2011 Primetime Emmys: Clear eyes, full hearts, moderate confusion

I don’t have a whole lot to say about tonight’s Emmy ceremony, if only because I said so many things on Twitter tonight that I’m mostly over talking about it already. This also might have something to do with the fact that I barely guessed any of the major winners correctly, which isn’t the worst thing in the world in some of the categories. But I wanted to talk about one or two things that happened tonight that have me somewhat confused.

Clearly, it’s pretty damn awesome that Friday Night Lights, the underdog of all underdogs, took home two awards in major categories (Drama Writing, Lead Actor in a Drama) in its final year of eligibility. I have never been happier watching an award show than I was when Jason Katims and Kyle Chandler’s names were called and they took the stage to give lovely speeches. There was more good news in the Supporting Actress in a Drama Series category, as Margo Martindale grabbed the victory for her fantastic work on Justified. And although I would have preferred that other performers win in the Supporting Actor and Lead Actress categories on the drama side, I’m totally fine with Peter Dinklage and Julianna Marguilies winning in those two races.

ANYWAY, all of these surprising wins and a not-so-surprising victory for Martin Scorsese in the drama directing meant that Mad Men had won exactly zero awards in any of the major categories before the Outstanding Drama Series winner was announced. With Friday Night Lights taking home two major awards and the rest of them being dispersed among some of the other Drama Series possibilities (The Good Wife, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones), it sure felt like Mad Men‘s reign in the series category was over. No Mad Men actor has ever won in the four big acting categories, so that was nothing new. But to see Men shut out in the writing and directing categories was very odd, especially when “The Suitcase” is widely considered the best episode of television in a long time.

But of course, Mad Men did in fact win its fourth-straight Outstanding Drama Series award. And despite any personal connections I have to Friday Night Lights, I’ll be the first to admit that Mad Men season four was the best season of all six nominees, so it’s not like a major disappointment. FNL grabbed two major awards, that’s enough for me.* Nevertheless, the voting logic makes absolutely no sense to me.

*Although, it would have been nice to see Connie Britton win as well. She was just as integral to that series’ success as Kyle Chandler. 

It is possible that our assumptions about what would change for Mad Men actors (no Bryan Cranston to hold down Jon Hamm, most notably), were completely untrue. Maybe Cranston wasn’t holding Jon Hamm back all these years, maybe Emmy voters don’t love Mad Men for the performances. It is also possible that Matthew Weiner pissed enough people off over the last year that the voters decided not to give him an individual award in the writing category. And of course, getting to see multiple episodes for the series tapes might have helped Mad Men‘s case, if there were random people who didn’t love “The Suitcase” like almost everyone else on the planet. There are a lot of things in play here.

But that doesn’t make the situation any clearer. Going in to every Oscar telecast, most of us know that the director/picture winners often align and so when the winner in the former category is announced, we assume to know the winner in the latter. Some complain about this approach because it makes the last 25 minutes of the Oscars boring, but I appreciate it because it shows us at home that there is some logic to the way that the academy is voting. The Best Picture winner doesn’t always have the “best” director — see this past year when David Fincher was obvious choice for director but Tom Hooper won anyway because he directed The King’s Speech — but I can respect that there is some system in place.

With tonight’s Emmy telecast, I don’t really understand why what happened actually happened. I can see the individual performer winners not lining up with the series winner, but I would assume that the writing or directing might line up. I could also see the series that won the most major awards then taking the series one as well. Of course, I’m saying this partially because Friday Night Lights would be the winner in that case, but even if that were not true, it seems really odd to me that Mad Men won exactly one award and it just happened to be the most important one.

What’s even more confusing is that on the comedy side of things, the voting logic/system made complete sense. Modern Family won both supporting performance awards and also took home wins in writing and directing. With the series victory included, Family won five of the seven major comedy awards. This made for a boring and predictable opening 40 minutes and yet, at least it made sense. We knew that Modern Family was going to win Outstanding Comedy Series at the end of the night because it had already won enough important awards that we rationally assumed the most important one was to follow. So basically, the Emmy voters have an internal logic, except for when they don’t and they throw it all out for all sorts of slightly shocking results. I guess there’s a trade-off for what I’m asking for: The telecast itself can either be very exciting, like it was for those 40 minutes to the drama announcements when it felt like anything and everything could happen, and simultaneously make no sense or the telecast can be incredibly boring for the duration, but follow a certain recognizable voting pattern. Maybe I should just shut up now.

Other thoughts on the Emmy festivities:

  • With all awards shows, tonight’s telecast had its ups and downs. Jane Lynch was fine as host, mostly because she wasn’t called upon to do very much throughout the telecast. Her charisma couldn’t overcome an opening number dragged for way too long or the generally tepid writing given to her. Jimmy Fallon was much better last year, but I’m not entirely sure that is Lynch’s fault whatsoever.
  • The Emmytones were just dreadful. As I said on Twitter, Joel McHale — and arguably, Zachary Levi and Cobie Smulders as well — should probably fire their agents for that mess. The whole thing played like a bit that McHale would mock on The Soup, which is never a good sign. Also, why the hell was Wilmer Valderrama involved? I get that he’s in Awake, but come on.
  • The pre-taped bit inside The Office‘s Dunder Mifflin building was fun, however. When all else fails, put Amy Poehler in front of the camera and yell action. Also: Aaron Paul!
  • Though I haven’t seen either, it was kind of great that Downton Abbey hammered Mildred Pearce in the movie/miniseries races. Any time HBO doesn’t win all the awards there feels like a victory.
  • Shame on Mark Burnett for allowing Charlie Sheen to present an award and give the most BS apology/good luck speech in the history of mankind. He was so disingenuous it made me a bit sick. Big props to Jim Parsons for A.) noting how uncomfortable it all was and B.) giving Sheen that hilariously cold look as they walked to the back.
  • Good news: Glee won no awards. And there was very little mention of its existence, really. I wouldn’t be shocked if it wasn’t even nominated in the comedy series race next year.


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