2012 Primetime Emmys Analysis: 'Homeland' And 'Modern Family' Unbeatable While Other Favorites Flounder

The streak is over. After four straight years on top, the reign of AMC’s Mad Men as best drama series ended tonight at the hands of hot upstart Homeland. Showtime’s freshman terrorism series swept the drama field, just like defending comedy champ Modern Family did on the comedy side. Each won for best series, all acting categories in which they were nominated as well as writing (Homeland) and directing (Modern Family).

Related: Nikki Finke: Live-Snarking The 64th Emmys

It was a great night for 20th Century Fox TV, which dominated the comedy and drama series fields with Modern Family and Homeland, produced by the studio’s cable division Fox21. The studio previously boasted both the best comedy and drama winners in 1999 with David E. Kelley’s Ally McBeal and The Practice. It was also a big night for CBS Corp., with the company winning the drama and reality-competition series categories with Showtime’s Homeland and CBS’ The Amazing Race, along with three of the four lead series actors with Homeland‘s Demian Lewis and Claire Danes and Two And A Half Men‘s Jon Cryer, a surprise winner. Homeland delivered the first-ever best series win for Showtime as well as the pay cable network’s first Emmys in the other three categories. With its strong run tonight, Homeland tied Game Of Thrones as the program with the most wins this year. (All of GOT‘s trophies came at the Creative Arts Emmys.) CBS, which also took the best reality program award for Undercover Boss at the Creative Emmys for a sweep of the top reality categories, was the broadcast network with most wins for second straight year with 16. HBO was No. 1 overall with 23 Emmys, paced by Game Change, which won four Emmys tonight, including best movie/miniseries.

Related: 2012 Primetime Emmys: By The Numbers

There were a couple of big surprises tonight, notably the complete shutout of Mad Men and Girls and the almost complete ones of AMC’s Breaking Bad and FX’s American Horror Story. Mad Men‘s drought was the most shocking because it also included the Creative Emmys, leaving the 1960s-set drama with zero wins out of 17 nominations for the biggest shutout in Emmy history. Girls, which won for casting in a comedy series at the Creative Arts Emmys, didn’t get recognition for its creator-director-star, Lena Dunham, who is considered TV’s “it” girl at the moment but, at just 26, she seems destined for Emmy glory. Meanwhile, 30 Rock, created by/starring Tina Fey, in whose footsteps Dunham is following, was shut out completely for a second consecutive year.

Breaking Bad had been heavily tipped as a frontrunner in several categories, including best drama series and best actor Bryan Cranston. Instead, the series’ only win on the night came for co-star Aaron Paul in the supporting actor category. He was able to extend his streak to two consecutive wins in the category after winning the previous time the show was eligible, in 2010. But Cranston’s win streak ended at three. Similarly, FX’s American Horror Story‘s only win tonight came in the supporting actress in a drama series category for Jessica Lange. AHS may have suffered a backlash from the controversial decision to submit itself as a miniseries and not a drama series as the show could only convert two of its 17 nominations — one tonight and one at the Creative Emmys. Meanwhile, Downton Abbey‘s move from the movies/miniseries field, which it dominated last year, to drama series, misfired as the British import only scored one nod tonight for Maggie Smith.

Tonight was the last night of reruns on the broadcast networks before the new TV season starts tomorrow. And the Emmys started off as almost a complete repeat from last year’s ceremony, with ABC’s Modern Family taking the supporting actor and actress and directing for a comedy series and Amazing Race banking its ninth Emmy for reality competition series in the 10 years the category has been around. (I think it is safe to say that the highly publicized contract renegotiations of the Modern Family cast this summer had no impact on TV Academy members.) The only tweaks were 2010 winner Eric Stonestreet taking the category from co-star Ty Burrell, who walked away with the Emmy last year, and Modern Family co-creator Steve Levitan winning for best director vs. Michel Spiller in 2011. Julie Bowen was a repeat winner in the supporting actress in a comedy series category. It was the first directing Emmy win in two nominations for Levitan, a relative novice in directing. It was somewhat of a surprise as he went against comedy directing heavy hitters, Emmy winners Robert B. Weide and Jason Winer, Louis C.K. and Dunham. Even Levitan was surprised. “My money was on (the Weide-directed episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm) “Palestinian Chicken,” he said backstage.

