“Modern Family”? Check. “Breaking Bad”? Double check. Jeff Daniels? Whaaaaaa????
The 2013 Emmy Awards made for a changeable evening with voters swinging wildly between rubber-stamping old favorites and offering up jaw-dropping surprises. It was, to quote noted Emmy handicapper Jimi Hendrix, a "frustrating mess" for anyone making predictions.
That said, let’s run down the list of winners and see whether we can make some sense from the higgledy-piggledy happenings of the evening.
The favorite: "Breaking Bad"
The winner: "Breaking Bad"
Analysis: Finally. Fans would have sent Emmy voters on a trip to Belize had the show been denied its first win in this category.
The favorite: "Modern Family"
The winner: "Modern Family"
Analysis: Again? Yes. Again. With its cable competitors “Louie,” “Veep” and “Girls” sharing a similar comic sensibility (you could throw NBC’s acerbic “30 Rock” in there as well) and, thus, dividing the vote, “Modern Family” probably had to beat only its equally popular broadcast network offering “The Big Bang Theory” to win its fourth straight Emmy.
LEAD ACTOR, DRAMA
The favorite: Bryan Cranston, "Breaking Bad"
The winner: Jeff Daniels, "The Newsroom"
Analysis: If the Emmys were going to go for a movie star here, everyone assumed it’d be Kevin Spacey for “House of Cards.” Daniels, though, had a killer three-minute monologue in his Emmy episode submission. Aaron Sorkin wrote it, and Daniels nailed it, and apparently that was enough for voters.
LEAD ACTRESS, DRAMA
The winner: Danes
Analysis: Many thought voters would choose Washington for the hit "Scandal," making her the first black actress to win this category. But Danes had a stronger Emmy submission, "Q&A," that afforded her more big acting moments than could be found on Washington's soapy political drama.
LEAD ACTOR, COMEDY
The winner: Parsons.
Analysis: Parsons’ Emmy submission, “The Habitation Configuration,” was a flawless episode of “The Big Bang Theory” that generously demonstrated his comic timing and likability. C.K.’s Emmy episode was the first of a two-parter. It was charming enough, but not necessarily indicative of the show’s ambition and comic risk-taking.
LEAD ACTRESS, COMEDY
The favorite: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
The winner: Louis-Dreyfus, "Veep"
Analysis: Fourteen nominations. Four wins. What do you need to know? They like her! They really like her!
SUPPORTING ACTOR, DRAMA
The favorite: Mandy Patinkin, "Homeland"
Analysis: If Patinkin was going to be denied, most figured that one of the “Breaking Bad” nominees – last year’s winner Aaron Paul or Jonathan Banks would win. Cannavale? His Emmy episode had him punching a priest, berating Jesus and stealing from the collection plate. Maybe there were a lot of lapsed Catholics among voters.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, DRAMA
The favorite: Anna Gunn, "Breaking Bad"
The winner: Gunn
Analysis: She joins co-stars Cranston and Paul as Emmy winners. Gunn had a stellar episode, the one where Skyler stages a suicide and later tells Walt she's waiting/hoping/wishing for him to die. A supporting performer couldn’t have a better showcase.
SUPPORTING ACTOR, COMEDY
The favorite: Ty Burrell, "Modern Family"
The winner: Tony Hale, "Veep"
Analysis: Given how great Hale was in both "Veep" and "Arrested Development" (not to mention helping Louis-Dreyfus deliver her Emmy acceptance speech), voters had a strong alternative to the "Modern Family" gang (the show had won this category the past three years) and went with it. They made the right call.
SUPPORTING ACTRESS, COMEDY
The favorite: Julie Bowen, "Modern Family"
The winner: Merritt Wever, "Nurse Jackie"
Analysis: Easily, the night's biggest shocker. (Maybe voters knew she'd deliver that great speech.) Did "Modern Family" nominees Bowen and Sofia Vergara cancel each other out? Or, more likely, do voters just dig Wever's charmingly naive character on "Nurse Jackie," even if the show, in its fifth season, isn't generating much conversation these days?