Awards Season

Way To Go, Emmys!: An Unusually Good Night For A Usually Dull Awards Show

  • Amber Riley, Jane Lynch, Tina Fey, Joel McHale, Jimmy Fallon, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer, Jorge Garcia, Nina Dobrev, and Jon Hamm were, believe it or not, only some of the participants in the Emmys' terrific 'Born To Run" opening number on Sunday night.
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    Amber Riley, Jane Lynch, Tina Fey, Joel McHale, Jimmy Fallon, Cory Monteith, Chris Colfer, Jorge Garcia, Nina Dobrev, and Jon Hamm were, believe it or not, only some of the participants in the Emmys' terrific 'Born To Run" opening number on Sunday night.
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Host Jimmy Fallon speaks onstage at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards
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    Host Jimmy Fallon speaks onstage at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Actress Kyra Sedgwick, winner of the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Award for The Closer, arrives at the Emmy Awards.
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    Actress Kyra Sedgwick, winner of the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Award for The Closer, arrives at the Emmy Awards.
    Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
  • Actor Eric Stonestreet accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series award for Modern Family from actress Betty White.
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    Actor Eric Stonestreet accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series award for Modern Family from actress Betty White.
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Cast and crew of Modern Family, winners of the Outstanding Comedy Series Award pose in the press room at the Emmy Awards.
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    Cast and crew of Modern Family, winners of the Outstanding Comedy Series Award pose in the press room at the Emmy Awards.
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  • Actress Edie Falco accepts the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series award for Nurse Jackie.
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    Actress Edie Falco accepts the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series award for Nurse Jackie.
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Actor Bryan Cranston, right, accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series award for Breaking Bad from actress Edie Falco onstage at the Emmy Awards.
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    Actor Bryan Cranston, right, accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series award for Breaking Bad from actress Edie Falco onstage at the Emmy Awards.
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Actor Bryan Cranston poses with fellow Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul, winner of the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Award.
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    Actor Bryan Cranston poses with fellow Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul, winner of the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Award.
    Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images
  • Actor Ricky Gervais speaks onstage at the Emmy Awards.
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    Actor Ricky Gervais speaks onstage at the Emmy Awards.
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  • Actress Archie Panjabi, winner of the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Award for The Good Wife kisses her trophy.
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    Actress Archie Panjabi, winner of the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Award for The Good Wife kisses her trophy.
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  • The cast of Mad Men accept the Outstanding Drama Series award onstage.
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    The cast of Mad Men accept the Outstanding Drama Series award onstage.
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Actress January Jones, of Mad Men, arrives at the awards ceremony.
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    Actress January Jones, of Mad Men, arrives at the awards ceremony.
    Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
  • Actor Al Pacino accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie award for You Don't Know Jack in which he portrays Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
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    Actor Al Pacino accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie award for You Don't Know Jack in which he portrays Dr. Jack Kevorkian.
    Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Temple Grandin and Claire Danes attend HBO's Annual Emmy Awards Post Award Reception at The Plaza at the Pacific Design Center on Sunday. Danes won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie award for her portrayal of Grandin.
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    Temple Grandin and Claire Danes attend HBO's Annual Emmy Awards Post Award Reception at The Plaza at the Pacific Design Center on Sunday. Danes won the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie award for her portrayal of Grandin.
    Michael Buckner/Getty Images
  • Actress Jane Lynch, right, accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series award for Glee from Stephen Colbert.
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    Actress Jane Lynch, right, accepts the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series award for Glee from Stephen Colbert.
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Actor Jim Parsons accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series award for The Big Bang Theory.
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    Actor Jim Parsons accepts the Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series award for The Big Bang Theory.
    Kevin Winter/Getty Images
  • Actors Anna Paquin, left, and Stephen Moyer, from the HBO series True Blood, arrive at the Emmy Awards.
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    Actors Anna Paquin, left, and Stephen Moyer, from the HBO series True Blood, arrive at the Emmy Awards.
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You know it's going to be an unusually satisfying awards show when even the pretaped opening production number is a genuine pleasure.

The 62nd Annual Primetime Emmys were handed out Sunday night, and it was a startlingly good show, particularly given the Emmys' well-earned reputation for dull, inexplicable repeat winners and very little actual entertainment.

