The Emmy Awards: The good, the bad and the ugly

“Breaking Bad” and “Modern Family” took home the top prizes for Outstanding Drama and Comedy Series at the Emmy Awards last night. It was a night of surprise winners, technical difficulties and awkwardly integrated musical performances. Neil Patrick Harris hosted as well as he could, under the circumstances, but even the magical NPH couldn’t atone for the many sins of this year’s Emmys telecast.

Take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from this year’s show.

The Good

Take that, Dowager Countess: Anna Gunn of “Breaking Bad” won an Emmy award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama. Finally, the irrational hatred for Skyler White is vindicated. That op-ed in the New York Times couldn’t have hurt. (Also, she beat out the incomparable Maggie Smith, an accomplishment few people in any profession can claim.)

“Breaking Bad” is the one who wins: For years, “Mad Men” was the AMC show that won the Emmys, and “Breaking Bad” was the AMC show that everyone thought was too dark and depressing for the titles. The tide has turned: “Mad Men” didn’t pick up a single award during the broadcast, while “Breaking Bad” earned a Best Supporting Actress trophy and its first ever win for Outstanding Drama Series. Between its awards and its astounding final season currently airing, this show is having a cultural moment like few others in history.

“Modern Family” loosens its grip: For the first time since “Modern Family” became eligible for the Emmys at the end of its first season in 2010, the awards for Supporting Actor and Actress in a Comedy Series went to actors from shows other than “Modern Family.” The surprise winners in those categories were Tony Hale of “Veep” and Merritt Wever of “Nurse Jackie,” well-liked and suitably surprising choices. Wever’s surprise mirrored ours at home: she stuttered out a few words of thanks and then ran offstage, apparently too nervous to continue.

Inequality alert: As the phantom trivia-spewing announcer noted, “Modern Family” director Gail Mancuso’s win for Best Directing for a Comedy Series marks only the second time in Emmy history that a female director has won this award. That sad statistic represents an industry failing as much as an Academy of Television Arts & Sciences one, but it needs to be addressed, and soon.

Oh, right. Neil Patrick Harris is here. He should sing!: Thank goodness for “The Number in the Middle of the Show.” If not for that, this might have been three hours of dreck instead of two hours and fifty seven minutes of dreck. (Nathan Fillion and Sarah Silverman were particularly welcome.)

The Bad

“Modern Family” doesn’t let go: Although the “Modern Family” actors were snubbed, the show ultimately maintained its baffling dominance over Emmy voters’ hearts, snagging its fourth straight Outstanding Comedy Series awards and beating out ambitious opponents like “Louie” and “Girls,” the beloved final season of “30 Rock” and several dozen other more deserving shows that couldn’t even manage a nomination (“Parks and Recreation,” anyone?).

An upset for the ages: Jeff Daniels? Seriously? Nothing against the guy – he’s a fine actor with a long career and a fan following as Will McAvoy on “The Newsroom,” but when compared to Jon Hamm’s vanity-free portrayal of Don Draper’s fall from grace on “Mad Men” and Bryan Cranston’s horrifyingly authentic villainy on the fifth season of “Breaking Bad,” rewarding Daniels for competence just seems silly.

If you’re a fan of “Breaking Bad,” you’re out of luck: Dutiful fans of the Outstanding Drama Series “Breaking Bad” missed more than a third of the Emmys for the penultimate episode of that magnificent series. The Emmy producers, likely aware that their viewership was going to decline between the hours of 9:00 and 10:15 p.m., decided to cram all of the night’s “entertainment” and the most buzzworthy awards announcements into the show’s middle section.

When “Breaking Bad” fans returned from their weekly flirtation with a nervous breakdown, they were rewarded with an utterly bizarre dance number that featured Derek Hough, two men dressed in hazmat suits and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” What?

D*on’t rub it in, Steve Levitan of “Modern Family”:* Just a few minutes before Gilligan classed up the joint, the creator of the most pleasantly mediocre nominee in this category went onstage and laid down a boast: “This might be the saddest Emmys ever but we couldn’t be happier.” For a man behind a show that few invested fans of television wanted to see win, this speech wasn’t particularly appreciative or self-aware.

The Ugly

You hired the best host of our generation for this?: Neil Patrick Harris delivered one of the great openings in awards show history in June when he recruited the cast of nearly every current and recent Broadway musical for the Tony Awards. Anything was going to seem like a comedown, but the modern king of song and dance sitting in a room watching a hundred television shows at once did not make for riveting viewing.

Things didn’t improve much once Harris got onstage, or when recent Emmy hosts joined in for a bit that went off without a single punchline.

It’s the Emmy Awards. Stick to handing out awards: While several of the extended in memoriam speeches were heartfelt, with Edie Falco’s in particular pulling at the heartstrings, they distracted from the celebratory vibe that the rest of the show should have been striving for. Plus, the solemn speeches left no time to actually show the late performers doing what they did best.

Meanwhile, Elton John’s tribute to Liberace had almost nothing to do with the Emmys or television in general, especially considering that John performed a brand new song from his new album dropping in two days. Carrie Underwood sounded uncharacteristically off-key in her rendition of The Beatles’ “Yesterday,” and her presence made no sense in a tribute to the Beatles, JFK and 1963.

Shhhhhhhh…: It’s a problem at every awards show, but it seemed worse than ever tonight. Memo to awards show producers: viewers want to see the winners react to winning, and the winners want the chance to thank the people they want to thank in their moment of triumph. Turn the music off!

Winners

DRAMA SERIES
“Breaking Bad” (AMC)
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
“Game of Thrones” (HBO)
“Homeland” (Showtime)
“House of Cards” (Netflix)
“Mad Men” (AMC)

ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey”)
Bryan Cranston (“Breaking Bad”)
Jeff Daniels (“The Newsroom”)
Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”)
Damian Lewis (“Homeland”)
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”)

ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Claire Danes (“Homeland”)
Vera Farmiga (“Bates Motel”)
Michelle Dockery (“Downton Abbey”)
Robin Wright (“House of Cards”)
Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”)
Connie Britton (“Nashville”)
Kerry Washington (“Scandal”)

WRITING FOR A DRAMA
George Mastras (“Breaking Bad”)
Thomas Schnauz (“Breaking Bad”)
Julian Fellowes (“Downton Abbey”)
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (“Game of Thrones”)
Henry Bromell (“Homeland”)

DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA
Tim Van Patten (“Boardwalk Empire”)
Michelle MacLaren (“Breaking Bad”)
Jeremy Webb (“Downton Abbey”)
Lesli Linka Glatter (“Homeland”)
David Fincher (“House of Cards”)

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Bobby Cannavale (“Boardwalk Empire”)
Jonathan Banks (“Breaking Bad”)
Aaron Paul (“Breaking Bad”)
Jim Carter (“Downton Abbey”)
Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”)
Many Patinkin (“Homeland”)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad”)
Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey”)
Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”)
Christine Baranski (“The Good Wife”)
Morena Baccarin (“Homeland”)
Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”)

COMEDY SERIES
“The Big Bang Theory” (CBS)
“Girls” (HBO)
“Louie” (FX)
“Modern Family” (ABC)
“30 Rock” (NBC)
“Veep” (HBO)

ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Alec Baldwin (“30 Rock”)
Jason Bateman (“Arrested Development”)
Jim Parsons (“The Big Bang Theory”)
Matt LeBlanc (“Episodes”)
Louie C.K (“Louie”)
Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”)

ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Tina Fey (“30 Rock”)
Laura Dern (“Enlightened”)
Lena Dunham (“Girls”)
Edie Falco (“Nurse Jackie”)
Amy Poehler (“Parks and Recreation”)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Veep”)

WRITING FOR A COMEDY
David Crane and Jeffrey Klarik (“Episodes”)
Louis C.K. and Pamela Adlon (“Louie”)
Greg Daniels (“The Office”)
Jack Burditt and Robert Carlock (“30 Rock”)
Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield (“30 Rock”)

DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY
Lena Dunham (“Girls”)
Paris Barclay (“Glee”)
Louis C.K. (“Louie”)
Gail Mancuso (“Modern Family”)
Beth McCarthy-Miller (“30 Rock”)

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Adam Driver (“Girls”)
Jesse Tyler Ferguson (“Modern Family”)
Ed O’Neill (“Modern Family”)
Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”)
Bill Hader (“SNL”)
Tony Hale (“Veep”)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Mayim Bialik (“The Big Bang Theory”)
Jane Lynch (“Glee”)
Sofia Vergara (“Modern Family”)
Julie Bowen (“Modern Family”)
Merritt Wever (“Nurse Jackie”)
Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”)
Anna Chlumsky (“Veep”)

MINISERIES OR MOVIE
“American Horror Story: Asylum” (FX)
“Behind the Candelabra” (HBO)
“The Bible” (History)
“Phil Spector” (HBO)
“Political Animals” (USA)
“Top of the Lake” (Sundance Channel)

ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Michael Douglas (“Behind the Candelabra”)
Matt Damon (“Behind the Candelabra”)
Toby Jones (“The Girl”)
Benedict Cumberbatch (“Parade’s End”)
Al Pacino (“Phil Spector”)

ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Jessica Lange (“American Horror Story: Asylum”)
Laura Linney (“The Big C: Hereafter”)
Helen Mirren (“Phil Spector”)
Sigourney Weaver (“Political Animals”)
Elisabeth Moss (“Top of the Lake”)

WRITING FOR A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Richard LaGravenese (“Behind the Candelabra”)
Abi Morgan (“The Hour”)
Tom Stoppard (“Parade’s End”)
David Mamet (“Phil Spector”)
Jane Campion and Gerard Lee (“Top of the Lake”)

DIRECTING FOR A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
Steven Soderbergh (“Behind the Candelabra”)
Julian Jarrold (“The Girl”)
David Mamet (“Phil Spector”)
Allison Anders (“Ring of Fire”)
Jane Campion and Gerard Lee (“Top of the Lake”)

SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MINISERIES OR MOVIE
James Cromwell (“American Horror Story: Asylum”)
Zachary Quinto (“American Horror Story: Asylum”)
Scott Bakula (“Behind the Candelabra”)
John Benjamin Hickey (“The Big C: Hereafter”)
Peter Mullan (“Top of the Lake”)

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