It's gonna take more than a likable serial killer or a couple of quirky New Zealanders to knock Mad Men and 30 Rock off the podium.
AMC's swell-looking, smooth-talking show about Madison Avenue admen circa 1963 was named Outstanding Drama Series for the second consecutive year, while Tina Fey's hoot-and-a-half sitcom notched its third straight win for Outstanding Comedy Series at tonight's 61st Primetime Emmy Awards.
"That was a nail-biter!" Fey said as she and the Rockers took the stage to accept. To NBC execs who had faith in the show, she said, "Thank you for keeping us on the air even though we are so much more expensive than a talk show."
As far as the dramatic acting went, we could have cut and pasted last year's story, too...
Both Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston and Damages' Glenn Close repeated as Lead Actor and Actress in a Drama Series for their respective roles as a desperate, meth-cooking family man and a cutthroat litigator.
"Oh my goodness, you know, I'm thankful for so many things," said Cranston, scalped now that he plays a bald cancer patient on AMC's dark, dark drama. "[Pro golfer] Lee Trevino was struck by lightning twice and now I know how he feels. I'm so thankful that Glenn Close is actually a woman. I'm thankful to AMC and Sony for being so courageous and supportive…I feel like Cinderfella."
Alec Baldwin was also a two-timer, scoring another Emmy for Lead Actor in a Comedy for playing the delightfully haughty network exec Jack Donaghy. His win was one of three wins this evening for 30 Rock, which came into this Emmy season with a leading 22 nominations.
"I'd trade this to look like him, I'd be honest with you," Baldwin said, gesturing to presenter Rob Lowe. "No, no…I really would, actually." The enduring toast of the single-camera comedy world dedicated his award to 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels.
NBC led all broadcast networks with five wins Sunday, tying HBO's five, the best among the cable nets. Overall, including the spoils from last week's Creative Arts Emmys, HBO led all comers with 16 trophies, followed by NBC with 11.
In one of the evening's early surprises, Toni Collette, who plays a wife and mom with multiple personality disorder on Showtime's United States of Tara, beat out reigning champ Fey, past winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus and an earnestly mustache-sporting Sarah Silverman to win Lead Actress in a Comedy.
The adorably wee (up to Tina Fey's shoulder she came) Kristin Chenoweth had choked up before she even reached the stage to accept her Emmy statue for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for the late, great Pushing Daisies.
"I'm unemployed now, so I'd like to be on Mad Men," the TV-by-way-of-Broadway star suggested during her kinda adorable speech, which was part sob and part squeak. "I also like The Office and 24...This is really heavy," she said of her hefty statue.
Lost villain Michael Emerson was even kinda chilling, albeit eloquent, when accepting the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (his first win in three nominations), and Cherry Jones, who played the prez on a rejuvenated 24, injected some more Tony magic into the proceedings, winning for Supporting Actress in a Drama.
Not playing second fiddle as he usually does on Two and Half Men was Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series ("the one category that can be bought," according to presenter Amy Poehler) winner Jon Cryer, who finally scored with his fourth nomination for his role as Charlie Sheen's straight-laced brother.
"I used to think that awards were just shallow tokens of momentary popularity, but now—[I realize] they are the only true measure of a person's real worth as a human being," Cryer deadpanned.
Not really, of course, but you can glean a bit by listening to his or her acceptance speech.
One of the more quietly awesome speeches was given by Grey Gardens' Ken Howard, winner for Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie.
"I'll make my speech as brief as possible, in the hope it's not interrupted by a congressman or a rapper," began the 65-year-old character actor. "I was thrilled to be a part of this project for HBO. We actors are so thrilled with the amazing success of cable television and the advent of new media, and can barely wait to renegotiate."
Ha! He then finished off by wishing his wife happy birthday, calling her Sunshine in the process. (Where's the award for best speech again?)
HBO duly dominated in the miniseries/movie categories. Shohreh Aghdashloo won the female equivalent of Howard's award for the miniseries House of Sadaam; Brendan Gleeson won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie, for the TV movie Into the Storm; and Lead Actress went to Jessica Lange, who had to beat out her Grey Gardens costar Drew Barrymore (who, FYI, brought Justin Long with her tonight) to snag it.
Grey Gardens, the quirky dramedy based on the musical about Jackie Kennedy relatives Big and Little Edie Beale, was also named Best Made-for-TV Movie. Best Miniseries was the wee-screen adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit, originally a BBC production that aired on PBS on these shores.
"This part was a gift, and they don't come around for me that often anymore," the still lovely and gratefully (for us) still unworked-on Lange said in acceptance.
Jeff Probst, meanwhile, is on his way to becoming The Amazing Race of hosts—he's now 2-for-2 in wins for Outstanding Host of a Reality or Reality-Competition Program, a category that has only been around for two years itself.
"I am thrilled and honored to accept this on behalf of the entire Survivor crew," said the dashing ringmaster of the CBS show, now in its 19th season. "I am living my dream right here in this moment. If you have a dream, dream big, pursue it with a passion. In the words of the great storyteller Joseph Campbell, 'The adventure you're ready for is the one you get.' Life is short; go for it."
He's good, isn't he?
Speaking of The Amazing Race, no singer, chef, dancer or designer has been able to end its reign as Outstanding Reality Competition Program—a title it took again tonight for the seventh straight year.
"Congratulations, guys, unbelievable," Neil Patrick Harris offered afterward. "Upsets at every turn."
NPH, sporting a white dinner jacket and black bow tie, did his thing as host pretty efficiently—he bantered when necessary, kept things moving and didn't overdo the sourpuss bit too much when Cryer topped him for supporting actor in a comedy. A skit featuring Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog with Harris and Nathan Fillion also hit the spot.
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart won its 900th Emmy—per color commentator John Hodgman (aka "PC" to Justin Long's "Mac")—for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series (really it was just its seventh).
"A lot of shows have been up here saying that they have the best cast and crew—and they have lied to you. I'm sorry for that," Stewart, who also shared in the show's umpteenth win for writing, said, praising his crew as the best and the brightest.
"We're just happy to be up here, looking more handsome than Ricky Gervais, quite frankly," he added, before complimenting Neil Patrick Harris on the nonsucky job he was doing.
(Originally published Sept. 20, 2009, at 8:37 p.m. PT)