Jane Lynch with her Emmy

Jane Lynch with the Emmy she won for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy as Sue Sylvester on Glee. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images North America hide caption

itoggle caption Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images North America

Things got underway with an opening segment in which host Jimmy Fallon met up with the cast of Glee to form a new glee club. It benefited from the participation of terrifically game performers including Tina Fey, Jon Hamm, Joel McHale, Jane Lynch, Betty White, Tim Gunn, and Jorge Garcia — and even Kate Gosselin (who, to her credit, allowed her unwelcome presence to be played as a punchline). The number cleverly demonstrated exactly what Glee itself has shown: singing and dancing is fun, and when you start with a great song (in this case, "Born To Run") and everyone is having a transparently wonderful time, you're most of the way there already, whether the performance is perfect or not.

(The opening doesn't seem to be online legally — a rights issue with the song seems like the most likely culprit — but NBC will undoubtedly be playing whack-a-mole with unauthorized copies on YouTube for quite some time, so for at least a while, you can probably find it there with some clever searching.)

As if song and dance weren't enough, from the outset, the awards largely avoided the Emmy trap of rewarding the same people over and over. Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family) and Jane Lynch (Glee) won the supporting categories in comedy, while Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) and Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) won in the leading categories; none of those four had ever won for these roles, and all but Parsons are from new shows.

On the drama side, the supporting awards went to Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) and Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife), while the leading awards went to Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer). Cranston is on his third straight victory, but Panjabi and Paul are first-time winners, as is Sedgwick, who had previously been nominated for The Closer every year since 2006 without winning. (She beat out the night's most widely agreed-upon shoo-in other than Lynch, Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife, which goes to show you how seriously you should take Emmy predictions.)

There was just a lot to like about seeing that crop of actors win; it wasn't just "Who's the most familiar person in this category?" In fact, several of these actors aren't particularly well-known at all, or they weren't until they took these roles. It also reaffirmed that while cable is still dominant in drama, taking three out of four of those awards, the broadcast networks are still strong in comedy, taking three out of four on that side.

That broadcast-cable pattern continued when it came time to give out the awards for the best series. Mad Men won its third straight trophy for Outstanding Drama Series, while Modern Family beat out Glee in the closely watched new-show battle for Outstanding Comedy Series. Overall, as between the two, Modern Family came out on top with the big win and the wins for Stonestreet and for the writing of the pilot. But Glee, in addition to Lynch's win, also took the comedy directing prize, and between that and wins last weekend at the Creative Arts ceremony for Neil Patrick Harris' guest role and for casting the show, it did just fine for itself.

Other winners included The Daily Show winning its eighth consecutive award for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series — beating out Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show, and thus denying us all what might have been quite an acceptance speech. The Daily Show victory was otherwise tarnished only by what appeared to be an off-the-cuff acceptance speech from producer Rory Albanese, who stumbled into mostly just praising his own show and perhaps would have benefited from some preparation.

Also, in an event that was both inevitable and (for years) oddly elusive, Top Chef finally wrestled the Outstanding Reality-Competition Series Emmy away from The Amazing Race, which had won every year since the category was established in 2003.

For once, there's very little to really take issue with as far as winners go. But even aside from that, it was a pretty good night's entertainment — especially for an awards show. George Clooney was there to grab the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, but he also participated in a very funny taped segment with the cast of Modern Family.

Temple Grandin, a woman with autism who became a livestock expert and had her life made into an HBO biopic, was in the house to see her life story rewarded with five Emmys — and to spontaneously hug the producer in a moment at least as affecting as anything in the film. Ricky Gervais not only was very funny, but even had beers delivered to the crowd.

If there was a worst moment, it was probably the defiantly rambling acceptance speech from Al Pacino, for his performance in You Don't Know Jack, the HBO movie about Jack Kevorkian. It's hard to cut off Al Pacino, and he knows it, but taking advantage of that fact in a setting where he's really just a visitor was one of the evening's only acts of ungraciousness, since it inevitably takes away from other winners. Pacino filibustered for an astonishing three minutes (a lifetime in awards-show terms), including a full minute after noting that he was going to ignore the plea that he wrap it up. Producer Matthew Weiner, by comparison, wound up with roughly one minute to accept for Mad Men as the show was dutifully brought in on time.

It was a good night for those who have hoped that the Emmys would find a way to stop handing out the same trophies to the same people and shows every year. A good night for Mad Men and Modern Family, and Temple Grandin, and yes, Al Pacino. A good night for Glee, even though it lost the top prize, as its "let's sing and dance" sensibility set the tone for the whole show. It was a very good night for Jimmy Fallon, who really couldn't have been expected to do any better with the always thankless hosting task — aside from the gimmick of letting people submit jokes via Twitter, about which the less said, the better.

But more than anything, it was a surprisingly good night for people sitting at home and watching the Emmys.

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