In a night marked by a few upsets and a host of repeat winners, “Breaking Bad” grabbed its second consecutive Emmy for best drama series while “Modern Family” made it a record-tying fifth consecutive win for comedy series.
The surprise wins at the 66th annual Primetime Emmy Awards came not from buzzed-about newbies such as Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” or HBO’s “True Detective” but lower-profile contenders including “Sherlock: His Last Vow.” HBO’s “The Normal Heart” and FX’s “Fargo” prevailed as expected for movie and miniseries, respectively, but the PBS drama “Sherlock” wound up leading the Emmy field overall with a total of seven wins — a result that no Emmy prognosticator managed to forecast.
CBS’ “The Good Wife” got its moment in the sun with Julianna Margulies taking her second win for lead drama actress. Julia Louis-Dreyfus scored her third straight win as lead comedy actress for HBO’s “Veep.” And Allison Janney became a rare double winner in snaring supporting comedy actress for CBS’ “Mom” — a week after landing guest actress in a drama for her turn on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.”
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Jim Parsons took home his fourth win for CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory.” He was a double nominee for his work in HBO’s “The Normal Heart.” But the longform acting categories were shaken up by the rise of “Sherlock.”
“Sherlock” stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman shocked the crowd at the Nokia Theater by winning lead and supporting actor in a movie or miniseries. Cumberbatch prevailed in a race that was thought to be a duel between Billy Bob Thornton of FX’s “Fargo” and Mark Ruffalo of HBO’s “The Normal Heart.” Freeman was also an underdog against thesps from “Fargo” and “The Normal Heart.”
“Sherlock” also beat “Normal Heart” and “Fargo” contenders in the longform writing category, with Steven Moffat recognized for his take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s durable sleuth. “This is utterly thrilling,” Moffat said.
“Breaking Bad” ran second to “Sherlock” in Emmy volume with a total of six wins, followed by “True Detective” and “Saturday Night Live” with five apiece. Among networks, HBO raked in 19, followed by CBS and PBS with 11 apiece, NBC with 10 and ABC with eight.
For the “Breaking Bad” gang, the night was clearly emotional as this year’s Emmy derby marks the last awards hurrah for the AMC/Sony Pictures Television show that triumphantly wrapped its run last September.
“This is a wonderful farewell to our show,” “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan said, a little breathless. Gilligan was name-checked more than anyone else on the night as “Bad’s” winners effusively thanked him for the roles that changed their lives.
“I miss him. I love him,” Paul said of his character, the troubled but good-hearted Jesse Pinkman.
Cranston’s victory puts him in the rare class of actors who have won Tonys and Emmys in the same year. The lead drama actor category was as fierce as ever, with most seeing it as a race between Cranston and “True Detective” star Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey had the momentum of having landed the Oscar this year for “Dallas Buyers Club” in addition to the incredible actor’s-dream showcase of the Rust Cohle role in the HBO series. Cranston won a Tony for his turn as Lyndon B. Johnson on Broadway this spring in the historical drama “All the Way.”
“True Detective” landed the drama directing win for first-time nominee Cary Joji Fukunaga, who helmed all eight hours of the series. “This is awesome,” Fukunaga said. “I’m at a loss for words.”
“Breaking Bad’s” Moira Walley-Beckett won for drama writing for the much-praised “Ozymandias” episode.
“Modern Family’s” streak now makes it a tie with NBC’s “Frasier” for consecutive wins in the category. Producers and cast members looked shocked as they trundled on stage.
“ It’s all a wonder that we get to do this for a living, that we get to be the ones up here when there are so many deserving shows, that we get to touch so many people’s lives, and that we get to work with such extraordinary people like this every single day,” “Modern Family” co-creator/exec producer Steven Levitan said. ” ‘Modern Family’ has been a big, beautiful dream for the last five years, and we thank you for not waking us up.”
“Modern Family” also grabbed the trophies for supporting comedy actor, for Ty Burrell (his second win), and for comedy series directing, for Gail Mancuso, with her second straight win. Louis C.K. got the applause for comedy writing for FX’s “Louie.”
“The Colbert Report” earned its second consecutive Emmy for best variety series, topping the heavily-favored “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Underscoring the surprise, Fallon joined “Colbert Report” team on stage Monday night to deliver the acceptance remarks. The bit was clearly orchestrated in advance — but it also highlighted the fact that Fallon will soon be going head-to-head with “Colbert” host Stephen Colbert when the latter relocates to CBS’ prime latenight berth next year.
“I want to see the envelope,” Fallon joked. Colbert showed genuine emotion as he thanked viewers for sticking with Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” for nine years. And he gave a sincere shout-out to his family: “Thank you for all your patience with me.”
For “The Normal Heart,” the Emmy win capped a long and tortured journey to the screen for the landmark drama about the beginnings of the AIDS crisis by playwright/activist Larry Kramer.
“Normal Heart” producer-director Ryan Murphy credited stars Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts for getting the project made at HBO, after Kramer faced decades of stops and starts in the feature realm.
“It took the superpowers of Erin Brockovich and the Incredible Hulk to get this thing alive,” Murphy said. He dedicated the win to “the hundreds of thousands of artists who have passed from HIV/AIDs since 1981. Your memory and your passion burns on in us.” Murphy also challenged younger viewers to emulate the activists in “Normal Heart” and “find a cause you believe in, that you will fight for, that you will die for.”
“Fargo” scribe Noah Hawley thanked the Coen brothers for embracing his vision of a re-imaging of their 1996 feature. “They let me pretend, if only for five minutes, that I was one of the greatest filmmakers alive,” Hawley said of his reaction when the brothers gave him the thumbs up on his initial “Fargo” script.
The strong reception for “Fargo” has marked a new career milestone for exec producer Warren Littlefield. After years of victories at the Emmys during his run at NBC in the 1980s and ’90s, Littlefield acknowledged that the return to the winner’s circle with the project he’d pushed to adapt for TV for years felt “pretty special.”
‘Fargo’s’ Colin Bucksey won for longform directing for the “Buridan’s Ass” episode of the FX mini. The British director topped more high-profile competition, including “Normal Heart’s” Ryan Murphy. “I’m so glad I got back from the loo in time,” the helmer quipped in accepting the award.
Another surprise winner was Kathy Bates for supporting actress in a miniseries/movie for “American Horror Story: Coven.” She leap-frogged higher-profile competition in Roberts, nommed for “The Normal Heart,” and Allison Tolman, who generated so much buzz for her breakthrough role in FX’s “Fargo.”
Bates’ “Coven” castmate Jessica Lange won for lead actor in a movie/miniseries, marking her third win for the role.
Janney scored her sixth career Emmy with her win for “Mom.” She hailed series co-creator Chuck Lorre and her costar Anna Faris for giving her the platform to shine in the show about a mother and daughter struggling with who are both struggling with the consequences of years of bad behavior.
“She’s the sister I never had, she’s the daughter I never had. She’s everything I never had,” Janney said of Faris.
Adding to the trend of repeat winners was CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” which made it an even 10 wins for reality-competition program.
Sarah Silverman was among the winners who was truly shocked to be making the trip to the stage. Silverman won writing for a variety special for her HBO special “Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles.” Glenn Weiss took the variety special directing honor, for helming CBS’ telecast of the 67th annual Tony Awards. Weiss accepted the award from the control room of the Emmycast, where he was busy directing.
“This is beyond surreal, but also awesome,” Weiss said.