Last night was a big one for the olden days on ABC, as the 60th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards cast a lugubrious eye backward on TV history and made HBO's
miniseries its most honored program.
And it was big for Upper Darby native Tina Fey, who won three Emmys. Her NBC series, 30 Rock, was named best comedy series for the second year in a row, and she was named best lead actress and writer in a comedy series. Her costar, Alec Baldwin, netted the lead comic-actor Emmy.
Fey thanked her parents for giving her confidence that transcended her looks and abilities.
AMC's deliciously evocative Mad Men won the Emmy as best drama, one of two prizes last night for the little cable network.
Well-deserved Emmys for lead actor and actress in a drama series went to Bryan Cranston (surprise!), who left the comedy Malcolm in the Middle for the dramatic insanity of AMC's Breaking Bad, and to Glenn Close for her searing performance as a dangerously ambitious lawyer in FX's Damages.
Aside from being named best miniseries, HBO's John Adams won four other awards last night, adding to its haul of eight in such areas as Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special at the so-called creative arts Emmys, handed out Sept. 13.
Counting those awards, HBO led the Emmy hit parade with 26, followed by ABC (12), and CBS, NBC and PBS, all tied with 10. Don't try doing business at AMC for the rest of the week. The network, which had never won an Emmy, snagged eight this time around, and the party won't end till next Monday.
Jeremy Piven of HBO's Entourage won his third straight Emmy as best supporting actor in a comedy - what a surprise. It was a surprise when veteran Jean Smart won as supporting actress for ABC's Samantha Who? Her other two Emmys came for guesting, in two different roles, on Frasier in 2000 and 2001.
Two more shocks in drama support: Zeljko Ivanek, who played an ethically compromised lawyer, bested his Damages costar Ted Danson, as well as William Shatner from Boston Legal, a show and a man who have a soft spot in judges' hearts. Dianne Wiest, therapist to the therapist in HBO's In Treatment, took the actress award.
Paul Giamatti got the Emmy as best actor in a movie or miniseries for the title role in John Adams, and Laura Linney, who played Abigail Adams, was named best actress in the category. She's three-for-three at the Emmys. Like Smart, she was a Frasier guest-actress prize winner (1994), and she also won the lead-actress prize for Showtime's Wild Iris in 2002.
Linney's castmate Tom Wilkinson, who played the beloved Ben Franklin, took the supporting actor Emmy in the move/mini category. Eileen Atkins, from PBS's Cranford, was named best supporting actress.
Also notable was Tommy Smothers, who won a "commemorative" Emmy for his Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which CBS killed in 1968 for being too political. "Truth," said Smothers, "is what you get other people to believe."
Best individual performance in music or variety went to Don Rickles, for HBO's Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project. It's cool to dis the Emmys (and not very hard), and Rickles joined the fun: "Let's read these funny lines they wrote for us," Rickles said in his role as a presenter.
The Amazing Race was named top reality-competition show, again. (That's six in a row.) The Daily Show (best music, variety or comedy series) tied Race's mark.
The five reality-show hosts up for the Emmy in the category oversaw a frequently unwatchable show, completing the dullest opening in at least 20 years after a little speech by Oprah Winfrey (who ABC wishes was a primetime player).
Jeff Probst (Survivor) won the reality-host prize, but he wasn't any better last night than Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars), Heidi Klum (Project Runway), Howie Mandel (Deal or No Deal), or Ryan Seacrest (American Idol).
Old-time sets from such shows as The West Wing, Seinfeld and The Simpsons didn't exactly light up the stage.
Ratings expectations were low for an Emmy show running against NBC's highly anticipated Cowboys-Packers NFL game and the last baseball game ever in Yankee Stadium on ABC's sister station ESPN. Last year's Emmys, the first to face NBC's Sunday Night Football, drew fewer than 13 million, the second-smallest Emmy audience ever.
The move this year from L.A.'s huge 6,300-seat Shrine Auditorium to the relatively cozy Nokia Theatre also chopped about 4,000 from the maximum size of the live audience.
Reflecting TV's inexorable shift away from scripted fare, and Emmy's desperate desire to attract at least some young viewers, Lauren Conrad helped Philly's own David Boreanz present the comedy writing award to Fey.
The putative star of MTV's rich-kid navel-gazer The Hills also helped last year's Project Runway winner Christian Siriano design the gowns worn by the show's onstage models. They were elegant.