Primetime Emmys 2013 Analysis: 'Modern Family' & 'Breaking Bad' Triumph On Night Of Upsets

A night full of surprises finally took a predictable turn in the final stretch when Modern Family and Breaking Bad took the best series honors. ABC’s Modern Family extended its streak to four consecutive best comedy series wins to tie such classics as All In The Family, Cheers and The Dick Van Dyke Show. After getting upset last year, AMC’s Breaking Bad earned its first ever top drama prize. But there were upsets galore, with no The Daily Show as best variety series or The Amazing Race as best reality competition series for the first time in a decade. HBO’s Behind The Candelabra, which had an already insurmountable lead following the Creative Emmys, added three more Emmys to his haul for 11 total, more than twice the next winningest program. HBO once again topped the list of networks with the most trophies, 27. And Saturday Night Live surpassed Frasier with most lifetime Emmys, 40.

Related: Nikki Finke Live-Snarks 65th Emmys

On a night of surprises, the lead actor in a comedy series categories were a rare island of status quo. Frontrunner Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) won his third Emmy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus repeated as winner for Veep. But the supporting comedy acting categories were ripe with upsets. Merritt Wever of Nurse Jackie was so stunned by her win, she just walked offstage with no acceptance speech. Who can blame her — she was a true underdog. Her counterpart, fellow surprise winner Tony Hale of Veep, was a bit more eloquent but only a bit. For the first time ever, Modern Family was shut out from the acting categories with a cast member not taking at least one Emmy (the series’ cast submit themselves as supporting), though the series got a directing award.

The overhaul was even more profound in the drama acting categories. While Claire Danes’ repeat win for Homeland was a shoe-in, The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels’ name drew gasps when read as winner for best actor over frontrunner Bryan Cranston and other heavyweight contenders like Kevin Spacey. Two two-time supporting winners, Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith (she  won on the longform side in 2011 and in drama last year) and Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul, were upset by Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn and Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale, respectively. For a second straight year, former Emmy darling Mad Men was shut out completely.

Comedy Central’s The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report for the most part have alternated taking the best writing for a variety series category, so it was no surprise when Stephen Colbert led his writing team to the podium to accept the award, which went to The Daily Show last year. The surprise came three categories later when Colbert made a return to the stage to take the award for Variety Series. This is Colbert Report‘s first-ever top variety series award, which had gone to the show that spawned it, The Daily Show, for each of the past 10 years. But Stewart’s streak remained intact as he is executive producing Colbert, earning an 11th consecutive award in the category.

Related: Passing Of The Torch – ‘Colbert Report’ Dethrones ‘Daily Show’

Mark Burnett had never won for Survivor but today he was victorious for NBC’s The Voice, which dethroned The Amazing Race as best Reality Competition Series. It became the first singing show and only the second series besides Top Chef to win over Amazing Race since the category was launched in 2003.

The surprises spilled over to the longform field where British scribe Abi Morgan (The Hour) upset the likes of Richard LaGravenese, David Mamet and Jane Campion. The order was quickly restored, with HBO’s Behind The Candelabra winning for best movie/miniseries, best actor, Michael Douglas, and directing, Steven Soderbergh.

In its first Emmy season, Netflix earned one major award — Directing for a Drama Series for House Of Cards’ David Fincher who scored his first Emmy for the series’ pilot. (The streaming service also won 2 Emmys at the Creative Arts.) The drama writing category produced one of the somber moments of the night as it went to late Homeland scribe Henry Bromell.

Related: ‘Homeland’ Writer Henry Bromell Gets Rare Posthumous Emmy

Several cancelled series got a final curtain call tonight. Laura Linney, previously nominated in the best actress in a comedy series category, was a surprise winner in the lead actress in a miniseries or movie category for the Showtime series’ four-part conclusion. The supporting actress longform category went to Ellen Burstyn for USA’s Political Animals. And 30 Rock creator Tina Fey and Tracey Wigfield won for writing the series finale. The comedy directing prize went to Modern Family‘s Gail Mancuso for a female sweep of the comedy writing and directing categories.

Related:
Primetime Emmys 2013: Tepid Applause For Monteith Tribute (Video)
Primetime Emmys 2013: High Mark For Female Comedy Writers, Directors

  1. It’s been 20 years since a woman won directing for a comedy –1993- Betty Thomas, Dream On and 20 years since a woman won writing of a movie or mini series — 1993, Jane Anderson, The Positively True Adventures of Murdering Texas Cheerleading Mom.
    Very few women have even been nominated in either of those categories for the past 20 years.

  2. Absolutely thrilled with Merritt Wever’s win!! She plays the most likable and fun character on television and from everything I’ve read she’s a super nice person to boot! Jeff Daniels winning was outstanding!! Also loved the wins for Tony Hale, Jim Parsons, Bob Newhart and Laura Linney. My favorite Emmys ever!

  3. I don’t want to knock Modern Family – the good cast, writers, etc… but the show is terribly overrated. It’s not a show deserving of four Emmy wins for best comedy.

    My question is: is the love affair between the Emmy voters and Modern Family simply (at least lately) because the show features gay characters?

    1. Modern Family is the perfect example of how to do a comedy right – great actors playing fun characters doing inventively-written material. Judd Apatow, with his unlikable characters (though the performers are great) and unfunny material should take notice and learn something. Same goes to Louie C.K., whose reliance on scatalogical humor and sex jokes is tiresome. Plus, remember, comedies are supposed to be funny. And though Modern Family is deserving of all its accolades, it would have been nice to see some Emmy love shown to Community, Parks and Rec and Happy Endings.

    2. Bing, bing, bing — we have a winner.
      Please collect your prize on the way out.

      Basically, I agree with you. The show is good, but not THAT good — as in an “all time TV comedy classic for the ages” and worthy of a 4 time winning streak as BEST comedy. On the other hand (and certainly in Hollywood, where the voting takes place) it is definitely the “politically correct” show to say you like and support.

    1. I’m trying but can’t get into it either. Seems just like endless manufactured suspense. Even while I like the characters, there’s something pretty phony about it–how many meth addicts really care about the quality of the product?

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