The broadcast networks staged a major comeback on a wild night at the Emmys, which started and ended with wins that were widely predicted but saw some real curve balls in between. Broadcast’s dominating performance was led by the five Emmys for ABC’s heavy comedy favorite Modern Family, which won every category it was nominated in, sweeping the first four trophy presentations of the night — for best supporting actor/actress and best writing/directing in a comedy series — and making the final award of the night, for best comedy series, a foregone conclusion. Modern Family won that too for a second straight year, and its sweep shut out rival Glee, leaving Emmy host Fox empty-handed. Broadcast shows also claimed the lead actor/actress in a comedy series categories, which provided two of the major upsets of the night. Melissa McCarthy of CBS’ Mike & Molly won for lead comedy actress despite most pundits having her as their fifth or sixth pick in the category and Golden Globe winner Laura Linney considered a strong front-runner for The Big C. Fellow CBS leading man Jim Parsons denied Steve Carell an Emmy for his iconic role on The Office. (The Office and fellow 30 Rock were left out completely tonight.) McCarthy’s and Parsons’ wins also meant a comeback for the multi-camera genre, which had its first double lead actor/actress win in a long time.
Broadcast’s big night continued with Julianna Margulies winning as best actress in a drama series for CBS’ The Good Wife. The Eye network scored again in the reality competition series, where The Amazing Race won for the eighth time in nine years in the category. Additionally, Friday Night Lights, which originated on NBC and continued to air second runs on the broadcast network, scored two big wins for its final season. One went to star Kyle Chandler for lead actor in a drama series and another to showrunner Jason Katims for writing. Add to that the strong showing of pubcaster PBS, whose Masterpiece Theatre mini-series Downton Abbey won four major awards: best TV movie/miniseries, best supporting actress, Maggie Smith, and best writing and directing for a TV movie/miniseries.
Taking it on the chin was HBO, which saw its longform projects snubbed in key categories. Its praised new drama Boardwalk Empire had 18 nominations but won only for Martin Scorsese’s directing tonight after winning best drama series and best actor (Steve Buscemi) at the Golden Globes. (Its total Emmy haul was 8 awards, including 7 from the Creative Arts Emmys.) As for Mildred Pierce, the first sign of its potential vulnerability came at last week’s Creative Arts Emmys, where the mini entered as the most-nominated program this year with 21 noms, but ended up tied for fourth place with The Kennedys, just one more than Downton Abbey, which had far fewer nominations (10 and 11, respectively).
Also put in a corner was awards darling AMC. With its dark drama Breaking Bad sidelined this year, it didn’t land a single award until the very last category, best drama series, won by its veteran Mad Men. It’s very unusual for a drama series winner to claim the top prize without landing a single other trophy on Emmy’s main night. It was the same “Suitcase” episode, written by Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, that won the show the best drama series award but lost out to Friday Night Lights in the writing category and for lead actor in a drama series, in which Jon Hamm had been considered a favorite alongside Buscemi.
Ray Richmond contributed to this report.