(LOS ANGELES) — On Sunday night, you could’ve tuned into the next-to-last episode of Breaking Bad, or you could’ve tuned into the 65th annual Primetime Emmy Awards to see the show win its first-ever trophy for best drama series. “Holy crap,” said Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan when he took the podium at the end of the three-hours-plus show. “I did not see this coming.”
Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn also took the award for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series: it was her first Emmy win. But to the surprise of many, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston failed to win lead actor in a drama. He lost to The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels, who echoed the thoughts of the audience when he said, “Well, crap, didn’t expect this!” as he took the podium.
It was the first Emmy win for Daniels, who joked that the only thing he’d won recently had been the AARP award for “best actor over 50.” “With respect to the AARP, this is better,” he quipped.
There were several upsets throughout the night: Kerry Washington, hotly favored to win outstanding actress in a drama series — which would’ve made her the first African-American actress to do so — lost to Claire Danes, who repeated for Homeland. At the podium, Danes thanked her husband for “making me so whole and happy so I can be entirely unhappy in the land of make believe.”
–In the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series category, it was a surprise win for Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale; many thought Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul would take the prize.
–In the Outstanding Supporting Actress, Comedy category, Merritt Wever from Nurse Jackie grabbed the trophy, which absolutely nobody saw coming. At the podium, she said, simply, “Thank you so much. I gotta go. Bye!” and left the stage, prompting host Neil Patrick Harris to dub her comments “Best. Speech. Ever.”
–Other surprise wins: Tony Hale of Veep in the Outstanding Supporting Actor, Comedy category; The Voice for Outstanding Reality Competition, beating perennial winner The Amazing Race; The Colbert Report snapping The Daily Show’s 10-year winning streak as outstanding variety series.
Michael Douglas won his first Emmy for his fearless portrayal of Liberace in the HBO movie Behind the Candelabra, which won 11 Emmys in total this year. At the podium, he thanked his co-star and fellow nominee Matt Damon, who played his gay lover in the movie, by saying, “Matt, this was a two-hander, and you’re only as good as your other hand. You deserve half of this. So, you want the bottom or the top?” After Damon replied from the audience, Douglas joked, “The top? I figured that.”
Of course, there were still some tried-and-true winners Sunday night. Modern Family won outstanding comedy honors for the fourth straight year. Jim Parsons won outstanding actor in a comedy for The Big Bang Theory for the third time, while Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus won the Emmy for outstanding actress in a comedy for the second straight year.
As a host, Neil Patrick Harris sometimes appeared as though he was hosting the Tony Awards, starring in a big musical number mid-show, and singing and dancing alongside the nominees for outstanding choreography in a massive production number, as that category was presented on camera for the first time ever.
But surprisingly, NPH didn’t open the show with a musical number. First, he did a sketch in which he attempted to binge-watch the entire TV season, and that led to a monologue in which he ended up arguing with past Emmy hosts Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Lynch and Conan O’Brien about the right way to host the show — while Kevin Spacey, in the audience, claimed that he had masterminded the entire segment.
Harris and his How I Met Your Mother cast also co-starred in a filmed bit about how Harris suffers from EHD, or Excessive Hosting Disorder, and needed to go to The Ryan Seacrest Center to recover.
The show was dubbed “the saddest Emmys ever” by Modern Family creator Steven Levitan because it was heavy with tributes to stars we lost in the past year.
Edie Falco saluting her Sopranos husband James Gandolfini; Michael J. Fox saluting producer Gary David Goldberg; Robin Williams saying farewell to his idol and former Mork & Mindy co-star Jonathan Winters; Rob Reiner paying homage to his All in the Family mother-in-law Jean Stapleton; and Jane Lynch honoring her Glee co-star Cory Monteith. Unfortunately, these tributes didn’t include any montages of the late actors’ work, so we could see what made them so great.
And in another disappointment, Elton John paid tribute to the late Liberace, the subject of HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, with an oddly subdued performance. While viewers may have expected something over-the-top and flamboyant — especially after Elton said that Liberace had been an influence on him — all he did was perform his somber new song “Home Again” while wearing a simple dark blue sequined jacket and blue-framed, but regular-size, glasses.
Carrie Underwood also performed: she sang “Yesterday” as a tribute to 1963-1964, “the year that changed TV history,” because of JFK’s assassination and the arrival of The Beatles in the U.S. “Yesterday,” however, didn’t come out until 1965. Still, Carrie tweeted that she’d received Paul McCartney’s blessing to perform it.
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