — making it the biggest winner of this year’s Emmys.
HBO’s Jack Kervorkian biopic “You Don’t Know Jack” also did well for the paycabler, winning the movies/mini actor Emmy for Al Pacino (his second-ever Emmy) and the longform writing award (Adam Mazer).
But the longform was also helped by the sheer lack of miniseries nominated this year: It competed against just one other program in its category, PBS’ “Return to Cranford.”
The win for “Temple Grandin,” meanwhile, makes it the 16th out of the past 18 years for HBO, which now pretty much owns the TV movie category.
Among other discussions around the Emmy watercooler, “Modern Family’s” wins could put a temporary hold on the debate about the parameters of the comedy category. The addition of shows like “Nurse Jackie” and “Glee” revived questions over what should be eligible for the category.
But Edie Falco’s Emmy for outstanding comedy actress might still sting in some sitcom corners — particularly after Falco admitted while accepting her award, “I’m not funny!”
With the rise of shows that defy categorization — “Nurse Jackie” and perhaps “Glee” could have also easily slid into the drama competish. The Academy has grappled with how to recognize such range and still front a fair faceoff. But so far, the org has resisted a “dramedy” category.
For 20th Century Fox TV, the “Modern Family” win was big, but a touch bittersweet: It meant that the studio’s other new hit series, “Glee,” couldn’t win the prize. (The studio’s hopes for a tie weren’t in the cards.)
“Glee” still took home a statuette on Sunday night for co-creator Ryan Murphy, who won the outstanding comedy director award (for the show’s pilot).
In the variety, music or comedy series category, the win for “The Daily Show With John Stewart” denied the awkward moment that many were hoping for: Conan O’Brien accepting the Emmy for his “Tonight Show” on NBC’s air — having left the Peacock unceremoniously in January after the network’s late night debacle.
The Conan mess was mentioned a few times by host Fallon, who opened the show by referring to his first-time Emmy hosting gig: “NBC asking the host of ‘Late Night’ to come to L.A. to host a different show, what could possibly go wrong?”
Just as some expected O’Brien to score a surprise win, others also expected Betty White — let’s just call her, at 88, the most powerful woman in showbiz — to power “Saturday Night Live” to its first win since 1993.
White’s “SNL” gig had already scored her the best guest actress in a comedy Emmy at last weekend’s Creative Arts Emmy awards.
And her hosting stint – which began as a fan-driven Internet campaign – had already pushed “SNL’s” total series nominations to 126, surpassing “ER” (124) as most-nominated program in Emmy history.
Emmy voters were more interested in shaking things up on the reality competition side, as “Top Chef’s” win over “The Amazing Race” was one of the night’s biggest surprises.
“This is something that we never expected, and I think a lot of people come here and say that,” said “Top Chef” exec producer Dan Cutforth. “I really mean it.”
Another “Amazing Race” win was so expected that Cutforth’s Magical Elves production partner, Jane Lipsitz, opted not to make the trip this year — having sat in the audience the previous six years as “Race” scored the top prize.
All told, HBO once again won the network Emmy race, with 25 awards, followed by ABC (18), Fox (11), CBS (10), NBC (8), PBS and Showtime (tied at 7) and AMC (6). It was a big year in particular for Showtime, which scored the most Emmys in its history. Fox, meanwhile, was celebrating “Glee” for securing four Emmys, the most for an individual series in that net’s history.
NBC, the network broadcasting this year’s telecast, could only conjure up one Emmy during the show – for the Vancouver Winter Games Opening Ceremony, which landed Bucky Gunts a win for directing in a variety/music/comedy special.
“The Pacific” was tops overall, with eight awards, followed by “Temple Grandin” (seven).