Emmys Analysis: 'Breaking Bad' & 'Modern Family' March Into History Books As Repeat Series Winners Dominate

Breaking Bad has long been mentioned alongside HBO’s The Sopranos as two of the best drama series ever. The dark AMC drama received a major validation tonight with a big sendoff, earning five Emmy Awards, including best drama series. It became only the second drama to win the top prize for its final season, joining Sopranos. And Breaking Bad did it in an emphatic way — sweeping the top categories, including best actor Bryan Cranston, and best supporting actors Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn.

Related: Emmy Winners 2014 — The Complete List

66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - ShowModern Family, winner for best comedy series, also recorded a historic achievement, tying NBC comedy Frasier as the scripted series with most Emmy wins. Both did it in a sweep over their first five seasons. Also connecting the two shows is Modern Family co-creator Christopher Lloyd, who was part of the Frasier team that won all five best series trophies.

Breaking Bad‘s landslide victory tonight was even more impressive as it came a year after the show went off the air. It defused the much-hyped faceoff with HBO’s True Detective, which never materialized. The eight-part program’s submission as a drama series was one of the most discussed topics this Emmy season. True Detective netted only one trophy tonight, for director Cary Fukunaga. It was a rough night for all of the programs whose category allocation raised eyebrows, with Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black and Showtime’s Shameless, both competing as comedies, not converting any nominations tonight.

Traditional media and TV actors triumphed over new technologies and movie stars. Broadcast and basic cable networks dominated the series categories over premium cable and digital platforms and even gave HBO a run for its money in the long-form categories. Netflix was shut out completely tonight, with HBO landing premium cable’s lone two series wins. And it was veteran series actors who got the trophies over feature stars like Matthew McConaughey, Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo and Billy Bob Thornton.

Related: Emmy Winners By Network (Chart)

The True Detective’s performance also illustrated the struggles newcomers faced this year, with the series categories dominated by repeat winners tonight. Best drama series (Breaking Bad), best comedy series (Modern Family), best variety series (The Colbert Report), lead actress and actor in a comedy series (Veep‘s Julia Louis-Dreyfus and The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons), supporting actress in a drama series (Breaking Bad‘s Anna Gunn), best director for a comedy series (Modern Family‘s Gail Mancuso) all were repeats from last year, with several others — best drama actor and actress (Cranston and The Good Wife‘s Julianna Margulies), supporting drama and comedy actor (Paul and Modern Family‘s Ty Burrell), best writing for a comedy series (Louie‘s Louis CK), best reality competition series (CBS’ The Amazing Race) — were previous winners. The only “newcomer” in the series acting categories tonight was one of the most decorated actresses on TV, Allison Janney, who won her sixth Emmy for her supporting role on CBS’ Mom, her second trophy this year alone. (She also won for her recurring role on Masters Of Sex). Earning her first writing Emmy was Breaking Bad‘s Moira Walley-Beckett, who also shared in the show’s back-to-back best series Emmys. Parsons is now tied for most wins in the lead actor in a comedy series category, 4. He matched the accomplishment of such comedy greats as Carroll O’Connor, Michael J. Fox and Kelsey Grammer. On the flip side, Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm became the actor with most nominations (7) not to have won an Emmy. (Mad Men was shut out completely for a third straight year, as were House of Cards and Downton Abbey.)

66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - ShowIn her acceptance speech, Margulies addressed another Emmy rule controversy this year, involving drama series — the advantage cable and digital shows that produce 7-8 episodes a year enjoy over broadcast series, which have to make 22-24 episodes a season (Breaking Bad‘s final installment, which earned the best-drama Emmy, consisted of eight episodes, as did the run of its main rival, True Detective.) “Our writers never cease to amaze me, 22 episodes a year,” Margulies said of The Good Wife, which didn’t make the cut for a nomination in the best drama category as the category has remained out of reach for network series for three straight years now.

With Breaking Bad closing the door on True Detective early on with wins for Paul and Gunn, the biggest surprises of the night came in the long-form categories, which produced the unlikely top Emmy winner of 2014, Masterpiece’s Sherlock: His Last Vow. The British show topped the list of programs with seven wins, including three tonight, for best actor and supporting actor in a movie/miniseries (Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman) and best writing (co-creator Steven Moffat).

Related: Emmy Winners By Show (Chart)

66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards - ShowIt was a nerve-wracking night for longform favorite HBO’s The Normal Heart, which saw category after category in which it had been nominated go to other programs. The upsets ended in the final TV movie category, best movie, which was awarded to Ryan Murphy’s passion project about the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Murphy’s other longform contender, FX’s American Horror Story: Coven, had a good night with two wins, for lead and supporting actress (Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates). Underlining how blurred the lines between series and miniseries are, this was actually Lange’s second Emmy (and third nomination) in the movie/miniseries category for the same program.

It was a big night for FX and CBS. FX’s Fargo reboot snagged best miniseries as well as best directing for Colin Bucksey. Adding Louis C.K.’s trophy, FX tied CBS and AMC for most wins tonight, five. AMC’s awards all were for Breaking Bad, while CBS spread them over four series and three genres: Chuck Lorre’s comedies Big Bang (Parsons) and Mom (Janney), drama Good Wife (Margulies) and reality series (The Amazing Race), with a fifth coming for Glenn Weiss’ directing of the Tony Awards. Including the Creative Emmys, HBO was once again the winningest network with 19 trophies, followed by CBS and PBS (11) and NBC (10).

