Move over, “Glee.” It was a “Modern Family” night at the Emmys.
The ABC comedy series about a disarmingly dysfunctional family won the top comedy series honor as well as in the writing and supporting actor categories. Fox’s cult phenomenon “Glee” -- nominated for 19 Emmys going into the awards season -- earned just two Sunday night, in the supporting actress and directing categories.
On the drama side, AMC’s “Mad Men” took top honors: The dark period drama set in the 1960s on Madison Avenue won its third consecutive Emmy for drama series. “I can’t believe we’re here,” said creator-producer-writer Matthew Weiner, noting that the show was considered a gamble from the start. “We’re now in our fourth season -- I didn’t think we’d get through half of one.” It was the second award of the night for the series; earlier, Weiner and Erin Levy won for dramatic writing.
But the 62nd prime-time Emmy Awards were an especially good night for first-timers.
Kyra Sedgwick won her first Emmy, for actress in a drama series, playing the sweet-as-sugar and hard-as-nails L.A. cop in TNT’s “The Closer,” while Bravo’s “Top Chef” put a stunning end to the reign of CBS’ “The Amazing Race,” which had won for competitive reality series seven years in a row, ever since the category was created by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Besides winning the top honor in the made-for-TV movie category, HBO’s “Temple Grandin” -- about a woman who triumphed over autism to become a doctor of animal science -- resulted in three acting statuettes for first-time winners. Claire Danes won for lead actress in a movie or miniseries for playing Grandin. She thanked her real-life counterpart, calling her “the most brave and intrepid person I have ever known.” During her speech, the real Grandin stood up and took a bow. Danes’ co-star Julia Ormond won supporting actress for the movie, and David Strathairn also won for “Temple Grandin” for supporting actor. A fourth Emmy for the movie went to another first-timer, director Mick Jackson, who told Grandin, “we wanted to make a movie worthy of you.”
Other first-timers going home with a statuette: Adam Mazer won for writing the screenplay for the HBO movie “You Don’t Know Jack”; lanky Jim Parsons for actor in a comedy series for his performance as the ultimate nerd, Sheldon, on CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory”; Eric Stonestreet for supporting actor in a comedy for playing half of the gay couple on the ABC hit comedy series “Modern Family”; Aaron Paul picked up his first Emmy, for supporting actor in a drama for playing a character who teams with his former teacher to make meth in AMC’s “Breaking Bad”; and Archie Panjabi won her first trophy, for supporting actress in a drama for CBS’ “The Good Wife.” “This is just amazing for my career,” Panjabi said. Steve Shill won for directing a drama series for Showtime’s “Dexter.”
The “Glee” wins also went to first-timers. Jane Lynch won for supporting actress for playing ultra-competitive cheerleading coach Sue on Fox’ “Glee.” (Lynch was almost unrecognizable as she traded in her track suit for a sleek off-the-shoulder sheath.) And creator-producer Ryan Murphy also won for comedy director for his work on the series pilot. He told the audience the series was “about the importance of arts education” and dedicated it to all his teachers.
And it what might have been the biggest upset of the night, Bravo’s “Top Chef” took home its first Emmy in the competitive reality TV category, toppling “The Amazing Race.” The CBS show had won in the competitive reality TV category for seven years in a row -- ever since the category was created by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. (And once again Fox’s “American Idol” was the bridesmaid in the category.)
By contrast, there were several winning streaks that showed no sign of slowing. Bryan Cranston for the third year in a row won for lead actor in a drama for “Breaking Bad.” And for the seventh year in a row, variety, musical or comedy series went to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”
Meanwhile, HBO’s “The Pacific” won top honors in the miniseries category. Edie Falco, best known for her Emmy-winning role as Carmela Soprano in “The Sopranos,” earned her fourth Emmy but this time in the comedy actress category as the pill-popping “Nurse Jackie” in the darkly comic Showtime series. Falco seemed shocked: “I’m not funny!” she insisted. And Al Pacino earned his second Emmy for playing the controversial Jack Kevorkian in “You Don’t Know Jack.” Kevorkian, a euthanasia champion, stood up as he was acknowledged by Pacino, who hollered back: “You’re all right, Jack!”
First-time Emmy host Jimmy Fallon has brought a lot of rock ‘n’ roll to his comedy. He kicked off the 62nd annual awards with a fun-filled take on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” in which he played the Boss and was joined by cast members from “Glee” as well as Tina Fey, Jon Hamm and Randy Jackson among others. Later, he bid farewell to departing series “24,” “Law & Order” and “Lost” with spot-on imitations of the likes of Elton John and Green Day.
Other winners included “Modern Family”'s Steve Levitan and Christopher Lloyd for comedy writing, writing for a variety, musical or comedy special went to CBS’ broadcast of the Tony Awards, and Bucky Gunts won for directing a variety, music or comedy special for directing the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Oscar winner George Clooney earned a standing ovation when he accepted the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award from his former “ER” co-star Julianna Margulies. He was being honored for his work in mobilizing the entertainment community to raise funds during such crises as the Haitian earthquake and 9/11. He is only the fourth person to receive the honor and the first in six years.
The Emmys were broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in downtown L.A.