Related: 2012 Primetime Emmys Winners’ List

In another upset, and writer/producer-turned-director, Breaking Bad‘s Vince Gilligan, who was widely tipped to win the drama directing race, did not. Neither did the other favorite in the category, Michael Cuesta, for the pilot of Homeland. Walking away with the drama directing Emmy was Tim Van Patten for Boardwalk Empire, keeping HBO’s drama’s hold on the category, which it also won last year for Martin Scorsese’s work on the pilot.

No upset in the best variety series category, where The Daily Show with Jon Stewart made it a decade as the reigning champ with a 10th consecutive win.

TV’s Renaissance Man, Louis CK, received  two writing Emmys — a comedy series (for his eponymous FX comedy series) and variety special (FX’s Live From the Beacon Theatre). These were his first ever individual Emmy wins (second and third overall) after topping the list of most nominated persons for a second year in a row. This year he had seven noms for acting, writing, directing and editing. While he won two Emmys, he didn’t get the trophy he was considered a shoo-in for: best actor in a comedy series, which in a upset went to Cryer. Louis CK contributed to FX’s all-time record haul of 5 Emmys. It was matched by History’s with 5 statuettes for hit Western miniseries Hatfields & McCoys, including two tonight for star Kevin Costner and co-star Tom Berenger.

What Seinfeld curse? Julia Louis-Dreyfus won another Emmy, this time for her newest comedy series, HBO’s Veep. Louis-Dreyfus became only the second actor after Tyne Daly to win lead/supporting Emmys for three different series.

“TV is an American institution, and yet, one out of every five nominees tonight is British,” Kimmel quipped in his opening monologue. He was close on the acting-winning ratio as two of the eight series acting categories went to Brits: Maggie Smith (Downton Abbey) and Damian Lewis (Homeland).

Smith was one of two actors who made successful switches between categories. She was a winner tonight for best supporting actress in a drama series after taking the Emmy last year for the supporting actress in a movie/miniseres —  before Downton Abbey switched fields this year. And Cryer, in his first try as a lead actor in a comedy series, was victorious after winning a supporting actor Emmy for the same role in 2009. Actually, Cryer is not the first performer to win in both lead and supporting series categories for the same role: Patricia Wettig (Thirtysomething) and Allison Janney (The West Wing) pulled off the same feat.

There was bound to be a fresh winner in the best reality host category as Jeff Probst, the only winner the category had known since its launch in 2008, failed to make the list of nominees. He was succeed by veteran Tom Bergeron for Dancing With The Stars, who thanked “Jeff Probst for not been nominated — that helped.”

  1. I watched an episode of “Homeland” tonight on Showtime–right after the Emmys. Yes, it’s a very strong show and, yes, Claire Danes just blows you away. But how this is a better series than “Breaking Bad” is beyond me. I wonder if BB suffered from all the love they get from national media and people getting jealous of Vince. How else to explain it.

    For example, in this episode of HS, they have a meter terrorist/assassin cut a circular hole in the window of an apartment building so he can shoot his rifle at there vice-president. Seriously? No one on the Secret Service or the SWAT people are going to notice this big hunk of glass missing from a window. And then the other terrorist chickens out because of a phone call from his daughter???

    OK, OK, I nit-pick. However Breaking Bad in one of those great series that come along once in a blue moon. Was really rooting for it tonight. Sorry it didn’t happen, guys.

    1. Breaking Bad is a great show but it peaked at season 3. In my opinion, Homeland’s first season blew Breaking Bad’s fourth season out of the water and that’s what the academy was judging. Both are great shows but I feel that Breaking Bad is way past it’s best years and people who are comparing these shows don’t seem to realize that we’re not comparing everything from past seasons as criteria for judgment.

      1. Homeland season 1 did not blow season 4 of Breaking Bad out of the water. That’s absurd. Breaking Bad is the far superior show of the two. It’s not even close. Homeland is the new kid on the block that everyone wants to pretend is the new great thing. Honestly, it’s kinda boring. Well acted. Well written. Pacing is not great. Breaking Bad is brilliant. It gets better and better. In the long run, Breaking Bad will be considered one of the best shows ever (it already is). Homeland will not.

      2. No, people realize that we’re not comparing past seasons, the fact of the matter is that BB season 4 was consensusly more critically acclaimed than Homeland. Simple as that. Just because you thought Homeland was better than BB season 4 doesn’t mean people are crazy for being upset that Homeland usurped BB. As stated in this article, BB was considered the frontrunner by most pundits. Homeland winning is considered an upset. To you maybe not, but to most, it is. The shame of it is that BB for three seasons now has consistently been in most pundits “should win” when they write up their emmy predictions, and it just has not been able to get over the hump. I mean, if I’m being honest, I don’t know if I ever thought it had a chance no matter the extreme acclaim since it is a show about making meth, but the buzz has always distracted me every year in thinking that it could possibly sneak a win. By the way, the academy was also judging quality in every other category bro. Was Jon cryer really the best comedy actor? Was Kevin Costner really better than Cumberbatch, Elba, and Harrelson? Was Modern Family really the best comedy this year? Was Game Change really better than Sherlock? Come on now. We know what the academy was juging,it doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with it.

      3. Breaking bad has exhausted it’s initial premise much like weeds. Now it’s just a show about a drug dealer.

        It was much more fun when it was about a dweeby high school chemistry teacher that turns to manufacturing meth out of desperation. Same thing happened to Weeds after the 3rd season.

    2. I agree. Both deserving shows. I absolutely love Homeland but it’s time for Breaking Bad to get some love. Breaking Bad is out of control brilliant right now and Homeland has time to grow and get better.

    3. If you’ve only seen the one episode of Homeland I can understand your sentiments, especially about why the Damian Lewis’ character would decide to not do go ahead with the plan. You really need to watch the whole season to get what was going on. If this was BB season 1 vs. Homeland season 1, BB probably would’ve won due to its uniqueness. But they weren’t judging BB against its entirety, just its most recent season, which, while great, wasn’t as stellar as Homeland’s first season.

  2. Can someone please explain the miniseries category to me? I know they explained American Horror Story being in it, didn’t really help them though except Jessica Lange’s win but why was Luther which is a series and Missing which was intended to be a series but cancelled in the category at all??

    1. You understand AHS but not Luther?

      I believe the category’s criteria is that it be a short series that has no returnable qualities. (I could have this wrong). I think that the category should be more literal – MINI series. AHS which has 13 episodes, a typical cable season, whereas Luther has 4 episodes. It’s mini – like actually mini! If you go by the AHS rules, you could put out a 26 episode series, with no plans to return it the next year, and call it a mini? No. That’s BS. I would rather qualify 3 consecutive Luther “sequels” (of 6 eps or less) than 13 episode series that dont want to compete against Breaking Bad and Homeland.

  3. I was able to follow the Emmys on sites that announced the winners without having to endure the program, but I stopped after I realised that I had never heard of at least half of the winners. I never heard of Homeland until a few weeks ago and think Breaking Bad has gone down in the past 2 seasons. And if I can’t be bothered to watch the show, why watch the awards?

  4. American Horror Story only had the actors’ performances going for it – certainly not the writing. Even the amazing Connie Britton was confined by the poor writing. They were smart to sneak it in the miniseries category, where it had as much of a shot as it could.

  5. Some good choices, some bad ones. This was Mad Men’s weakest year by far and didn’t deserve to win. Homeland on the other side is fantastic. Kudos to the voters.

    On the other end, this was also Modern Family’s weakest year by leaps and bounds and it did not deserve to win. I’m not sure who should have won in its place … the state of comedy is awfully poor these days.

  6. 30 Rock will knock Modern Family off the Comedy perch next year with its final season. And The Office is done. Parks and Rec and Amy Poehler deserve wins next year though. Give Tina one last Emmy for 30 Rock, and Alec Baldwin too. It’d be nice to see Jon Hamm actually win next year in at least one category. Go Maggie Smith.

  7. This should have been the year that breaking bad took best series. It also should have been the year that some of mad men’s astonishing actors took some award glory. I refuse to watch Homeland on the basis that Showtime’s history is to start with a great to amazing first season (weeds, dexter, californication) and then bleed the show out for years and years even after the show becomes creatively dead. Mark my words, homeland will not look nearly as pretty in it’s 4th or 5th season as Breaking bad and Mad Men do.

  8. Your opinion is invalid in my eyes considering you mentioned Dexter being “bled out” and “drawn out.” You do realize that, in its 7th season, its one of its best yet?

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