  1. Still unusual for BBC America show, Sherlock, to be awarded so generously, and justly so, but Tatiana Maslany on Orphan Black, also on BBC America, was ignored again. And The Walking Dead, which blows all the other dramas away, also gets ignored, despite some standout performances and superb direction. I guess it’s just difficult for genre shows to crack through the Academy’s voters. For American Horror Story, it must be due to a cast of Academy Award winning actresses they gets it noticed. And Game of Thrones just has an epic gravitas to it. But it’s still hard to figure out the voters’ thinking a lot of the time. And I wish they would give the horror and sci-fi genres more credit for the quality behind them.

  2. I think they need to change the rules so you can only win one time in a category. Yes these are good people and shows, but there’s no reason any one of them has to get 87 Emmys over and over again. Win an Emmy for something you did, then you’re not eligible until you do something different. There are so many people and shows that never get recognized because the same things win again and again and again, for no reason. Why should “The West Wing” or “ER” win for 11 season over and over, when so many other deserving shows never get a chance. Look at the nominees last night who were passed over just because of “Breaking Bad.” They’re not going to stop doing good shows just because they’ve already won their Emmy.

    1. Well-chosen words, Commenter “Anonymous.” I think most people agree with you. I often wonder if these year-after-year-after-year Emmy winners buy their awards. Just seems strange to me.

    2. While I agree that Modern Family and Jim Parsons don’t deserve to win year after year I don’t think there should be limits either. I just think people need to vote for the best performance or show and not get lazy and just vote what won before. Otherwise, show would only last for a year or two. These show count on the press awards give to continue to keep ratings up (plus, hammy actors wanting awards would continue to jump ship once they became ineligible). Also, Breaking Bad was successful in early seasons, but never swept the awards until now, so this discussion doesn’t really apply. I think the biggest problems are that 1) what voters and what viewers think of as “best” is vastly different 2) I get the impression that voters don’t always take the time to watch the shows that are being voted on and 3) in order to vote on a show, there is only and a representative episode (or two?) presented to the voter to judge. So, an actor who stunk all season but had one so where they did good work might win over an actor who is good all season long but who doesn’t have one stellar, stand out performance. They need to find a better way to judge an entire season than with just an ep or two. I also agree that it isn’t fair that cable shows only have to produce half as many eps as network shows.

  3. I really don’t think that Modern Family deserved to win five times in a row. I feel the same about Frasier. I don’t think Parsons should have won. I think that Louis C.K. should have.

    1. Modern Family is coming off a couple of not so great years creatively and certainly didn’t deserve the win. I also think its cast is way overrated. If you watch Jim Parson’s interviews and if you saw him in The Normal Heart, it’s clear that he is playing the role as himself so I don’t think there is any great acting going on there. I have to disagree on OITNB, it may be overrated, but, there were a number of great performances in that show even though I think it should be classified as a drama. Emmy Rossum should have been nominated for Shameless but the producers submitted it as a comedy and ruined her chances for that.

    2. Modern Family is pretty terrible honestly. I couldn’t make it through more than a few episodes; no idea how it keeps winning best comedy.

  4. orange is the new nothing. Thank god voters put an end to the deluded notion that this is a comedy. Emperor’s new clothes…

    1. The Emmy Award show is a “farce.” The members are mainly white and only vote white. The only reason they nominate black actors is to boost ratings…hoping blacks watch. I stopped watching this silly, award show over five years ago.

    2. It falls somewhere in between. I think it’s more drama than comedy, but it certainly is a lighter drama than, say The Shield or The Sopranos, but it certainly is darker than, say Friends or South Park. Frankly, season one of Breaking Bad was closer to a comedy than OITNB.

  5. The other person connecting “Frasier” and “Modern Family” is casting director Jeff Greenberg.

  6. Actually, Breaking Bad didn’t win on an “8” episode season…as the episodes they were nominated on for last night’s telecast were the back half of last year’s episodes. AMC broke the season in half. So the real history here is that everyone who won for Breaking Bad won twice for the same season. The first time it’s ever happened in TV history…and no one’s talking about that for some reason lol

    1. No, not really. The last season was broken up into 2 mini seasons that aired in 2 separate eligible years. Even though they were both called season five to prevent having to have everyone sign new contracts they were two separate seasons. Moreover, when people submit themselves or others for nominations they do so with a representative episode (I’ve heard from 1 to 3 eps). So the eps and performances being voted upon were not at the same but occurred within each mini-seasons arc of eps. (And I say mini-seasons, but really season 1 only had 7 eps while season 5 had 2 8-eps arcs.)

  7. Most actors on television are white…this is why all you see winning Emmy Awards are “whites.” Over and over you see the same people winning because of their popularity status. The winners are fooling themselves. Just because they won does not men they were the best. Winning an Emmy Award is all “political.” The truly talented actors go on to become huge movie stars…while the cheesy actors remain on television putting out lousy performances and fooling themselves into thinking they are great actors because they had “connections” in Hollywood. I have only watched one show that won a Emmy Award…”Mad Men.” This was a very well-written, well-acted show which deserved to win. Thank goodness for the tv remote…I would be so bored if I only had the Emmy Award shows to watch…and would take up knitting. The Emmy Awards members nominate minorities so they will boost ratings every year. I would advise all minorities to stop watching those Emmy Award shows. Blacks, and Asians should stop wasting five hours hoping their friends and family members will win…I have.

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