Oh, Emmy, Emmy, Emmy. What are we going to do with you? For every lovely gift you provide — wins to Damian Lewis and Claire Danes from “Homeland” as best dramatic actor and actress, a best comedy actress statue to Julia Louis-Dreyfus for “Veep,” a second deserved win for Aaron Paul as supporting dramatic actor in “Breaking Bad” — you kick us in the knees a few times.
Jon Cryer as best comedy actor? Julie Bowen and Eric Stonestreet once again for “Modern Family”? A ninth award as best reality show for “The Amazing Race”? Really? Bah. But that’s the way the weather is in Emmy country — samey, with a chance of change.
On the comedy side, the voters appeared to be going for “Modern Family” in a big way again at press time. Along with Bowen and Stonestreet, show creator Steven Levitan won a writing prize. Some hoped that Lena Dunham might steal the best actress win, for her fresh, self-mocking turn on “Girls,” or take home a writing statue for the show. But it was not to be.
Louis C.K., who won two writing Emmys, also failed to upset in the best actor category as many predicted. The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences went for Cryer for “Two and a Half Men.” The voters might also have been recognizing Cryer for getting through the Charlie Sheen mess, and taking over the series, without a loss of dignity. Cryer was in shock as he accepted his award, and so, no doubt, were many viewers.
Lewis broke Bryan Cranston’s winning streak, with his amazing work on “Homeland” as a POW who might or might not have been a terrorist. He played the role with precise ambiguity for most of the first season, but he took his statue with unambiguous grace, beginning his acceptance speech by noting, “I’m one of those pesky Brits.” And Danes showed just how formidable an actress she is on “Homeland.”
Jimmy Kimmel hosted the Emmy cast from the Nokia Theatre like he hosts his late-night show — calmly, modestly, with solid-enough material, including a joke about how “Downton Abbey” has provided us with a look at “what it was like to grow up in Mitt Romney’s house.” Impressed by the clips for the year in drama, he said, “I’ve gotta get out less.”
He captured the mood of the night, which was easy-going and casual. The winners joked, and the losers joked, including Amy Poehler, who had a routine about thank-you notes with Louis-Dreyfus while Louis-Dreyfus accepted her statue. The pace, as far as these Hollywood self-love-fests go, was brisk.
And Kimmel and the show were helped along by quickie videos that added variety to the telecast. We saw Kimmel getting the Botox smacked out of him in a ladies’ room by a bunch of actresses, including Kathy Bates, Martha Plimpton, and Louis-Dreyfus, topped off by a nod to The New: Dunham naked in a stall eating cake.
A look at how “Breaking Bad” might have looked on network TV brought us “The Breaking Bad Show,” modeled after “The Andy Griffith Show” opening with Walt and Jesse going fishing as Andy and Opie. We saw Levitan of “Modern Family” coaching Dustin Hoffman through a line reading of “Mrs. Robinson you’re trying to seduce me,” and little Lily from “Modern Family” terrorizing the cast. Also: a faux “In Memoriam” segment devoted entirely to Kimmel, with Josh Groban singing a schmaltzy song at the piano.
The red carpet was swelteringly hot last night during the preshows, which is dangerous. Celebrities melt faster than normal people. But it also gave the reporters an ultra-smooth segue, as in “Speaking of hot, how ’bout that “Breaking Bad”?
E! introduced a new gimmick, the Mani-cam, created to complement its exclusive Stiletto-cam and Glam-cam 360. The Mani-cam is a little box with a little red carpet that celebrity fingers can walk along while we study the magic of their manicurists. What can I say, it was thrilling to see Julianne Hough and Kerry Washington’s cuticles up close. So carefully trimmed, so neat.
Heidi Klum was proud of the slits in her sea-foam colored dress, and she pulled a few Angelina Jolie knee moves as she made the pre-show rounds. Standing next to her, Ryan Seacrest looked particularly short and troll-like, a visual joke he made the most of. He’s a Social Sally, that guy, and he greets everyone and their partner with warmth and the promise of free publicity. He didn’t mention January Jones’s raccoon eyes, and he sent “a lot of good vibes” to Danes in her bump-friendly yellow gown. He didn’t even sweat. “I think he’s a Stepford Wife,” Ricky Gervais said as he walked away.Matthew Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Matthew