Watching last night’s Emmy awards, I could see the trend stories rise and then disintegrate with each category announced. The ceremonies kicked off with a couple of big upsets: it’s a changing of the guard! Then Modern Family won Best Comedy again and Claire Danes won Best Drama Actress again: guard not really changing after all! Then Breaking Bad won its first (and overdue) award for Best Drama: guard changing somewhat!
As at most Emmy awards, the main overarching trend was simply that there is a lot of TV on TV. The change is there if you squint, but it’s incremental: Netflix arrived with a host of nominations for House of Cards and brought home Best Director—but that went to David Fincher, which may be as much a sign of the Emmys again rewarding a film person for doing TV. (Though the same courtesy did not extend to HoC star Kevin Spacey.)
My colleague Lily Rothman has already recapped the Emmycast itself. But here’s how a few of the awards choices look to me the morning after:
While I was watching Breaking Bad earn (most likely) next year’s Emmys, it was collecting last year’s on live TV. As I tweeted earlier in the evening, I actually believe Game of Thrones‘ third season was a little better than the first half of Breaking Bad‘s final season. (Remember, Breaking Bad was eligible only for the episodes it ran last year, not the current, fantastic run of closing episodes.) But you don’t always win for the seasons you deserve—Breaking Bad should have won for season 3 (and possibly 4 as well)—-so I’ll take it.
Meanwhile, not to take anything away from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show, but it was about damn time The Colbert Report took home the top trophy to recognize its lacerating satire of politics and media culture, which Stephen Colbert performs at a high degree of difficulty while making it look casual. (As bonus, Colbert’s Ben & Jerry’s flavor, Americone Dream, got a shout-out in last night’s Breaking Bad.) And leaving the “Is Nurse Jackie a comedy?” debate aside, Merritt Wever is radiantly funny on the show; not only did she give the best acceptance speech (“Gotta go, bye!”), her win was the most pleasant surprise of the night. And while Tony Hale and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (pictured) were not my absolute top picks in their categories, it was worth it to see them accept her award in character, a performance that also served as a reminder of how Veep has improved over two seasons.
I’m on record as not being a fan of The Newsroom, but not because of Jeff Daniels; making his Will McAvoy simultaneously heroic and jerk-ish is tricky, and he deserves credit. Just not this much: his performance can’t compare to what Jon Hamm has done on Mad Men for six seasons now without bringing home a top prize. As for Modern Family, if its last season—spotty by the show’s own standards—was the best comedy on TV last year, then Modern Family is the greatest sitcom that has ever been or will ever be. (Spoiler alert: It is not.)
And then there were the In Memoriam tributes. Look, I have no desire to speak ill of the dead, nor to speak ill of those speaking well of the dead. But besides the much-commented-on morbidness of the night generally—we got Carrie Underwood singing “Yesterday” to commemorate coverage of the JFK assassination—having a separate group of highlighted tributes just felt uncomfortable, as if the Emmys were creating two tiers of the deserving departed. (And there were inevitable slights, like Jack Klugman‘s not getting a solo tribute.) The Emmys are about competition, sure, but do there need to be winners and losers even in death?
Someone actually did this: