In an election year, political shows were big winners at an Emmys ceremony that featured plenty of comments onstage and backstage. HBO’s 2008 election drama Game Change and Showtime’s Washington spy thriller series Homeland swept the longform and drama series categories, respectively. Game Change, about Sarah Palin’s Vice Presidential run, won four Emmys including best miniseries or TV movie, while newcomer Homeland denied Mad Men a historical fifth consecutive win by garnering outstanding drama series. “This isn’t as much about Sarah Palin as the political process,” said Game Change’s Julianne Moore backstage after her outstanding actress in a miniseries or TV movie win for portraying Palin. “In an election year, this was an examination of how we pick our leaders. That to me was what was so compelling about this film.”
“Especially during the primaries it felt like reality television to me,” said Game Change director Jay Roach after accepting his award. “Is this the best we can do, is this how we want our country to run, is this how we find the next Thomas Jefferson, the next Abraham Lincoln? I don’t think so.” Game Change’s Danny Strong, who won a writing Emmy for his adaption of journalist John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s 2010 book, said he continues to delve into political material despite the risks of criticism “because these stories are extremely dramatic, the stakes are incredibly high, you have fantastic characters and really important moments in American history that are worthy of being dramatized.”
Earlier in the evening, while accepting the movie’s Emmy for Outstanding Movie, producer Tom Hanks took an even broader historical perspective: “I’d like to thank our Founding Fathers for the process they came up with.”
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Backstage, Homeland’s Claire Danes, who won the Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy among the show’s three Emmys tonight, talked about President Obama’s fondness for the show. “It’s way cool that he’s a fan. It speaks to the relevancy of the show and it’s hugely validating,” she said. “I’m stupefied that he’s tuning in so consistently.”
Host Jimmy Kimmel jumped right into politics during his opening monologue: “Are any of you voting for Mitt Romney?” Kimmel asked the crowd to a mild reaction. “Oh good, only 40 Republicans, and the rest godless liberal homosexuals. Being a Republican in Hollywood is like being a Chick-fil-A sandwich on the snack table at Glee”. The GOP nominee took another dig when the late-night host compared PBS’ aristocratic Downton Abbey to what it was like for Romney growing up. Bipartisan in his routine, Kimmel also mocked Obama being a fan of Homeland: “I don’t think the President should be watching Homeland for the same reason Charlie Sheen shouldn’t be watching Breaking Bad,” Kimmel said.
Later in the evening, Kimmel introduced Moore as “one of two outstanding Sarah Palin impersonators in the room.” (30 Rock’s Tina Fey, who played Palin on Saturday Night Live during the 2008 election, was an Emmy nominee and presenter tonight.) Moore made no political references in her acceptance speech, but backstage she said “one thing I left out of my acceptance speech was that I wanted to give a shout-out to two women, Tina Fey and Katie Couric. In my research, I saw how influential they were. I was sorry I didn’t get a chance to say that.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus made a joke that “I don’t think there is anything funny about me being Vice President of the United States” when she won Lead Actress In A Comedy Series for HBO’s Veep. “Right now, politics seems to be front and center in our lives,” she said later backstage. “Every time is a good time politically, but this seems especially good. It’s greatly influenced me and continues to influence me.” She wasn’t the only winner to talk about current events backstage. Asked about the issue of same-sex marriage in the election, Modern Family’s Steve Levitan said, “I’m not going to go there tonight, but I’m hoping that over time all political candidates support marriage equality.” Last month, Levitan mocked the GOP’s opposition to same-sex marriage and Ann Romney after the GOP candidate’s wife said Modern Family was one of her favorite shows.