Sure, Mad Men may have notched its third Outstanding Drama win in a row (and its female stars further proved that they badly need their onset stylists), Betty White made her 1 millionth randy-old-lady joke of the year, and Jimmy Fallon used his guitar skills to make himself funnier.
But there were at least five things that made for an unroutine evening, starting with the end of the longest Emmy winning streak around...
1. Taster's Choice: After seven straight triumphant years, The Amazing Race was brought down not by the two most-watched reality competitions on TV, nor by Heidi Klum's long, long legs. No, it was the sweat-and-spatula fueled drama on Top Chef that finally unseated the perennial champ in the Outstanding Reality Competition category, giving Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons a new brand of clout around the foie gras cooler. Bravo.
2. The Biggest Bang: The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons, whose aw-shucks demeanor in real life kinda resembles that of the nerdy, socially inept genius he plays on CBS' hit sitcom, toppled the twin towers of Alec Baldwin and Tony Shalhoub to win for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy. Reigning two-time champ Baldwin is always a threat as 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy, and three-time winner Shalhoub had just wrapped his final season as the endearingly OCD Adrian Monk. Wow, Parsons is so gonna get laid after this!
3. Stop Believing for Now: While Glee was the incoming favorite to unseat three-time winner 30 Rock for Outstanding Comedy, it was fellow freshman Modern Family that managed to topple Tina Fey's critical beast. ABC's sole breakout hit also managed a broadcast-series-best six Emmys, including a supporting actor win for Eric Stonestreet as one-half of the sweetest, funniest gay duo since Jack and Will (yes, we know they weren't a couple). Does the Academy dare keep Ed O'Neill off the guest list next year, as well?
4. Fallon Star: Hosting Late Night may not be a one-way ticket to Tonight Show security, but so far it's been a pretty good indicator that you're going to be good at hosting the Emmys. Conan O'Brien successfully manned the ship twice, and tonight Jimmy Fallon proved a worthy successor to O'Brien, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen DeGeneres and everyone else who's actually been good at this. Sure, not everything killed—not all awkward pauses are funny, Jimmy—but his opening number featuring Tina Fey, the stars of Glee, Jon Hamm, Joel McHale, Jorge Garcia and, er, Kate Gosselin set such a wonderful tone that it was hours before we decided to get all critical again.
5. Lost Opportunity: The Academy having apparently used up all its sentiment on the final seasons of Everybody Loves Raymond and The Sopranos, there wasn't any left for Lost, which signed off this year with its characters literally heading off into that good night after six seasons. Love or hate the finale, past winners Terry O'Quinn and Michael Emerson, competing against each other for Supporting Actor in a Drama, were equally deserving of another victory. But in the end, Lost—an Outstanding Drama winner in its premiere and, some would say, very best season—strode off the schedule with a single win for Picture Editing to give the trippy island mystery 10 Emmys for its entire run.
(Originally published on Aug. 30, 2010 at 7:00 a.m. PT)
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